Whirty: Philadelphia’s Pythians made baseball history in 1800s

From SABR member Ryan Whirty at Philly.com on February 19, 2015:

It’s rare enough that a baseball team makes history once, let alone twice. But the Philadelphia Pythians did it three times. 

The Pythians became arguably the nation’s first truly evolved African-American hardball team when they coalesced in 1866 under the direction of civil-rights pioneer Octavius Catto. Then, in 1869, they shattered barriers again when they played the Olympics, Philly’s oldest white ballclub, and became part of the first documented game of interracial base ball (two words back then). 

But the Pythians weren’t done. In 1887, they entered the National Colored Base Ball League, the first attempt in the country by black base ballists to organize a formal league. Although the venture collapsed shortly after its launch, the NCBBL, including the much-respected Pythians, proved that the nation’s African-American base ball community had the aspirations for success that the parallel white leagues and teams had. 

Such trailblazing efforts and events take on extra significance during February, Black History Month. It’s hard to deny the Pythians’ crucial place in the history of not only the national pastime, but also in America’s social and political history.

Read the full article here: http://www.philly.com/philly/sports/phillies/Philadelphias_Pythians_made_baseball_history_in_1800s.html

Originally published: February 20, 2015. Last Updated: February 20, 2015.