Provance: Ohio House OKs honor for Toledo baseball pioneer Fleet Walker

From Jim Provance at the Toledo Blade on March 9, 2017, with mention of SABR member Craig Brown:

The Ohio House voted 93-1 Wednesday to set aside Oct. 7 each year in honor of the first African American to play under contract in baseball’s major leagues.

State Rep. Nino Vitale (R., Urbana) was the lone “no” vote.

Moses Fleetwood “Fleet” Walker, a bare-handed catcher, was unaware he’d made history when he caught for less than a season for the Blue Stockings in Toledo, described by Rep. Mike Sheehy (D., Oregon) on the floor as “that progressive city on the banks of the Maumee.”

The Blue Stockings were briefly part of the American Association, which evolved into the American League. In hindsight, that makes Mr. Walker the first black player to play under contract in the majors. He was briefly followed on the team by his outfielder brother, Weldy.

At a time when slavery and the Civil War were still recent history, the thought of white players playing alongside black players led team owners to erect the unofficial “color barrier” that Jackie Robinson would be credited with breaking more than 60 years later.

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Originally published: March 10, 2017. Last Updated: March 10, 2017.