Whirty: Cincinnati and the color barrier

From SABR member Ryan Whirty at Cincinnati Magazine on July 9, 2015:

In July 1874, a reader referring to himself as “Vigilant Play” wrote to the Cincinnati Daily Times, pondering why the city’s white “base ball” teams—the game was spelled with two words back then—declined to go head-to-head with one of the best African-American, or “colored,” clubs in the country: the Cincinnati Vigilants.

To the writer, such adamant refusal seemed inherently quizzical and remarkably stubborn.

“Now, why the white clubs refuse to play our club, I can’t see,” wrote Vigilant Play, adding the claim that the Vigilants were “the champions of Ohio.” “The Vigilant Club is composed of as good players as the Arctics [a white team]. Is this giving our colored boys a show? The Arctics, Favorites, and Hunkidories have to work for a living as well as we Vigilant boys do, and we will play any of the above-mentioned any day next week, except Sunday.

“It seems as if the white clubs are afraid of us,” he added boldly.

As far as the writer was concerned, the Vigilants weren’t getting their just do as a top-quality base ball team in the Queen City. Even today, one could easily argue that the Vigilants haven’t garnered the respect of baseball historians in general, many of whom laud 19th-century African-American teams from cities like Philadelphia, New York, Baltimore, and Indianapolis as crucial not only to the development of America’s pastime in the black community, but to the overall history of the game itself.

Read the full article here: http://www.cincinnatimagazine.com/reds/the-color-barrier/

Originally published: July 15, 2015. Last Updated: July 15, 2015.