Shaw: Honoring a Philly field where baseball brought races together

From Julie Shaw at the Philadelphia Inquirer on October 1, 2017, with mention of SABR members Matt Albertson, Dan Gordon, Seamus Kearney, and Dick Rosen:

About 40 people gathered on a grassy North Philadelphia field Saturday morning to celebrate a new state historical marker honoring the spot where, on Sept. 3, 1869, civil rights activist Octavius V. Catto captained the all-black Pythians baseball team in the country’s first recorded interracial game.

The Pythians lost to the all-white Olympics. But the fact that the game was played shortly after the Civil War spoke to progress being made.

The Jefferson Street Ballparks, on Jefferson Street near 26th, now home to the baseball fields, playground, and basketball courts of the Athletic Recreation Center, served as the practice grounds for the Olympics and another all-white team, the Athletics, in the late 19th century.

Matt Albertson, 28, of Havertown, a baseball history buff who made the nomination to the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission for the marker, told the seated and standing crowd before the unveiling: “This site was host to monumental baseball events, which both pressed for cultural change and ushered in the modern era of professional sports in America.”

The new cast aluminum marker is one of more than 2,000 in Pennsylvania commemorating a part of the state’s history.

“Pythian captain Octavius Catto, to whom a brand-new statue was dedicated at City Hall this past Tuesday, used baseball — among other things — as a vehicle for social change,” Albertson said. “They challenged the established racial hierarchy immediately following the Civil War and proved that baseball was no longer a game for moneyed elites, but was also for the common man and free African Americans.”

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Originally published: October 2, 2017. Last Updated: October 2, 2017.