The Racial Lines in Baseball

Howard W. Rosenberg, a national journalist who is an expert on U.S. baseball’s racism, sent me this and said I could place a version on our blog. It is relevant to our discussions of racism in various U.S. institutions, and notes a sad anniversary yesterday:

Even casual Chicago baseball fans may know that 1908 is when the Cubs last won the World Series. But when it comes to the history of racism in baseball, hardly anyone knows that Chicago was once the site of a one-of-a-kind moment, which took place September 6, 1908.

On that date, Adrian “Cap” Anson, the then-former Chicago National League star who today is sometimes blamed for the drawing of the sport’s color line in the 1880s – at the professional level — played with his Chicago semi-pro team in a game against Rube Foster, the then-manager and star pitcher of the Leland Giants, an all-black team in the same league. The game ended as a 13-inning tie, with Anson and Foster as the opposing first basemen throughout. The box score of the game is arguably one of the ten most interesting in all of baseball history; that’s because for the 1920 season, Foster would found the first of the Negro Leagues.

According to Cap Anson biographer Howard W. Rosenberg, Anson, with his Chicago semipro team Anson’s Colts, had played for the first time against another all-black semipro team in his league, the Leland Giants, on August 22, 1908. However, the September 6 game is arguably more symbolic. The September 6 game was played on the home field of the Leland Giants: Auburn Park, around West 77th Street. The August 22 game was played on Anson’s field … near the site of the 1893 World’s Fair. Anson, who was the lone big leaguer to reach 3,000 hits before the start of the 20th century, played from 1871 to 1897, the last 22 of which with Chicago of the National League. Anson would die in 1922, two years after the founding of the first Negro League.

In a year 2000 article on the golden age of Chicago semi-pro baseball, 1906 to 1910, baseball historian Raymond Schmidt wrote, “Semiprofessional baseball provided much of the entertainment for the sports fans of the city prior to World War I…. In addition, barriers between different types of teams had not yet solidified: major league and minor league teams from organized baseball sometimes played the semipros, and black teams regularly played white teams.” The article appeared in the Winter 2000 edition of Chicago History, a publication of the Chicago Historical Society.

[[But the racial barriers soon became entrenched, indeed.]]

On the Internet, a narrative by Schmidt, putting semi-pro ball in the context of the city’s baseball history, can be readily accessed at the following link; A recent news article referring to the game, written by Rosenberg for the McClatchy-Tribune wire, can be accessed at the following link.


  1. Seattle in Texas

    This is an interesting article as are the links. When I think of baseball, first and foremost that comes to my mind and completely dominates is none other than, grifferama, the Griffmeister, Ken Griffey Jr.! That’s just in my mind, or perhaps he’s just my own hero in baseball. Shows how contemporary my mindset is in sports…totally not my area, so it’s very nice to see posts like these come along.

Leave a Reply