This article was written by Geri Driscoll Strecker
This article was published in the From Rube to Robinson: SABR’s Best Articles on Black Baseball
Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in Black Ball: A Negro Leagues Journal, Vol. 2, No. 2 (McFarland & Co., Fall 2009).
In August of 1932, Gus Greenlee added permanent lights to the Pittsburgh Crawfords home field. (NOIRTECH RESEARCH INC.)
The Story of Greenlee Field
Any story requires plot, characters, and setting. In reconstructing the history of Black baseball box scores give us the basic outline of the plot, and biographical records tell us who the players were. But until now, the setting—where teams actually played their legendary games—has been left mostly to our imagination, even for great clubs like the 1930s Pittsburgh Crawfords. The only detail we have known about the exterior of Greenlee Field is that its brick façade had three arched entryways. These are clearly visible in the background of the 1935 team photograph, behind the famous Mack bus and underneath a sign that reads “ENTRANCE.” The park’s interior has also been a mystery. Teenie Harris’s photographs1 show a few interior details, but not enough to imagine the big picture, leaving us wondering about the ballpark’s appearance both inside and out, its orientation on the site, and the playing field’s dimensions.
Pittsburgh’s Hill District businessman Gus Greenlee began investing in the Crawfords by 1931, hoping to build the team from a local semiprofessional club to contenders in a professional league.2 Initially, the team was mediocre, with no superstars but some decent players: Robbie Williams, Moe Harris, “Jap” Washington, Sam Streeter, and Bill Harris. The Pittsburgh Courier called the 1931 Crawfords “a disorganized team of temperamentals…without a single brainy pitcher.” But the same writer assessed, “before the season ended [the] Crawfords were ranked in the first division.” Robbie Williams was the team’s player-manager, and Cum Posey’s brother See was business manager. Sportswriter W. Rollo Wilson declared, “Gus Greenlee has built an exceptional good team in the short while he has owned the former sandlotters.” Yet the Crawfords were still no match for the Homestead Grays, who in 1931 won 33 games against major Black teams and lost just 18, leading Cum Posey to claim his team “undisputed champions.” That season, the Grays featured sluggers Josh Gibson and Oscar Charleston, men who had shared the nickname “the Black Babe Ruth.” But great things were in store for the Pittsburgh Crawfords in 1932, and Rollo Wilson predicted Greenlee was “going into the proposition in a big way.”3
Building a New Ballpark
During the 1931 season, the Crawfords had to rent grounds for their home games, playing most at Ammon Field on Bedford Avenue (now Josh Gibson Field) in the Hill District,4 but leasing Forbes Field from the National League Pirates for important games. While the major league stadium was certainly superior, Black teams were not allowed to use its clubhouse facilities. Plus, Forbes Field was in Oakland, almost two miles away from the African American neighborhoods where most of the Crawfords’ fans lived, and Greenlee recognized the “disadvantage which [they] had to undergo to reach it.”5 Frustrated with the “high rental price charged for parks with inadequate accommodations…[Greenlee] concluded that an enclosed field within walking distance would be attractive to sport fans.” During the summer of 1931, he began searching for a suitable Hill District location to build his ballpark and settled on a site owned by the Entress Brick Company, occupying an entire city block on the north side of Bedford Avenue between Junilla Street and Watt Street.6
An abundance of cheap natural gas and prime clay made southwestern Pennsylvania ideal for brick manufacturing, so such businesses were common around Pittsburgh. The Entress Brick Company had been operating since 1882, sing three large kilns to produce about 20,000 bricks per day during the late 1890s.7 Although the company had been quite profitable, when the Great Depression began, construction projects dwindled, so Entress stockholders were ready to sell the Bedford Street property.
In 1931, Entress Brick Company’s principal stockholder was Dr. Joseph F. Thoms, a White physician who also held the deed to the land. To broker the deal with Entress and gather sufficient funds for building a quality ballpark, Greenlee and Thoms formed the Bedford Land Company, with Latrobe Brewery owner Joe Tito (also White) as their third partner. Prior to this venture, Tito had reportedly been connected with Greenlee’s less legitimate businesses, including his numbers organization. Greenlee only owned 25 percent of the ballpark and held ho office in the company. Thoms served as president, and Tito as treasurer. The secretary for the Bedford Land Company was Robert F. Lane, former bookkeeper of the Entress Brick Factory. Lane handled money, kept records, and arranged contracts for renting the part to other users. Tito’s brother Ralph leased the concession stand, and their relative Tony Christiano was official groundskeeper.8
Understanding business structure and ownership roles in the Bedford Land Company is important. Many contemporaries charged that Greenlee Field failed economically because Greenlee refused to include African Americans in the daily operations. However, this accusation neglects that he was not sole owner an in fact had little control over staffing. Greenlee was the charismatic front man but greatly relied on his White partners for funding and logistical support to book events, maintain the facility, and generate revenues. In return, they controlled most of the ballpark’s staffing and supply arrangements.
One of the most interesting untold stories behind the construction of Greenlee Field is the identity of its African American architect: Louis Arnett Stuart Bellinger. A few Pittsburgh Courier articles about the ballpark mention his last name, but none explain who he was or his role in Pittsburgh’s African American community.
Bellinger was born September 29, 1891, in Sumter, South Carolina, about 100 miles north of Charleston. His father, George, and a few other male relatives were carpenters. After graduating from a local academy in 1910, Bellinger enrolled in Howard University and received his bachelor of science degree in architecture in June 1914.9 His first job was teaching mathematics and science at Fessenden Academy in Ocala, Florida, from 1914 to 1915.10 In 1916, Bellinger accepted a new position in Columbia, South Carolina, teaching mathematics at Allen University, an institution which the Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church had founded in 1870 to educate freed slaves.11 When the United States entered World War I in 1917, Bellinger immediately registered for the draft and served a short time in the army. Around this time, he also married Ethel Connel, a music teacher. They had no children.
After the war, Bellinger moved to Pittsburgh and is listed as an architect in the 1919 city directory. The 1920 Federal Census lists him renting a residence at 611 Chauncey Street, less than two blocks south of the future Greenlee Field site. In 1922, Bellinger opened his own practice with a downtown office at 525 Fifth Avenue. Among his first commissions was an apartment building on Junilla Street, in the Hill District. The following year, he took a job as an assistant to the city architect, working on projects to remodel public buildings. Bellinger returned to private practice in 1926 and in 1927 designed the Pythian Temple, which later became the New Granada Theatre. The building still stands at 1909 Centre Avenue, with its rear entrance on Wylie Avenue, and has been nominated to the National Register of Historic Places. It is one of very few remaining examples of Bellinger’s work.12
In 1928, the Harmon Foundation honored Bellinger by including his work in a national exhibition of African American Artists. His featured piece was “Proposed Plan for Church and Apartments.” He was invited to participate in another Harmon Foundation exhibition in 1933, but he materials were damaged in transit. Invitations to participate in these events mark Bellinger’s status not just in Pittsburgh, but in the larger African American creative community.
In 1928, Bellinger designed the $19,000 home he and Ethel occupied at 530 Francis Street.13 However, when his business faltered during the Great Depression, he had to close his downtown office and sell the house. In 1932, he unsuccessfully run for Congress as a Republican candidate. In 1936, Bellinger secured a position as Inspector in the City of Pittsburgh Bureau of Building Inspection; he held this job until 1939 and then again from 1941-42. During the break in between, he again attempted to restart his private practice. Bellinger was elected to the American Institute of Architects (AIA) on July 10, 1945, and work began to pick up after World War II. But then Bellinger died suddenly on February 3, 1946, of a cerebral hemorrhage. His obituary appeared with his photograph on the front page of the Pittsburgh Courier.14
Before beginning the Greenlee Field project in 1931, Bellinger and Greenlee were certainly acquainted, and their wives actually shared advertising space in the Pittsburgh Courier: Mrs. Bellinger offering private music lessons, and Mrs. Greenlee seeking tenants for a boarding house she owned. Later, in 1933, Bellinger drafted plans to remodel a “storeroom” at Greenlee’s Crawford Grill, 1401 Wylie Avenue.15
Bellinger’s association with Greenlee Field appears to have begun early on in planning the project. As one of only 60 African American registered architects then working in the United States, he was an ideal choice to design the ballpark. He and his wife were also prominent in Pittsburgh’s African American community, serving leadership roles at the YMCA and in several fraternal and other organizations. This added an air of legitimacy to Greenlee’s project. Bellinger’s relationship with Pittsburgh government also ensured construction would follow local regulations and hopefully prevent the city from closing the park for code violations. Such tactics were common in cities where Black businessmen tried to gain social and economic strength.
Because Greenlee Field required more land than just the acres between bordering streets, the Bedford Land Company worked with the city and adjacent properties—Lincoln Memorial Cemetery to the west and Municipal Hospital to the east—to request zoning variances. This included closing Junilla and Watt Streets north of Bedford avenue so the ballpark’ exterior structure could be built directly on top of the former roads. During this era, zoning appeals and requests for building permits were typically listed in Builders’ Bulletin, the weekly newsletter of the Pittsburgh Builders Exchange. The following listings relate to Greenlee Field:
August 8, 1931
Zoning Appeal Denied
Bedford Land Corporation, 2509 Bedford Avenue, 5th Ward. Occupy property as athletic field.
November 28, 1931
5th Ward. Bedford Land Co., 2408 Bedford Ave., owner; Guibert Steel Co., McKees Rocks, Contractor. Steel bleachers, 2408 Bedford Ave., $3,000
December 26, 1931
5th Ward. Bedford Land Co., 2408 Bedford Ave., owner and builder. Concrete and steel ball stand, 2515 Bedford Ave., $32,000.
January 23, 1932
5th Ward. Bedford Land Co., 2408 Bedford Ave., owner and builder. Granstand, 2515 Bedford Ave., $5,00016
Aside from showing a location change for the Bedford Land Company’s business offices, the building permits also reveal an interesting shift from the company being listed merely as owner to both owner and builder. This would have enabled the partners to conceal funding and other business matters. Hence, while the building permits only total $40,000, it is still possible that the ballpark cost closer to the $100,000 that Greenlee claimed, especially when we consider costs of acquiring the land, appealing zoning decisions, and grading the site.
Unfortunately, it is not clear how or when Greenlee and his partners managed to reverse the initial zoning denial, since no further mention of this appears in the Builders’ Bulletin or Pittsburgh newspapers. However, this was certainly a delicate arbitration since the Bedford Land Corporation was not only changing the use of the site, but also closing off two streets and developing the ballpark snugly between a cemetery and hospital, entities which would have had genuine concerns about their new neighbor. Bellinger’s previous role in the City Architect’s office would certainly have been an asset in negotiating this process.
Grading the Site
Although the Entress Brick property was the best-suited available site for a ballpark in the Hill District, the land was certainly not flat; in fact, it had elevation changes of up to 20 feet. Workers broke ground for Greenlee Field on Monday July 20, 1931.17 To create a level playing field, they used steam shovels to excavate 21,000 cubic yards of soil18 and remove the section of Watt Street between the ballpark and the hospital and the section of Junilla Street between the ballpark and Lincoln Memorial Cemetery.19 Much of the steepest topographical change—a sudden 20-foot drop—was already along part of what would become the right field line, so contractors extended this wall of earth northward along the property line, using additional earth from a 20-foot hill which stood between the future pitcher’s mound and short right field. Adding a wooden fence on top of the earthen wall created a bowl effect for the ballpark and prevented home runs from flying into Municipal Hospital. Later, the sloped wall also held a few rows of additional bleachers.20
The 1935 Pittsburgh Crawfords team photo shows the exterior of Greenlee Field, with its brick façade and three arched entryways. (NATIONAL BASEBALL HALL OF FAME LIBRARY)
The Brick Façade
Aerial and ground photographs taken in 1938 provide a clear picture of Greenlee Field’s physical appearance. The brick façade extended the full length of Bedford Avenue between Junilla Street and Watt Street.
The southwest corner of the building behind home plate was two stories tall allowing room for offices on the second floor and ample space on the first floor to accommodate concessions, locker rooms, storage, and other functions. Upper rows of the grandstand extended above the southwest corner of the façade, and a brick chimney rose above the top seats. Moving east from the corner, the façade had two windows and a doorway (likely the office entrance), followed by six ticket windows and three arched entryways under a White “ENTRANCE” sign.21 Further east are another arched entry/exit, two gated pedestrian exits, and a wide double gate for vehicle access to the field. Besides maintenance equipment, this last gate was also used for cars when Greenlee Field hosted auto races. Beginning in 1934, Greenlee also allowed parking in the outfield during boxing events an “innovation…[that] made a hit with fans.”22
Reflecting economic conditions of the Great Depression, the ballpark’s architecture was quite plain. The façade used locally-kilned red brick with simple corbelling along the top of the two-story section and along the lower section between the arched entrances and the two exit gates. Concrete coping capped the entire length of the wall. The archways were unadorned, lacking limestone keystones and details that were typical of the time.
Inside the Park
From these aerial photographs, we can also use the standard 90-foot basepaths to estimate dimensions of the entire playing field:
- Right Field: 338 feet
- Center Field: 410 feet
- Left Field: 342 feet
These dimensions are on par with or just slightly shorter than typical major league ballparks of the time.23
Bellinger initially designed Greenlee Field to seat 6,000 spectators for baseball games, but the grandstands were eventually expanded to hold over 7,000. For boxing events, portable seating was brought in to accommodate up to 12,000. The field lights were added in September 1932, but an electric public address system was already functioning for the opening game in April. The 1938 photographs show the speakers mounted halfway up the light poles. While the sound system was first rate, the announcer who called out batters was not. In June 1932, the Courier advised, he “should know whereof he speaks. An error now and then is pardonable, but continual mistakes…are disconcerting to fans who are trying to follow the game.24
One of the park’s impressive features was a large scoreboard in left field. Early in the first season, the Courier identified the person who ran it: “Eddie Bryant, a popular uptown youth who…is doing his job efficiently…[and] goes about his task just like they do at Forbes Field, and eleven times out of ten he is right.”25 The 1938 photographs show a Latrobe Beer advertisement along the bottom. This endorsement for Joe Tito’s brewery was certainly added after December 1933 when the 21st Amendment repealed prohibition.
Signing a New Manager
With his new ballpark well under way, Greenlee focused on improving his team. He had already acquired Satchel Paige during the 1931 season, and in December, rumors spread that the Crawfords might have a new manager in 1932. Greenlee said he found “no fault with Robbie Williams” but had “been requested to consider [Oscar] Charleston and [Bill] Pierce.” Greenlee did not specify the source of this “request,” but by then his business partners were surely eager to insure their investments. Responding to the prospect of the Crawfords acquiring Charleston as manager, the Courier remarked, “as a fielder and batter he is the best gate attraction in Negro baseball.” Soon, Dizzy Dismukes was added to the list of potential managerial candidates. William E. Nunn declared in the Courier, “Whether the Crawford threat materializes into anything definite, or not, depends on the next few moves Greenlee and his associates make.” On January 23, 1932, the Courier printed a credible rumor that Greenlee was trying to hire Charleston. Two weeks later, Greenlee announced he had signed his “new pilot,” and that Charleston was already in town making arrangements and assembling a team.”26 One of the manager’s acquisitions was Josh Gibson.
Preparing to Play
On February 5, 1932, M.E. Goodson, owner of the New York Black Yankees, held a reception to honor “present and veteran baseball players.” Among the attendees were Gus Greenlee and Oscar Charleston. During the event, Goodson agreed to bring his team to Pittsburgh for the opening game at Greenlee Field.27 But this was still almost three months away, and much work remained to be done on the field and with the team.
The first of the Crawfords left for spring training at Hot Springs, Arkansas, on February 23, knowing that their new ballpark would be ready upon their return to Pittsburgh.28 The team was traveling in style because in addition to securing a new field, a great manager, and Josh Gibson, Gus Greenlee also provided quality transportation. On February 20, 1932, manager Charleston announced: “A seventeen-passenger Mack bus is now in the paint shop, where the sign man will ‘do his stuff.’ It is a Mack B. G. six-cylinder, 79-horsepower affair, with vacuum booster foot brakes…capable of 60 miles per hour. It is upholstered in genuine grain leather.” This bus was rumored to have cost $10,000, which was a fortune in 1932, when most Negro League players did not even earn a tenth of that sum in a whole season.29
While the players were boiling out and limbering up in Hot Springs, “the busy hum of mortar-mixing machines” continued on Bedford Avenue as “the speedy activity of efficient colored bricklayers and their helpers” worked to finish “the fresh-looking, neat brick” structure. On April 9, the Courier reported, “The spacious new…home of the Pittsburgh Crawfords is almost completed. The imposing high red brick wall which surrounds the park has just about reached its topmost point.” The only section of the brick exterior still unfinished was “the triangular corner behind the home plate. And this sector will soon be entirely completed.” The grandstands, “erected upon a strong concrete base and built with the very finest supporting steel beams, are getting their finishing touches.” Beneath the stands were “modern…dressing rooms…where several teams can be easily accommodated.” Bellinger’s design also included “plenty of space for storing…equipment and for the…field business headquarters.” The ballpark “promises to be the finest and largest…ever built in this city for a colored club to cavort upon.” Groundskeepers were still smoothing out a “few remaining minor irregularities,” but the Courier reassured its readers, “Architect Bellinger, who has been kept busy on the project, feels sure that everything will be in readiness for the opening.”30 In all, constructing the ballpark required 75 tons of steel, 14 carloads of cement, and 1,100 linear feet of steel fencing.”31
After training in Hot Springs, then playing 22 exhibition games across eight states in six weeks and logging over 5,000 miles in their new bus, the Crawfords were ready to open their new ballpark.32 The first game at Greenlee Field—Friday, April 29, 1932—pitted the Crawfords against the New York Black Yankees. Opening day featured many “dedicatory exercises,” and the schedule for events was as follows:
- 3:45: Black Yankees batting practice
- 4:15: Crawfords batting practice
- 4:45: Team photographs
- 5:15: Black Yankees workout
- 5:30: Crawfords workout
- 5:45: Flag-raising exercises
- 6:00: Play Ball33
The Courier reported that a “capacity crowd of 4,000 [witnessed the] dedication of Greenlee Park.”34 It is unclear whether this attendance figure fell below the previously estimated capacity of 6,000 because some of the seating was not yet completed or because hundreds of complimentary passes were not counted in the gate receipts. Scores of prestigious people attended, including Pittsburgh’s “mayor, councilmen, county commissioners, and other prominent city and county officials.”35 Gus Greenlee made a grand entrance: “Clad in a white silk suit, shirt, tie, and buck shoes, [he rode into] the park standing inside a red Packard convertible.”36 Before the game, “The teams lined up behind the band and marched to the flagpole in deep center field, where the American flag was unfurled and raised to the strains of the national anthem.” Next, Pittsburgh Courier editor Robert L. Vann “made a short address…calling attention to the man, Mr. Gus Greenlee, whose investment, vision, and civic pride had made the wonderful park possible.” The crowd gave Greenlee a standing ovation.37 Then Vann took the mound and “…[showed] rare form as he pitched…the opening ball.” The u mpire declared it “a STRIKE! (on first bounce).”38 Courier sports editor Chester L. Washington declared, “All the color, glamour and picturesqueness that usually attends the opening of a big league ball park was in evidence.”39
After the inaugural ceremonies, manager Charleston led his team to the field against the Black Yankees, managed by George “Tubby” Scales. Unfortunately, the contest did not end as Pittsburgh fans wished. The game was close and exciting, a true pitchers’ duel with a double shutout until the top of the ninth inning. The Courier reported the action: “Burning ’em across with all the speed and zip of mid-season form, and with the unerring aim of a machine gunner, Jesse Hubbard of the Black Yankees mowed down the Crawfords, 1-0, in a game that fairly sizzled with action.” Satchel Paige, “the local rifleman,” pitched well but allowed six hits to Hubbard’s three. “So effective was the pitching on both sides that it was the first half of the ninth before the one and deciding marker was rushed across the pan.” Ted Page scored the run; earlier in the game, he had also registered the first hit in Greenlee Field. Pittsburgh fans were hoping Josh Gibson would provide some opening day fireworks, but he went hitless and played left field rather than catching because he was still recovering from an appendicitis operation he had undergone in Hot Springs.40
After the game, a group of local sports fans led by “former athlete” Joe Williams held a “reception and dance in honor of Gus Greenlee and the Pittsburgh Crawfords.” A “high class orchestra provided music in the Princess Hall ballroom, at the corner of Center Avenue and Miller Street. The event was open to the public, and organizers expected a crowd of 1,000.41
The next afternoon, the Crawfords took their revenge at Greenlee Field, defeating the Black Yankees, 2-1, in the bottom of the 10th inning.42 And when New York returned to Pittsburgh on July 8, 1932, fans who braved the heat at Greenlee Field witnessed a spectacular game: Satchel Paige pitched a no-hit shutout against the Black Yankees, winning 6-0 and becoming “the first Crawford moundsman to pitch a no-hitter at the new Greenlee Field.”
Paige repeated this no-hit feat against the Homestead Grays on July 4, 1934, striking out 17 batters in a 4-0 victory.43
Trouble Filling the Grandstands
Baseball games at Greenlee Field drew large crowds throughout May 1932, but once summer temperatures started to rise, gate receipts dwindled. One theory for this was that the uncovered grandstands provided no shade during afternoon games. In the sagging economy, covering the stands offered no guarantee that games would draw more spectators, so Greenlee and his partners decided not to invest in the additional construction. In 1934, Greenlee proposed adding a simple awning over the grandstand, but the other investors balked and declined the suggestion.44
In late summer 1932, Greenlee found a different solution to avoid afternoon heat: he invested a reported $6,000 for lights so the Crawfords could play at night. In early September, while the team was out of town, electricians installed a lighting system that fully equipped the field for night games. The first of these was held on September 16, between the Crawfords and the Grays. This caused a sensation because few ballparks had lights, and no major league teams were yet playing night baseball. The Pittsburgh Pirates did not play their first night game at Forbes Field until June 4, 1940.45
Greenlee Field’s new lighting system also solved another economic obstacle: the inability to play baseball on Sunday, the only day many Hill District residents had free to attend afternoon or early evening games. To challenge the Pennsylvania State Blue Law prohibiting Sunday baseball, Greenlee scheduled a night game between the Crawfords and the Grays, to begin at 12:01 a.m. Monday, September 19, 1932, less than three days after the field’s first game under lights. This midnight affair provided plenty of glamour, bright lights, and color.” The game “proved to be a real novelty attraction and drew out nearly 3,000, including most of the died-in-the-wool night-lifers and many of those who had to go to work in the morning.” Chester L. Washington observed, “there is ‘something new under the sun’ and folks will go for it—if it is a real attraction.”46 The Crawfords repeated this midnight promotion on Saturday, August 11, 1934, with a game against the Birmingham Black Barons. The Courier heralded these events as “the most entertaining baseball novelty the Bedford Avenue enclosure has offered.47
More than lack of shade and Sunday games, the largest influence on shrinking attendance at the ballpark was the economic impact of the Great Depression. Most Hill District residents simply could not afford the luxury of attending baseball games, so Greenlee introduced other promotions to attract people to the ballpark. During a “Ladies’ Night” on June 5, 1933, Satchel Paige struck out 15 in a 3-1 win over the Chicago American Giants. That night, women accounted for over 2,000 of the nearly 5,000 fans in attendance.48 At the start of the 1936 season, Greenlee announced that the Crawfords were trying “two experiments at Greenlee Field…with a view to stimulating interest in the game and increasing attendance.” The first “experiment” was an $8 season pass, which would “admit the holder to a grandstand seat to any game played at Greenlee Field by the Crawfords, whether opposed by a league or independent club.” Spectators could purchase these passes at the Crawford Grill. The other promotion was raffling off a new 1936 Ford sedan. Fans received an entry for the drawing every time they purchased a game ticket, and the drawing was held on July 4. Greenlee noted that “Both innovations [were] launched for the purpose of raising finances to make needed improvements at Greenlee Field. Such as: a second tier of seats, or a cover over the present grandstand, reconstructed floodlight system for night attractions, portable dance floor, etc. These possible enhancements were an attempt to improve public relations. At the time, some local “race men” were faulting Greenlee for not involving enough African Americans in daily operations at the park and not adequately supporting the Hill District community. Greenlee noted “the Bedford Avenue park will solve many problems for religious, fraternal, [and] civic organizations.”49
Turbulence between Greenlee and Homestead Grays owner Cum Posey also affected business at the ballpark. The Crawfords owner accused Posey of limiting his access to star players and trying to keep them out of the East-West League in 1932.50 Then after the Negro National League revived in 1933, Posey accused Greenlee of forcing a stranglehold on Black baseball, expecting the Grays to lease Greenlee Field for their home games. The epic feud resulted in Posey deliberately seeing other grounds and even scheduling some of his team’s games on the same days that the Crawfords were playing. These sour exchanges weakened leagues and helped erode local support of Black baseball in Pittsburgh.
Posey also accused Greenlee of trying to monopolize the best players, evidenced by his luring Oscar Charleston and Josh Gibson from the Grays in 1932. But Posey himself was certainly not innocent in this and seduced his own share of players away from other teams. Black baseball was, after all, a business; and with resources becoming increasingly scarce during the Great Depression, it is not surprising that key stakeholders fought to protect their shares. Writing in the Courier at the end of the 1932 season, W. Rollo Wilson noted, “The Crawfords have taken the play away from the Grays and no longer do Smoky City fans consider Cum Posey’s bunch the penultimate in baseball. A lot of them have a deep suspicion that the Crawfords are now the chosen people.” Wilson further recognized the precarious situation with two teams competing for support within the same city: “The Crawfords…are in Pittsburgh to stay and when the Grays face them this weekend, Cum Posey will be fighting for his baseball life…If there is room for only one team in [Pittsburgh]—I am very much of the opinion that the Grays are closing their books.” Wilson believed Greenlee Field was the key to the Crawfords’ increasing stature: “Whatever doubt there might have been in the minds of the bus as to the permanence of the Crawfords ought to be dissipated by that fine park…out on Bedford Avenue.”51 Such intense rivalries were nothing new in Black baseball. Since the formation of the original Negro National League in 1920, repeated meetings and treaties had attempt to settle disputes over raiding teams, scheduling games, and sharing profits.
Other Uses for Greenlee Field
From the outset, Gus Greenlee and his partners intended to use Greenlee Field for more than just Crawfords baseball games. Even before the park opened, Greenlee declared that no club would be barred from playing in Greenlee Field…[and] any baseball team which would make satisfactory arrangements would be allowed to stage their games at [the park].”52 This included the rival Homestead Grays but also amateur and semi-professional baseball and softball teams, plus other sporting and non-sporting events.
Because even uncovered grandstands are cooler than an overcrowded arena with no air conditioning, Greenlee Field almost immediately replaced Motor Square Garden as Pittsburgh’s primary venue for professional boxing during the summer. In mid-May, the Courier announced that Jules Beck of Motor Square Garden would arrange the matches, and Greenlee Field brought in the Garden’s boxing ring and floor seating. Light heavyweights Larry Johnson and Maxie Rosenbloom topped the ballpark’s opening right card on June 9.53 After the initial event, weekly Thursday night matches of four to six bouts typically featured local amateurs and boxers from the Allegheny Mountain Association. Unlike baseball, professional boxing was not segregated, so Greenlee Field saw fighters of all races “[throwing] the leather mittens fast and furious.” One bout in 1934 even featured a Chinese boxer, Mon Woo.54
Announcing “Pittsburgh’s Amateur Boxing Classic,…sponsored by the Amateur Athletic Union,” to be held at Greenlee Field on Tuesday, July 17, 1934, the Daily News Standard of Uniontown, Pennsylvania, noted, “The big ball park…seats upwards of 10,000 people.” The feature of this event was the anticipated appearance of William “Rabbit” Eley, “crack negro 135-pounder,” who was scheduled to make his last amateur appearance before going professional two days later at Greenlee Field’s weekly Thursday Night boxing match. However, Eley’s manager kept him away from the amateur match so that he would be in top shape for his professional debut, which drew more advance ticket sales than any previous bout in Pittsburgh. The bet paid off and Eley scored a fourth-round knockout against Paddy Gray. Eddie Zivic, a boxer praised by Jack Dempsey, was also scheduled to appear.55
As Greenlee’s involvement in boxing grew, he expanded promotions to host professional bouts affecting national championship standings. These matches generated more income than baseball. For a professional bout in June 1935, promoters offered 5,000 general admission seats at $1.10 each, and reserved ringside seats for $2.20. By 1936, Greenlee himself was managing light-heavyweight title holder John Henry Lewis. However, as the Great Depression worsened, Greenlee had to lower prices to fill the stands at boxing matches too. In 1937, the first outdoor bout of the season offered “the lowest admission prices in local history.” Since fighting was to be staged at the ballpark every Thursday throughout the summer, it was important to start with strong attendance.56
Since baseball and outdoor boxing seasons only lasted through late September, Greenlee and his partners found football teams to lease the field during the fall. Pittsburgh’s professional football team—also called the Pirates—played their National Football League games at Forbes Field but used Greenlee Field at various times from 1934 to 1937 for preseason training, exhibition games, and midweek practices during the regular season.”57 The ballpark also served as temporary training grounds for the Pirates’ opponents. For example, in 1935 the Chicago Cardinals of the National Football League played against the Pirates on October 18, then in New York against the Giants on October 25. Rather than traveling back to Chicago between games, the Cardinals spent the week in Pittsburgh practicing at Greenlee Field. In November 1935, the ballpark hosted a semi-professional National-American Football Conference game with the St. Rosalia Preps, a team associated with the Pirates.58
During its seven-year lifespan, Greenlee Field also held many amateur football games featuring high school and college teams, which were particularly successful on Thanksgiving. The first of these “football classics” was a college game on Thanksgiving Day 1932, between Wilberforce and West Virginia. Over 500 tickets had already been sold by November 5, and the game sold out. Box seats cost $2.50, reserved seats $2.00, and general admission $1.00. On November 24, over 5,000 turned out for the game, and it became such a social event that the Courier ran a special “Classic Visitors” column to list some of the people who had come to town. The game ended in a 0-0 tie.59
To fill the gap between the football and baseball seasons, Greenlee Field also hosted amateur and semi-professional soccer matches and mid-winter tournaments from December through April. In 1937, the Pittsburgh Steel semi-professional soccer club occasionally used Greenlee Field for its games, and on June 2, 1937 the semi-professional Pittsburgh District All-Stars played the professional Charlton club of Great Britain, which was touring the United States. Charlton won, 2-0.60
The spacious ballpark was also suitable for track and field events, such as the Amateur Athletic Union meet on Friday, September 6, 1935.61 But racing of another sort was perhaps the strangest competition held at Greenlee Field. On July 26, 1933, the ballpark was converted to a race track, and “Auto racing patrons of Pittsburgh got their first glimpse of speed demons in action at Greenlee Field.” The races were less spectacular than anticipated due to “a damp track and an unseasoned racing course.” The first two events were 10-mile races, with the winner of the first clocking 12:02, and the victor in the second finishing a minute faster. The third race was “originally advertised as a 25-mile event, but was cut [to 15 miles] because of the hazardous condition of the track.” Although the event drew a large crowd, auto racing did not catch on at Greenlee Field. Testing whether smaller cars would have better luck, on Saturday August 30, 1936, the ballpark hosted a national championship event for midget auto racing.62 The ballpark’s earthen right field wall and bermed centerfield curve were undoubtedly assets for these races, though it is unclear how cars were contained around the rest of the track.
With grandstand seating for over 7,000 people, Greenlee Field provided an ideal outdoor venue for non-sporting events, such as major community and church functions. On Monday, June 27, 1932, Ebenezer Baptist Church held a “Field Day” at the ballpark, with “a bazaar, songfest and…[a] women’s baseball game.” After the other events, a gospel chorus with 200 members sang spirituals.”63
On December 16, 1933, the ballpark was the site of a formal social protest to raise financial support for the legal appeals of “the Scottsboro Boys”—Haywood Patterson and Clarence Norris—who were wrongly accused of raping two White girls in Arkansas and had been sentenced to death. In protest, the International Labor Defense, the League of Struggle for Negro Rights, and other organizations united to hold a parade through the Hill District, ending at Greenlee Field for a formal presentation and mass. It was the first social protest for which the city of Pittsburgh granted official police permits.64
But most non-sporting events at Greenlee Field were of a less serious nature, such as “Bob McKenzie and His Hollywood Suicide Circus,” which performed at the ballpark on July 19, 1938, as a fundraiser for the Iron City Elks Lodge.65
The Fall of Greenlee Field
In 1938, with Joe Tito and his family now fully occupied with their growing business at Latrobe Brewery, the Bedford Land Company investors turned over daily operations at Greenlee Field to Gus Greenlee. In hindsight, this was certainly too late since by then the city of Pittsburgh had other plans for the ballpark.66
Because of its geographic location at the intersection of three major rivers and abundant natural resources, Pittsburgh was ideal for developing major industries, most notably U.S. Steel, founded through a corporate merger in 1901. As such companies flourished, job growth attracted waves of new residents: first immigrants from Eastern Europe, then African Americans from the south pursuing a better life during the Great Migration after World War I. As a result of this influx of new residents the city’s population doubled in less than 30 years.
- 1900: 321,616
- 1910: 533,905
- 1920: 588,343
- 1930: 669,817
- 1940: 671,65967
Unfortunately housing did not keep up with this swelling city. In the Hill District, thousands of people lived either in decaying wood frame houses or dangerously substandard tenements. Even into the late 1930s, many residences lacked basic necessities like running water, indoor bathrooms, and functional kitchens. Oil lamps were still the main means of lighting.68 The continuing effects of the Great Depression escalated these problems. Without jobs, people could not afford to maintain their homes or build new ones and as the economy worsened, absentee landlords walked away from crumbling properties they had no funds to repair or pay taxes on.
By the start of 1938, the city began searching for solutions to construct new sanitary public housing. Dramatically fluctuating topography in the Hill District made finding a suitable site for a large development difficult, since grading the land would be considerably expensive. Unfortunately, the most attractive site was a full city block of perfectly level land: Greenlee Field. Moderate topography of the adjacent Lincoln Memorial Cemetery made the site even more attractive. Thus, by mid-summer 1938, the Pittsburgh Housing Authority was aggressively pressuring the Bedford Land Company to sell their ballpark.
On Wednesday, July 20, Federal Housing Administrator Nathan Strauss announced that he had approved a nearly $7 million federal grant for three low-income housing developments in Pittsburgh. The previous day, the Pittsburgh Housing Authority had offered $50,000 for the Greenlee Field property, and the three Bedford Lan Company stockholders—Greenlee, Tito, and Thoms—had met to discuss the offer. The Courier noted that “No report of the meeting was given out, but it is understood that the stockholders were favorable to the…offer.” The newspaper further added, “It is known that the Authority is bidding on other parcels of real estate contiguous to Greenlee Field, and it is believed that the baseball park would be taken in condemnation proceedings should the stockholders decline to sell.” The Courier predicted the ballpark’s future:
If the plans of the Pittsburgh Housing Authority carry through, Greenlee Field, scene for the last [seven] years of the Hill District’s most spectacular outdoor spectacles, including championship baseball, will blossom within a few months with a low-income housing project, fertilized by a Federal Government grant and a city loan.69
Greenlee and his partners did eventually accept the $50,000 offer but after the deal had been settled the Housing Authority dropped the amount to $38,000. “[T]he stockholders had no alternative but to accept.”70
Ironically, during the time of these negotiations, Greenlee Field’s architect, Louis A.S. Bellinger, was working for the city building inspector, though it remains unclear whether he had any involvement in the ballpark’s demise. In another strange twist, in February 1940, the Pittsburgh Housing Authority named Everett E. Utterback manager of the 432-unit Bedford Dwellings, a position he held until August 1942, when the city promoted him to manage 888-unit Wadsworth Terrace. Utterback had attended the University of Pittsburgh on a track scholarship and became the team’s first African American captain. After graduating from Duquesne Law School, his most prestigious legal client was Gus Greenlee. Utterback had written player contracts for men like Satchel Paige and Greenlee’s managerial agreements with boxing champion John Henry Lewis. Utterback later served as general counsel for the Pittsburgh Housing Authority.71
The End Draws Near
The 1938 baseball season and other events carried on through the rest of the summer, but crowds continued to dwindle as the Depression dragged on. After losing money all season, the Crawfords and other Negro League teams resorted to playing many late-summer games on the road, hoping to attract more spectators in other cities. The last Crawfords game at Greenlee Field was scheduled for Saturday, September 3, 1938, against the Homestead Grays. It was the first of a planned four-game series, but the Courier lamented: “Those hectic ball games which give Greenlee Field fans their biggest thrill will be enjoyed by two of our sister states!” Games on September 4, 5, and 6 were scheduled at parks in Ohio and West Virginia. It is unclear who won the last Crawfords game at Greenlee Field, or if it was ever played, because neither the Courier, nor any other newspaper—Black or White—published a score.72
After the Crawfords’ season was over, other events continued at Greenlee Field. On Sunday, September 4, the ballpark hosted the Western Pennsylvania Softball Tournament, with eight teams competing for the Western Regional title. The winner would compete in the national tournament in Chicago.73 On September 9, 1938, heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis brought his Brown Bombers all-star softball team to play the Smoky City All-Stars.74
But most importantly, sometime during 1938, architect Edward B. Lee and his associates at Marlier, Lee, Boyd, and Prack took aerial and ground photographs of Greenlee Field and surrounding properties, in preparation for their commission to design the Pittsburgh Housing Authority’s Bedford Dwellings public housing project. Today, these photographs are the best images we have of Greenlee Field.
In early December 1938, workers started dismantling the ballpark. “The steel [was] junked, bricks destroyed, lumber and floodlights stored until an attractive bid [was] made.” Eulogizing the ballpark in his December 10, 1938, Courier article “The Rise and Fall of Greenlee Field,” John L. Clark wrote “Seven years ago, 1932 to be exact, Greenlee Field…was recognized and talked about as one of the best baseball diamonds in the United States, not excepting those used by major and minor league clubs.” The park was “hailed to be a welcome answer to a long prayer of baseball fans in the tri-state district.” Yet even though Greenlee Field was “situated within 10 minutes walk of over 10,000 colored voters…The Housing Authority, using all its vested power, selected this site…for its colored colony.”
The ceremonial groundbreaking for Bedford Dwellings was held on December 19, and radio station KDKA broadcast the event.75 The original borders of the 18-acre Bedford Dwellings property were Kirkpatrick and Watt Streets, Bedford Avenue, and Bigelow Boulevard, an area which also included Lincoln Memorial Cemetery. Before excavation could begin, remains of about 200 people were disinterred and relocated to a special section of Woodlawn Cemetery in Penn Hills. In late November 1938, “masked men” began the work using a giant steam shovel, picks, and shovels. Family members of the deceased stood by to watch the process, but few of the new graves at Woodlawn retained their original markers.76 Old Municipal Hospital on the east side of Greenlee Field was also eventually demolished after the city received Works Progress Administration funding in 1939 to build a new Municipal Hospital at the corner of Darragh and Terrace Streets.
The Pittsburgh Housing Authority began accepting bids for construction work in March 1939. The “first formal application for a building permit for Bedford Dwellings” was filed on August 2, 1939, and work was expected to begin two days later. The lead contractor was Ring Construction Company of Minneapolis, Minnesota, which meant that much of the financial profits for this $3 million project would not remain in the Hill District—nor even in Pennsylvania.77
The first residents began moving into Bedford Dwellings at the end of the summer in 1940, and the Housing Authority expected all of the apartments to be full by October when President Roosevelt toured the public housing development and praised this great community improvement project. The 432 new apartments were certainly more sanitary and were even equipped with Westinghouse refrigerators. However, many Hill District residents questioned the fairness of this project. Some displaced by the new development either could not afford to live there or had incomes too high to qualify for public housing. Plus, removing acquired properties from the tax rolls put more burden on other property owners in the Hill District. When the Housing Authority claimed Greenlee Field, Pittsburgh not only lost a ballpark, but a major tax-paying commercial property.78
Over time, local memories of specific details about the Crawfords’ Bedford Avenue ballpark have faded, and much of Greenlee Field’s story will always remain a mystery. But at least now we can again visualize the field where the amazing Pittsburgh Crawfords and so many of their Negro League opponents battled for supremacy on the Hill from 1932 to 1938. Today, only a shadow of the ballpark remains, visible in satellite images which show four of the original buildings at the northeastern end of Bedford Dwellings fanned out across the old playing field.79
During their seven-year occupancy of Greenlee Field, the Crawfords included seven future Hall of Famers: Oscar Charleston, Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige, Cool Papa Bell, Judy Johnson, Willie Foster (Rube’s younger half-brother from their father’s remarriage, also known as Bill), and Jud Wilson. But without his ballpark, Gus Greenlee could no longer afford to keep the Crawfords in Pittsburgh, so in 1939, Oscar Charleston took a handful of willing players to Toledo, Ohio, and tried to rebuild a team while the rest scattered to other clubs. The Toledo Crawfords lasted only a year and moved to Indianapolis in 1940 but then disbanded before the 1941 season.
GERI DRISCOLL STRECKER is a professor at Ball State University, were she teaches English and Sport Studies. As a 2011 fellow at the Virginia B. Ball Center for Creative Inquiry, she led a 15-credit seminar exploring Black Baseball in Indiana. That same season at the Jerry Malloy Negro League Conference in Indianapolis, she gave an impactful and powerful presentation entitled, “Black Baseball in Indianapolis during the Rise of the KKK.” Strecker has won three McFarland-SABR Research Awards, including one for her Fall 2009 Black Ball: A Negro Leagues Journal article printed here, “The Rise and Fall of Greenlee Field: Biography of a Ballpark.”
2 Sources vary on when exactly Greenlee bought interest in the team, but the Pittsburgh Courier first mentions the connection in 1931. “Grays Prime for Crawfords and Cleveland,” Pittsburgh Courier, June 20, 1931, 4.
3 “Grays Prime for Crawfords and Cleveland,” Pittsburgh Courier, June 20, 1931, 4; W. Rollo Wilson, “Sports Shorts,” Pittsburgh Courier, August 8, 1931, 4; Cum Posey, “Grays Undisputed Champs,” Pittsburgh Courier, October 10, 1931, 5.
4 Today this site is behind the Ammon Recreation Center and Macedonia Baptist Church at 2217 and 2225 Bedford Avenue. In May 2009, a refurbished Ammon Field was rededicated as Josh Gibson Field, providing a quality ballpark for teams in the Josh Gibson Little League. Fittingly, the first game at the new park featured children’s teams playing as the Pittsburgh Crawfords and the New York Black Yankees, the same match-up as the inaugural game at Greenlee Field in 1932. “Battered Hill District Ball Yard Reborn as Josh Gibson Field” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 26, 2009.
5 W.A. Greenlee, “Crawfords’ Owner Makes First Statement about the Team, New Park and Plans,” Pittsburgh Courier, February 27, 1932, 4.
6 John L. Clark, “The Rise and Fall of Greenlee Field,” Pittsburgh Courier, December 10, 1938, 17. Sanborn Insurance and other historical maps show the Entress Brick Company’s location and the original configuration of streets around the site. Prior to its use for brick manufacturing, the site had been a small Carmelite cemetery. The bodies had been relocated to Mt. Carmel Cemetery during the 1880s. American Historical Society, History of Pittsburgh and Environs (New York: American Historical Company, 1922), 291; the Rev. Anthony C. Dressel, “Rev. Angelus Forrestal, O. Carm., 1845-1879,” undated, http://carmelnet.org/necrology/obits/ ForrestalAngelus1845-1879.pdf.
7 Pennsylvania State College Agricultural Experiment Station, Annual Report of the Pennsylvania State College for the Year 1897 (Harrisburg: Wm. Stanley Ray—State Printer of Pennsylvania, 1898), 144.
8 Clark, “The Rise and Fall of Greenlee Field.” The 1930 U.S. Federal Census lists Ralph Tito’s occupation as truck driver for a transfer company and Tony Christiano’s as landscape gardener.
9 Albert M. Tannler, “Louis Arnett Stewart Bellinger,” African American Architects: A Biographical Dictionary, 1865–1945 (New York: Routledge, 2004), 30-32. Unless otherwise noted, all biographical information about Bellinger is from this essay. Special thanks to Albert Tannler, Historical Collections Director at the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation, for also graciously providing access to his Bellinger files. U.S. Federal Census and military records accessed through Ancestry.com. Bellinger’s first cousin Mamie Fields Garvin discusses their extended family in South Carolina in Lemon Swamp and Other Places: A Carolina Memoir (New York: Free Press, 1983).
10 Fessenden Academy was founded by the American Missionary Association of the Congregational Church in 1892, specifically for educating African American children. In January 1914, 225 students were enrolled at the school, being instructed by twelve teachers (three male, nine female), also all African American. Curriculum included “agriculture, mechanics, domestic science, sewing, and…literary subjects.” The school stressed racial pride, and its Carnegie Building was built entirely by African American labor. The school is now a designated historic district in Ocala. United States, Dept. of the Interior, Bureau of Education, Negro Education: A Study of the Private and Higher Schools for Colored People in the United States, 1916, vol. 2 (Washington, DC: GPO, 1917), 174.
11 “Allen University Historical Background,” Allen University, http://www.allenuniversity.edu/dnnweb4/AllenHistory/tabid/140/Default.aspx.
12 The Historic Pittsburgh Image Collections digital archive includes a June 7, 1935, photograph of the Pythian Temple (http://digital.library.pitt.edu/pittsburgh, search Image Collections for Pythian Temple, or identifier: 715.3524662.CP).
13 The 1930 U.S. Census reported the home’s value.
14 “Louis A. Bellinger, Architect, Buried,” Pittsburgh Courier, February 9, 1946, 1. Bellinger’s grave in Allegheny Cemetery is just up the hill from Josh Gibson’s.
15 Albert M. Tannler also provided information on the Crawford Grill storeroom project. It is unclear what part of the establishment was renovated.
16 These entries appear on pages 1, 11, 9, and 11, respectively
17 “Plan New Baseball Park Here,” Pittsburgh Courier, July 18, 1931, 4.
18 “Greenlee Field Data Released,” Pittsburgh Courier, July 9, 1932, 4.
19 Some historians have said that Greenlee also moved some of the Lincoln Memorial Cemetery, but aerial photographs suggest that he merely covered Junilla Street with the eastern wall of the park, without disturbing any graves.
20 Topographical maps of this site from 1929 and 1959 are available online: “City of Pittsburgh Geodetic and Topographic Survey Maps, 1923–1961,” Historic Pittsburgh, http://images.library.pitt.edu/cgi-bin/i/image/image-idx?c=geotopio&page=index (select plate 10 from the key map). Dramatic variations between these two maps show extensive excavations for the ballpark and later uses of the site.
21 The same sign and arched entrances are in the background of the 1935 Crawfords team photograph with the bus.
22 “Good Bouts at Greenlee Field,” Monessen (PA) Daily Independent, July 14, 1934, 3.
23 Philip J. Lowry lists known dimensions for fields in Green Cathedrals: The Ultimate Celebration of Major League and Negro League Ballparks (New York: Walker & Company, 2006). He lists the dimensions of Forbes Field, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates, as left 365 (in 1930), center 435 (in 1930), and right 375 (in 1925). In 1932, Bellinger said the distance to the left field corner was 350. “Crawfords Back, Set for Test,” Pittsburgh Courier, April 30, 1932, 5.
24 “Gleanings from Greenlee Field,” Pittsburgh Courier, June 11, 1932, 4.
26 “Pittsburgh Crawfords May Have New Manager Next Season,” Pittsburgh Courier, December 19, 1931, 4; William Nunn, “Sport Talks,” Pittsburgh Courier, December 26, 1931, 4; “Oscar Charleston May Manage 1932 Crawfords,” Pittsburgh Courier, January 23, 1932, 5; “New Pilot,” Pittsburgh Courier¸ February 6, 1932, 5.
27 “Old-time and Present Ball Stars Meet,” Pittsburgh Courier, February 13, 1932, 5. Other attendees included Frank Miller, George “Tubby” Scales, Smokey Joe Williams, Larry Brown, Fats Jenkins, Tex Burnett, Frank Grant, and Sol White.
28 “Crawford Vanguard Off for Hot Springs,” Pittsburgh Courier, February 23, 1932, 5.
29 “Crawfords Secure 17-Passenger Bus,” New York Amsterdam News, February 24, 1932, 13; “Pittsburgh Team to Start Tour,” Chicago Defender, February 27, 1932, 9. The Defender article includes a photograph of the bus, which is not the same as the one in the 1935 team photograph.
30 “Greenlee Ball Park Preps for Opener,” Pittsburgh Courier, April 9, 1932, 5.
31 “Greenlee Field Data Released,” Pittsburgh Courier, July 9, 1932, 4.
32 “Crawfords Back, Set for Test,” Pittsburgh Courier, April 30, 1932, 5.
33 Chester L. Washington, “Sportively Speaking,” Pittsburgh Courier, April 30, 1932, 5.
34 “Hubbard Pitches Three-Hit Game To Beat Page (sic), 1 to 0,” Pittsburgh Courier, May 7, 1932, 5. The misspelling is ironic since Ted Page actually scored the winning run against Satchel Paige.
35 “Pittsburgh’s Crawfords to Open Friday,” Chicago Defender, April 30, 1932, 8.
36 Mark Ribowsky, The Power and the Darkness: The Life of Josh Gibson in the Shadows of the Game (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996), 91.
37 “Hubbard Pitches Three-“Hit Game To Beat Page (sic), 1 to 0,” Pittsburgh Courier, May 7, 1932, 5. Interestingly, the opening of Greenlee Field also set the tone for “Negro Trade Week,” May 8-15, which the Business and Professional Association of Pittsburgh sponsored to “Encourage Negro Business.” The May 7, 1932 Pittsburgh Courier includes several articles about this event.
38 “Courier ‘Chief’ in Action,” Pittsburgh Courier, May 7, 1932, 5. This article also includes a photograph of Vann pitching the ball.
39 Washington, “Sportively Speaking,” Pittsburgh Courier, May 7, 1932, 5.
40 Washington, “Crawfords, Black Yanks Break Even in Series,” Pittsburgh Courier, May 7, 1932, 5.
41 “Plan Dance to Honor Crawfords,” Pittsburgh Courier, April 9, 1932, 5; “Crawfords Reception on April 28,” Pittsburgh Courier, April 16, 1932, 6. It is not clear whether the “Joe Williams” organizing this event could have been the future Hall of Fame pitcher, still with the Homestead Grays at the beginning of 1932.
42 Washington, “Crawfords, Black Yanks Break Even in Series,” Pittsburgh Courier, May 7, 1932, 5.
43 “New York Yanks Win Series from Crawfords,” Pittsburgh Courier, July 16, 1932, 5; William G. Nunn, “Paige Hurls No-Hit Classic,” Pittsburgh Courier, July 7, 1932, 1.
44 Clark, “The Rise and Fall of Greenlee Field,”
45 “Greenlee Field Installs Lights,” Pittsburgh Courier, September 10, 1932, 5; W. Rollo Wilson, “Baseball War In Pittsburgh,” Pittsburgh Courier, September 17, 1932, 14; “Sidelights on Sports,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette¸May 21, 1938, 157; “First Night Ball Game at Pittsburgh Tuesday,” Daily Courier (Connellsville, PA), June 3, 1940, 7.
46 Washington, “2,000 Watch Big Midnight Tilt,” and Washington, “Chez Says,” Pittsburgh Courier, September 24, 1932, A5. Washington also noted that starting the “floodlight battle” soon after midnight and ending at 2:40 emphasized the problem of Negro League games taking too long to play. He wrote, “Two hours and twenty-five minutes is too much time for an ordinary ball game—and it was quite noticeable as the clock neared 3 Ah-Hem.”
47 “The First Night Game of Its Kind,” Evening Gazette (Indiana, PA), August 11, 1934, 3; “Cleveland and Barons Meet Crawfords Here,” Pittsburgh Courier, August 11, 1934, 5).
48 Satchell (sic) Supreme in Craw Victory, Pittsburgh Courier, June 10, 1933, 5.
49 “Free Ford, Season Passes Offered at Greenlee Field,” Pittsburgh Courier, May 9, 1936.
50 W.A. Greenlee, “Crawfords Owner Makes First Statement about the Team, New Park and Plans,” Pittsburgh Courier, February 27, 1932, 4.
51 Wilson, “Baseball War In Pittsburgh,” Pittsburgh Courier, September 17, 1932, 14.
52 “Greenlee Ball Park Preps for Opener,” Pittsburgh Courier, April 9, 1932, 5.
53 “Boxing Opens at Greenlee Field June 1,” Pittsburgh Courier, May 14, 1932, 5; “Gleanings from Greenlee Field,” Pittsburgh Courier, June 11, 1932, 4 (contains a photograph of the ballpark rigged out for boxing); “Larry Johnson, Maxie Rosenbloom To Clash Here,” Pittsburgh Courier, June 4, 1932.
54 “Speigal Loses to Negro Pug,” Daily News Standard (Uniontown, PA), August 19, 1932, 12; “Bittner to Box Christof in One Feature Match,” Daily News Standard (Uniontown, PA), July 17, 1934, 8.
55 P.V.A.C. Boys in Big Classic,” Daily News Standard (Uniontown, PA), July 11, 1934, 8; Arnold Goldberg, “Sport Chatter,” Daily News Standard (Uniontown, PA), July 17, 1934, 8; “Pittsburgh Boxing,” Daily News Standard (Uniontown, PA), July 20, 1934, 14; “Good Bouts at Greenlee Field,” Daily Independent (Monesson, PA), July 14, 1934, 3.
56 “Billy Nichy Tries Another Step Up Ladder,” Charleroi (PA) Mail, June 18, 1935, 5; First Outdoor Fight Card Thursday Night at Greenlee Field,” Daily Courier (Connellsville, PA), May 18, 1937, 7.
57 “New Back Joins Pro Grid Team,” Daily News Standard (Uniontown, PA), September 14, 1934, 12; “Pirate Pros To Play Exhibit Game Sunday,” Charleroi (PA) Mail, August 23, 1935, 7; “Pirate Pros Meet Chicago Bears at Pittsburgh Sunday,” Daily Courier (Connellsville, PA), September 28, 1935, 8; “Pirate Gridders Start Practice,” Morning Herald (Uniontown, PA), August 19, 1937, 14.
58 “Chicago Cards Start Here Tomorrow,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, October 17, 1935, 51; “Ravens Prepare to Battle St. Rosalia Preps Sunday,” Daily Independent (Monessen, PA), November 21, 1935, 7.
59 Floyd G. Snelson, “Gus Greenlee (Big Mogul of Pittsburgh)” Pittsburgh Courier, November 19, 1932, 8; “Over 500 Tickets Sold for Turkey Day Classic Here,” Pittsburgh Courier, November 5, 1932, 1; Wilson, “Force, W. Va. In 0-0 Deadlock,” and “Classic Visitors,” Pittsburgh Courier, December 3, 1932, 4.
60 “Professional Team Will Offer Stiff Competition,” Charleroi (PA) Mail, June 3, 1937, 7; “Charlton Club Tops District All-Stars at Greenlee Field,” Charleroi (PA) Mail, June 3, 1937, 7; “Charlton Soccer Team Meets All-Stars Tonight,” Daily News Standard (Uniontown, PA), June 2, 1937, 9.
61 “Sports Gleanings,” Daily Courier (Connellsville, PA), September 4, 1935, 7.
62 “Auto Races Staged at Greenlee Field Last Nite,” Monessen (PA) Daily Independent, July 27, 1933, 6; “Uniontown Race is Semi-Final for Midgets Saturday,” Daily Courier (Connellsville, PA), August 13, 1936, 10. Interestingly, Indianapolis’s Bush Stadium, home field of the Indianapolis Indians and Clowns, was briefly used for similar auto racing purposes after the construction of Victory Field in 1996.
63 “Ebenezer Field Day,” Pittsburgh Courier, June 25, 1932, 19.
64 “Death Sentences to be Protested,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, December 16, 1933, 5.
65 A photograph in the Teenie Harris archive at the Carnegie Museum of Art clearly shows an advertising banner for this event (accession number 2001.35.7834).
66 Clark, “The Rise and Fall of Greenlee Field,” 17.
67 U.S. Census records.
68 “Big Demand Evident for PHA Homes” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, December 6, 1939, 26.
69 “Greenlee Field!” Pittsburgh Courier, July 23, 1938, 6.
70 Clark, “The Rise and Fall of Greenlee Field.”
71 “Housing Project Manager Resigns,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 14, 1942, 6; “Memento Recalls a Different World,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, November 17, 1983, 14.
72 “Craws Battle Grays in Holiday Series,” Pittsburgh Courier, September 3, 1938, 17.
73 “Yezbaks Entered in West Penn Meet,” Morning Herald (Uniontown, PA), September 1, 1938, 10.
74 Washington, “Sez Ches,” Pittsburgh Courier, September 10, 1938, 16; “Talk O’ Town,” Pittsburgh Courier, September 10, 1938, 9.
75 “Start Housing Project Today,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, December 19, 1938, 2.
76 “Masked Men Begin Job of Digging Up ‘City of the Dead,’ ” Pittsburgh Courier, November 26, 1938, 6. In January 2001, Tom and Nancy McAdams compiled a list of some of those whose remains were moved to Woodlawn, and this list can be found online at the Woodlawn Cemetery Association website: http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~tandmnca/woodlawn/lincoln.html.
77 “Housing Bids Asked, Work Will Start Soon on Bedford Dwellings,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 4, 1939, 13; “Housing Job Permit Asked,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 3, 1939.
78 “Home Project To Be Opened,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, September 16, 1940, 12; “Trip Arranged by President,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, October 3, 1940, 3; “Buy Refrigerators for Home Projects” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 31, 1940, 13; “The People Speak,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, November 3, 1941, 8.
79 Online satellite images such as Google Earth clearly show this pattern. The approximate location of home plate was 40° 27’ 4.46”N and 79° 58’ 21.96”W. Using the Carnegie Mellon University Architecture Archive photographs, the author helped determine the exact location for the historical marker placed by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, July 17, 2009. The marker, located directly where Greenlee Field’s arched entry gates had been, was erected during the Society for American Baseball Research’s annual Jerry Malloy Negro League Conference.