From SABR member Stephanie Liscio at It’s Pronounced Lajaway on June 5, 2012:
This July, Cleveland will host the largest Negro League baseball history conference in America – the Jerry Malloy Negro League Conference. It rotates cities each year (last year it was in Indianapolis), so it’s a big deal that it will be in Cleveland this summer. It will bring a collection of former players, authors, and talks from some of the top Negro League baseball historians in the country. Because it’s in Cleveland, there will be a focus on the local history and players; I’ll be giving a talk on all of the pre-League Park stadiums used by teams in Cleveland. Teams typically rented major league parks for games, but there were a number of other, smaller parks used in Cleveland as well.
To draw attention to the conference, and to the history of Negro League baseball in Cleveland, I plan to have a series of stories from now until the conference in July. Cleveland’s role in Negro League baseball history is fascinating, and many people are unaware of the pre-Cleveland Buckeyes material. A few years ago, I helped the Indians write the text of a Negro League history plaque for Heritage Park; this series will be a longer version of the facts briefly outlined on the plaque.
One thing that people do not realize is that Cleveland had 11 different Negro League teams, more than any other city in the country. None of these teams co-existed at the same time though; one would fail, and another would step forward to take its place. I wasn’t even aware of much of this until I started research for my book a few years ago; I also put together team histories for the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History, which really helped me sort through piles of material and attempt to make short, concise sense of everything. I still think there is more to the story when you look at many of these teams (particularly the Tate Stars) but I stick to the realm of proven facts and avoid drifting into theories and innuendo.
The first formal and lasting “league” for African American players was started by Chicago native Rube Foster. Dubbed the Negro National League, it formed in 1920 and included a handful of teams, many of which existed before they signed onto the League. Cleveland’s first formal league affiliated team was the Cleveland Tate Stars, formed by a man named George Tate. An Oberlin grad, Tate also owned his own ballpark (Tate Field), an extremely rare feat for a team at this point in history.
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Originally published: June 5, 2012. Last Updated: June 5, 2012.