Whirty: Bud Fowler’s time in Vermont made him a pioneer

From Ryan Whirty at The Barre Montpelier Times-Argus on April 8, 2013, with quotes from SABR member Dick Leyden:

In early August 1887, Bud Fowler signed a contract with Montpelier’s entry in the Northeastern League. By then, the black baseball player had hoboed around the Northeast for a decade, playing for a slew of amateur, semi-pro and professional teams in the early days of America’s pastime.In the sport’s relative infancy, it wasn’t unusual for top players, especially in the minors and semi-pro levels, to move around frequently and jump from one team to another one that paid better.

But Fowler didn’t hop from franchise to franchise for the reasons most other players did. Fowler, the 100th anniversary of whose death came late this February, was virtually forced to move on time after time when white teammates and local fans objected, often virulently, to his presence on their roster and in their town.

In fact, that’s why Fowler, a native of upstate New York whose career began in the late 1870s in Massachusetts, arrived in Montpelier during late summer 1887. In July, after several white players on the Binghamton Crickets squad chose to boycott a game rather than take the field with teammate Fowler.

While those white teammates who boycotted were eventually slapped with a fine for their defiance, their message had gotten across loud and clear to the administrators of the International League, which banned member teams from signing and fielding African-American players. That prohibition, often referred to as a “gentlemen’s agreement,” stood in place until 1946, when Robinson himself suited up for the International League’s Montreal Royals.

Read the full article here: http://www.timesargus.com/article/20130406/NEWS01/704069939

Related link: Cooperstown to honor Bud Fowler on April 20, 2013 during SABR’s Frederick Ivor-Campbell 19th Century Base Ball Conference

Originally published: April 8, 2013. Last Updated: April 8, 2013.