Granillo: A Negro Leaguer’s execution

From SABR member Larry Granillo at Baseball Prospectus on April 17, 2012:

Over at the blog One for Five comes the story of an ex-Negro League ballplayer named James Hugh Moss, who was executed by the State of Georgia in August 1928. Not much is known about Moss as a ballplayer. The newspaper accounts of the crime he was put to death for mention his past playing history, but only in passing. The recent influx of Negro Leagues information at Baseball Reference also isn’t much help, but even that is admittedly incomplete. Some sites mention an entry of “Moss” in James Riley’s Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues. The Moss in the encyclopedia pitched for the Chicago American Giants in 1918. It’s impossible to say if the ballplayer referenced is James Hugh Moss, but we do know the sad story of how Moss’s life ended—even if the circumstances that led to it are very questionable.

As it stands, Moss was convicted, along with Clifford Thompson and his wife Eula Mae Thompson (both white), for the murder of Coleman Osborne. It seems that the three murderers/conspirators were in the bootlegging business to some degree. One night, they stopped the car they were using to haul whiskey near Osborne’s home. Someone met Osborne at the door of his general store, there was some shouting, and Osborne was shot dead. The court found the three bootleggers guilty and ordered them to death by electric chair.

The two men were to be executed first, but, on the eve of the execution, Eula Mae apparently had a change of heart and came forward with a new story. While awaiting her own execution, Eula Mae called in the jailor and made a statement. In it, she claimed that the murdered man had learned of an affair she was having with one B.W. Swan and that she and Swan plotted the murder. They decided to frame the death on her husband, thereby clearing out any obstacles to their affair. Moss, in this story, was the victim of very bad luck.

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Originally published: April 17, 2012. Last Updated: April 17, 2012.