SABR 50: Moses Fleetwood Walker selected as SABR’s Overlooked 19th Century Base Ball Legend of 2022

Moses Fleetwood Walker (NATIONAL BASEBALL HALL OF FAME LIBRARY)AUGUST 18, 2022 — Moses Fleetwood Walker has been selected as SABR’s Overlooked 19th Century Base Ball Legend for 2022. The announcement was made on August 18 at the Nineteenth Century Committee’s annual business meeting held during SABR’s 50th Annual Convention in Baltimore, Maryland.

This spring, 288 SABR members submitted their votes for the 2022 Overlooked 19th Century Base Ball Legend — a 19th-century player, manager, executive or other baseball personality not yet inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.

Previous Overlooked Legends were Pete Browning in 2009, Deacon White (2010), Harry Stovey (2011), Bill Dahlen (2012), Ross Barnes (2013), Doc Adams (2014), Tony Mullane (2015), Jack Glasscock (2016), Bob Caruthers (2017), William Hoy (2018), Jim Creighton (2019), Bud Fowler (2020), and Charlie Bennett last year. White became the first Overlooked Legend to be voted into the Hall of Fame in 2013. Fowler was also inducted to the Hall of Fame in 2022.

Moses Fleetwood “Fleet” Walker was the last Black player in the major leagues until Jackie Robinson’s debut with the Dodgers in 1947. Born in Mount Pleasant, Ohio in 1856, Walker caught and batted leadoff for Oberlin College. He and his brother Weldy (born in 1860 and also a future major league player) transferred to the University of Michigan, where Fleet studied law. Walker turned professional in 1883 with Toledo of the Northwestern League. He hit .251 with exceptional defense behind the plate while catching future Hall of Fame umpire Hank O’Day. On August 10 of that season, Cap Anson’s Chicago White Stockings came to Toledo for an exhibition game. Walker was originally set to miss the game with a hand injury, but when Anson insisted that Walker not play because of the color of his skin, Toledo manager Charlie Morton inserted Walker into the lineup. Anson relented and played rather than losing his gate receipts.

In 1884, Toledo joined the American Association and Walker became a major leaguer. He played 42 games and batted .263 before being released due to injury. He dealt with constant abuse from opponents, fans, and press, but also sometimes his own teammates. It was reported that Tony Mullane admitted to purposely crossing up his catcher because he refused to take signs from a Black man.

In 1885, Walker played with Cleveland in the Western League until the club and league folded, then played the rest of 1885 and 1886 with Waterbury, Connecticut. He joined the International League’s defending champion Newark club where he caught the great George Stovey. That July, Anson again demanded Walker (and Stovey) sit out an exhibition game with his White Stockings. This time, he got his way and the IL decided not to admit any more new Black players.

Walker never played for an all-Black team in his career. Once his career was over, he and Weldy operated the Union Hotel and edited the newspaper The Equator. He published the book Our Home Colony: A Treatise on the Past, Present and Future of the Negro Race in America in 1908. Walker died on May 11, 1924.

Walker was a first-time Overlooked Legend finalist in 2022 and was immediately selected. Here are the final election results, with their point totals:

  • Moses Fleetwood “Fleet” Walker: 571 points
  • Bobby Mathews: 520
  • Chris Von der Ahe: 492
  • George Stovey: 438
  • Al Reach: 405
  • Tommy Bond: 392
  • Grant “Home Run” Johnson: 351
  • Paul Hines: 342
  • Lip Pike: 266
  • Dickey Pearce: 254
  • Ben Shibe: 132
  • Jim Mutrie: 96

For an extended biography of Moses Fleetwood Walker, read his SABR bio written by John R. Husman.

For more information on the Overlooked 19th Century Baseball Legends Project, visit or contact Project co-chairs Adam Darowski and Joe Williams.

Originally published: August 18, 2022. Last Updated: July 25, 2022.