Taylor: Speak their names: The Negro Leagues grave marker project

From Shakeia Taylor at The Hardball Times on February 20, 2017, with mention of SABR member Jeremy Krock:

Fred Goree was murdered on a hot summer night in 1925, just 12 miles from Ferguson, Mo. The cause of death listed on his death certificate is “justifiable homicide by gunshot wound.” Mainstream media published multiple stories, but couldn’t seem to agree on the details surrounding Goree’s murder. On Aug. 7, 1925, a weekly African-American newspaper, The St. Louis Argus, published a story with the headline “Deputy Slays Colored Baseball Manager.” It continues, “Eyewitness Story Show It Was a Case of Cold-Blooded Murder. Daily Papers’ Story Misleading. NO CAUSE FOR CRIME.”

Goree, a Louisiana native and the eldest of 12 siblings, migrated in the 1910s to Chicago, where he found work as a brick mason and started a family with his wife, Sarah Beth May. His place in Negro Leagues baseball history is shrouded in mystery. No real record of his team, the Chicago Independent Giants, has been found anywhere; all that remain are stories passed down to his grandchildren, and newspaper articles detailing his death. What is known of Goree is that he managed a barnstorming team during the ‘20’s, and was murdered by police along a stretch of highway between Chicago and St. Louis as he passed through “sundown towns” on his way to a baseball game in 1925. His killer, Officer Clarence Patrick Bennett, was exonerated less than 36 hours later.

While not totally anonymous, Goree was close. Had he died in a more peaceful manner, he may have become entirely anonymous. This is not uncommon among Negro Leagues players—many of them lived and died in anonymity. It’s been a long time now since the Negro Leagues were operational. The Negro National League folded after the 1948 season and the last Negro Leagues All-Star game was held in 1962. The integration of major league baseball in ‘47 hastened its demise. A once popular pastime for African-American, and, to a certain degree, Latino players, was over. Some of its players were legends without proper acknowledgement, but their stories have been passed on through baseball enthusiasts and their loved ones for years. For many reasons, players often died destitute.

Read the full article here: http://www.hardballtimes.com/speak-their-names/

Originally published: February 21, 2017. Last Updated: February 21, 2017.