From SABR member Gary Ashwill at Seamheads.com on October 25, 2012:
The newest update to the Negro Leagues DB adds no fewer than five deadball seasons—1902 through 1906—plus a number of additional games for later seasons, and lots of new and corrected biographical information.
We loosely use the term “season” here, as the farther back you go in history, the fewer and fewer games African American teams played against each other. Most of their schedules—which could range from 80 or 90 games to 150 or more—pitted them against white semipro, amateur, or minor league teams. So the DB, which at the moment only counts games between black teams in the United States, will represent thinner and thinner slivers of a team’s season, and a player’s career, with each step backwards in time. (Incidentally, when we get to the later 1930s and 1940s, you will see a similar effect, as Negro league schedules contract and fewer newspapers print box scores for black teams.)
In 1902 we’ve got a three-game series between Chicago’s Columbia Giants, managed by Grant Johnson, and Frank Leland’s Union Giants, a descendent of the Chicago Unions, a team that was founded in 1888.
Though the major black teams on the east coast, the Cuban X Giants and Philadelphia Giants, did not play each other in 1902, they finally hooked up in 1903 in a major series for the “colored base ball championship of the world.” The X-Giants, led by Grant Johnson and Rube Foster, who had both jumped from the West, handily beat Sol White‘s Philadelphia club, 5 games to 2.
In 1904 Foster, Charlie “Tokohama” Grant, infielder Johnny Hill, and the young rookie outfielder Pete Hill absconded to the Philadelphia Giants, and the balance of power swung their way. In September Philadelphia met the Cuban X Giants in Atlantic City to relitigate the “colored championship of the world.” Rube Foster set the tone in game one by striking out 18 of his former teammates, and the Philadelphia Giants won the series, two out of three.
This inaugurated a run of four seasons for the Philadelphia Giants in which they ruled black baseball on the east coast. The team’s 1905 edition added an all-time great, Grant Johnson, to an already formidable lineup. Unfortunately they could not agree to any games with the Cuban X Giants or the real Cuban team, the All-Cubans, that season, though they did play ten games against the overmatched Brooklyn Royal Giants (in only their second year of existence), winning nine and tying one.
The following season, 1906, saw the founding of the International League of Independent Professional Base Ball Clubs, an organization made up two genuine Cuban teams, the Cuban Stars and Havana Stars, a local white team, the Philadelphia Professionals, and two African American teams, the Cuban X Giants and the new Philadelphia Quaker Giants. The Quaker Giants were founded by Jess and Eddie McMahon, two New York promoters who managed Harlem’s Olympic Field, a frequent venue for black teams (they would later found the New York Lincoln Giants; Jess’s grandson is Vince McMahon). William Freihofer, owner of the Philadelphia Professionals, served as league president and donated a cup, named after him, for the championship. The league had a heavily Cuban flavor—in addition to the two clubs actually from the island, the X Giants began to live up to their name by signing actual Cubans themselves, including stars like José Muñoz, Regino García, Luis Bustamante, and Emilio Palomino.
The International League was pretty unstable, with both the Cuban clubs dropping out and the Quaker Giants folding. The lost teams were replaced by the Philadelphia Giants; the Riverton-Palmyras (another white team); and the Wilmington Giants from Delaware, organized by an old nineteenth century blackball star, George Williams. It was (no surprise) the Philadelphia Giants who eventually won the Freihofer Cup. In 1907 the International League would exclude the white teams and morph into the National Association of Colored Professional Clubs of the United States and Cuba.
Research on western games, especially for 1903, 1904, 1906, and 1907, continues, and will be posted when ready. Also coming up: the 1933 Negro leagues, the Florida Hotel League, and (as always) more Cuban seasons.
To view the Seamheads Negro Leagues Database, visit http://www.seamheads.com/NegroLgs/index.php
- Seamheads Negro Leagues Database updated with 1924 stats (October 10, 2012)
- Seamheads Negro Leagues Database updated with 1907 stats (September 10, 2012)
- Seamheads Negro Leagues Database update: 1923 Eastern Colored League (August 28, 2012)
- Seamheads Negro Leagues Database updated with 1908-09 stats (May 18, 2012)
- Seamheads Negro Leagues Database updated with 1910-11 stats (May 4, 2012)
- Little-known players from the Seamheads Negro Leagues Database (February 2, 2012)
- Read our Q&A with Gary Ashwill about the Negro Leagues Database (September 14, 2011)
Originally published: October 26, 2012. Last Updated: July 16, 2020.