Ashwill: The life and times of Sol White

From SABR member Gary Ashwill at the Diary of Myles Thomas on June 22, 2016:

In the spring of 1907 a team called the Philadelphia Giants started selling a small paperbound book at their games. Its cover said it was the History of Colored Base Ball, by Sol White, captain of the Giants, the “World’s Colored Champions.” Inside, the title page called it Sol White’s Official Base Ball Guide, and added that it had been edited by H. Walter Schlichter (who also held the copyright). At 5 ¾ by 3 ½ inches, it could be described as a thick pamphlet or even a “brochure,” as White would later call it. The book’s 128 pages were packed with tiny print and photographs illustrating the exploits of professional African American ball clubs and their players going back a little more than 20 years. It also featured essays on “How to Pitch,” by Rube Foster, the best black pitcher in the country, and “The Art and Science of Hitting,” by Grant Johnson, the best black everyday player. Like a game program, it was sprinkled with advertisements, mostly for businesses related to the Philadelphia Giants or run by the owners of other black teams, as well as a few other Philadelphia-area concerns. And for good measure White and Schlichter reprinted “Casey at the Bat” and its sequel, “When Casey Slugged the Ball.”

Just four years earlier, W. E. B. DuBois had declared in The Souls of Black Folk that “the problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color-line.” It was certainly baseball’s problem. The tentative reconstruction era that baseball had undergone in the 1880s, when dozens of black players, and a few black teams, infiltrated the minor leagues and even (briefly) the majors, had shuddered to a halt in the 1890s. The last black player to appear in organized baseball was Bill Galloway, who played in five games for the Woodstock club of the Canadian League in 1899. By 1907 a “veil,” as DuBois would put it, had descended over the world of black baseball. Sol White’s little book was a guide to this world.

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Originally published: June 22, 2016. Last Updated: June 22, 2016.