Frederick Coleman

This article is assigned to Margaret M. Gripshover

Frederick Davis “Fred” Coleman began his baseball career as a pitcher for his high-school team and later with several amateur and semipro nines in suburban Philadelphia. However, on one occasion, Coleman had a brief taste of life in Negro League professional baseball when he took the mound for the Philadelphia Stars on July 2, 1934.1

Coleman was born in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, on November 30, 1906. He was one of six children born to Charles and Minnie Davis Coleman. His father was a crane operator at a Phoenixville steel foundry and his mother was a music teacher. Around 1920, Coleman’s family left Phoenixville and moved about 50 miles southeast to Darby, five miles west of South Philadelphia. By 1924, Coleman was a student at the Ridge Avenue Junior High in Darby and was active in extracurricular sports activities; a renaissance man of sorts, he also co-authored a class play.2 Among his classmates were brothers Raymond and Thomas Macey, with whom Coleman played high-school baseball, and later all three were teammates with the Darby Phantoms.3

After his prep career ended in 1928, Coleman made his debut in amateur baseball in 1929 with the Darby Phantoms, an African American team in the mixed-race Interurban League in suburban Philadelphia.4 The Phantoms were managed by Lloyd P. Thompson, who began his long association with baseball in 1910 as a player for the Hilldale club along with Ed Bolden.5 Thompson later served as an executive in the Hilldale organization and as a press agent for the Eastern Colored League.6 Thompson’s Darby Phantoms, which had the unfortunate nickname of “the Spooks,” were one of the Interurban League’s top teams, and Coleman and the Macey brothers were among the squad’s best players.7 Coleman was fortunate to make his amateur debut with the league-leading Phantoms.8 Thanks to his “brilliant pitching,” young “Lefty Coleman” helped the Phantoms earn the first of three Interurban League titles.9 Coleman, who was touted as the “former ace left-hander of Darby High School,” also saw action in the Phantoms’ outfield along with John Coleman, who was not a member of Fred Coleman’s immediate family.10

Fred Coleman returned to the Darby Phantoms for the 1930 season but was used primarily as an outfielder rather than as a pitcher.11 That season, the Phantoms claimed the Interurban League crown for a second time and the future looked bright for the Delaware County aggregation.12 The 1931 season saw the return of Thompson as the manager of the Phantoms. He was assisted by player-manager John Burgin, former player Raymond Macey as the team’s business manager, and by Coleman’s brother, Burgess A. Coleman, who was the president of the executive committee.13 As in 1930, Coleman proved to be a versatile player, taking the mound as their “invincible” southpaw, and tending to Darby’s outer garden as needed.14 The 1931 season ended as it had for the previous two years – another Interurban League championship season for Coleman and the Phantoms.15 What Coleman did not know at the time was that 1931 would mark the last hurrah for the Phantoms.

Prior to the start of Interurban League play in 1932, the Darby Phantoms announced a change in management. Lloyd Thompson was out, and Ed Bolden was “at the helm.”16 But some things remained the same. Coleman’s brother Burgess A. Coleman remained as a member of the “board of athletic directors,” and Raymond Macey continued as the business manager.17 Bolden’s attempt to turn the Phantoms into a revenue-generating enterprise was a disaster. After three straight championship seasons, the Bolden’s Phantoms left the Interurban League to become a traveling team.18Despite Bolden’s marketing efforts, the Darby club was “consistently overmatched” by their opponents and posted a lackluster record.19

In 1933 Bolden abruptly abandoned the Phantoms and shifted his attention to the Philadelphia Stars.20 The blame for Darby’s implosion was placed squarely on Bolden by the Phantoms’ business manager, Raymond Macey. Macey was especially bitter and enraged by “Bolden’s abrupt withdrawal” from the Phantoms.21 He accused Bolden of using “flowery words” on a group of “young amateurs” and leading them into “a premature and near fatal leap into professionalism.”22 Macey’s sharp criticisms of Bolden were echoed by the local press. The Chester Times noted that the Phantoms’ attempt to “break into ‘fast company’ under the leadership of Ed [Bolden], former Hilldale pilot,” was a misstep, and that it failed because the team “tired of independent competition.”23

In 1934 the Darby Phantoms and Coleman hit the reset button. They rejoined the Interurban League and were “back to prove to the fans of Delaware County and surrounding territory that they still retain mastery” over the local nines.24 The Phantoms named Bob Clark as their manager and went to work reestablishing their dominance over the other six league teams.25 The Phantoms were one of four “Negro clubs” in the loop along with three White teams.26 But Coleman did not play for the Phantoms in 1934  because they became literal apparitions and vanished without playing a single league game. He signed with a different Interurban team, the Darby Cubs, who were Interurban League contenders at the beginning of the season.27 Coleman, along with his former Phantoms bullpen mate Tom Macey, helped the Cubs remain in the championship hunt for much of the first half of the season, second only to Clearview, the eventual league champion.28 By the end of the 1934, however, Coleman and the Cubs found themselves hibernating near the bottom of the standings and out of the playoffs.29 Coleman’s tenure with the Darby Cubs lasted just one year. The Cubs jumped to the Suburban Colored League in 1935 but folded before the season ended.30

Coleman’s 1934 season with the one-and-done Darby Cubs was punctuated by one high note – his only known appearance with a professional baseball team. On July 2, 1934, Coleman was tapped as the starting pitcher in one game for Ed Bolden’s Philadelphia Stars.31 Bolden knew Coleman from his days with the Darby Phantoms and was likely the one who gave the southpaw a shot at the big time. The game was staged in Philadelphia before 3,500 fans and pitted the Stars against the semipro Bartram nine of the Philadelphia League.32 It was a rough initiation for Coleman. The Stars fell to Bartram 11-10, in an eight-inning affair.33 Coleman was roughed up by Bartram and was eventually relieved of his mound duties by the Stars’ regular pitchers, Paul Carter and Stewart “Slim” Jones.34 It may have been a memorable experience for Coleman, but it was not exactly a command performance. A star was not born that day, and he was not invited back for an encore.

In 1935 Coleman played for at least two Suburban Colored League teams; Paschall A.C. and the Morton Republican Club.35 He spent the bulk of the year with the Morton Republican Club as a pitcher, outfielder, and pinch-hitter.36The Morton Republican Club of Delaware County sponsored a baseball team as early as 1912, when it was known as the Morton Colored Republican Club.37 Coleman had some sparkling moments with Morton. He swatted a game-winning triple to topple the league-leading Oakeola nine and tossed a three-hitter against the Swarthmore Hornets.38 In what was likely his final appearance for Morton, Coleman was on the losing end of a “heart-breaking mound duel” against Oakeola, by a score of 4-3.39 The Morton Republicans were mediocre and were never a threat to take the league title. By the close of the 1935 season, the Suburban Colored League bureaucracy was falling apart, the Morton team disbanded, and Fred Coleman’s baseball career was over.40

In December 1935, after his retirement from baseball, Coleman married Sylvia G. Rue in Darby. By 1940, he was the father of three children and working as a gardener for a private estate in suburban Philadelphia. In the 1940s he followed in his father’s footsteps and went to work at a steel mill in Darby. By the 1950s, the Coleman family expanded to include six children. Although he was no longer involved in baseball, Coleman participated in local African American community organizations in Chester County. He served as a district lecturer and member of the Rose of Sharon Masonic Lodge.41In 1955 he was a guest at a speech given by Thurgood Marshall on the topic of Jim Crow and housing segregation.42 He was also an outspoken supporter of programs that addressed local poverty and housing issues.43

Frederick D. Coleman died in Chester County on September 30, 1986. He was buried in Eden Cemetery, a historic African American cemetery in Collingdale, Pennsylvania. It is the same cemetery where Ed Bolden was laid to rest in 1950.



Unless otherwise indicated, all Negro League statistics and records were sourced from was used to access census, birth, death, marriage, military, immigration, and other genealogical and public records.



1 “Bartram Topples Philadelphia Stars,” Philadelphia Inquirer, July 3, 1934: 16.

2 “Darby,” Chester (Pennsylvania) Times, June 18, 1924: 4.

3 “Darby Defeats Media in Tenth,” Chester Times, May 23, 1928: 15; “Darby High Defeats Ridley Park in Tenth Inning, Score 3-2,” Chester Times, June 6, 1928: 11.

4 Neil Lanctot, Fair Dealing & Clean Playing: The Hilldale Club and the Development of Black Professional Baseball, 1910-1932 (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2007), 203; “Twelve Teams Proposed for New League,” Chester Times, March 29, 1929: 26; “Phantoms Win First from Rival Foes,” Philadelphia Inquirer, July 10, 1929: 18.

5 Lanctot, 17.

6 Lanctot, 205.

7 “Phantoms Win Interurban Title,” Pittsburgh Courier, July 20, 1929: 18.

8 “Darby Phantoms Win Over Colwyn Team,” Chester Times, July 17, 1929: 14.

9 “Phantoms Win First from Rival Foes,” Philadelphia Inquirer, July 10, 1929: 18.

10 “Phantoms Capture Interurban Title,” Philadelphia Inquirer, September 16, 1929: 18.

11 “Darby Phantoms Win from Colored Elks,” Chester Times, August 4, 1930: 13; “Lester Wins Another Game,” Chester Times, September 9, 1930: 13.

12 “Darby Phantoms Win Interurban Title,” Chester Times, September 22, 1930: 12.

13 “Darby Phantoms Elect,” Baltimore Afro-American, March 14, 1931: 15.

14 “Interurban League,” Philadelphia Inquirer, August 5, 1931: 16; “Game Ends in Tie,” Chester Times, August 20, 1931: 15; “Darby Phantoms Win League Title,” Chester Times, August 29, 1931: 11.

15 “Another Title for the Darby Phantoms,” Chester Times, September 23, 1931: 12.

16 “Darby Clubs Names Aides for Bolden,” Baltimore Afro-American, February 27, 1932: 14.

17 “Darby Clubs Names Aides for Bolden.”

18 “Interurban Title Series to Start,” Chester Times, September 1, 1933: 13.

19 Lanctot, 222.

20 Lanctot, 222.

21 Lanctot, 222.

22 Lanctot, 222.

23 “Phantoms Return to the Interurban,” Chester Times, March 22, 1934: 19.

24 “Phantoms Return to the Interurban.”

25 “Phantoms in PA. League,” Baltimore Afro-American, March 31, 1931: 17.

26 “Amateur Baseball,” Chester Times, April 24, 1934: 12.

27 “Interurban League,” Chester Times, June 1, 1934: 17.

28 “Clearview Nears First Half Crown,” Chester Times, June 27, 1934: 15; “Delco Teams Play,” Chester Times, June 30, 1934: 11; “Clearview Takes Interurban Title,” Chester Times, September 24, 1934: 10.

29 “Southwest Phils Lead League,” Baltimore Afro-American, September 8, 1934: 15.

30 “County Leagues Ready for Grind,” Chester Times, April 13, 1935: 12.

31 “Bartram Topples Philadelphia Stars.”

32 “Bartram Topples Philadelphia Stars.”

33 “Bartram Topples Philadelphia Stars.”

34 “Bartram Topples Philadelphia Stars.”

35 “Paschall Nips Columbia,” Philadelphia Inquirer, June 25, 1935: 20; “A Hectic Duel,” Chester Times, July 31, 1935: 10.

36 “Paschall Nips Columbia”; “A Hectic Duel”; “Morton Captures Pair Over Week-End,” Chester Times, August 5, 1935: 11.

37 “Stars Are Dimmed,” Chester Times, July 6, 1912: 3; Kristi Nelson, “End May Be Near for GOP Club,” Philadelphia Inquirer, June 6, 1995: W1.

38 “Morton Blanks Oakeola Champs,” Chester Times, August 9, 1935: 14; “Morton Defeats Swarthmore, 4-2,” Chester Times, August 10, 1935: 12.

39 “Paschall Nears Lead in S.C. Loop,” Chester Times, August 14, 1935: 12.

40 “Sports Shorts,” Chester Times, May 28, 1936: 22.

41 “Rochester is Re-Elected Masonic District Chairman,” Chester Times, January 14, 1955: 12.

42 “Anti-Segregationists Point Efforts at Bans in Housing,” Chester Times, March 5, 1955: 2.

43 Frederick D. Coleman, “People Are Skeptical,” Delaware County Daily Times (Norristown, Pennsylvania), May 22, 1969: 6.

Full Name

Frederick Davis Coleman


November 30, 1906 at Phoenixville, PA (USA)


September 30, 1986 at Chester County, PA (USA)

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