The photo on the left (courtesy of the Society for American Baseball Research, of which I’m a member) is King Solomon “Sol” White, a Baseball Hall of Famer and legendary pre-Negro League player, manager, owner, author and historian. Some say that if Rube Foster was the “Father of the Negro Leagues,” then Sol White was the “Grandfather of the Negro Leagues.”
On May 10, the nationally known Negro League Baseball Grave Marker Project (NLBGMP), headed by Jeremy Krock, will hold a dedication ceremony for the stone the charity has placed at Sol White’s previously unmarked grave at Frederick Douglass Memorial Cemetery on Staten Island. For more information on the NLBGMP, check out researcher/historian/author/SABR committee chair Larry Lester’s “Krock Watch” here (hope the link works, I’m new at this):
As a side note, I’ve actually done a couple stories about other beneficiaries of the NLBGMP:
The photo on the right, courtesy of the Negro League Baseball Museum’s bio on the Kansas State U. Web site, is famed Negro Leagues pitcher Cannonball Dick Redding, whose fastball was known to rival those of Hall of Famers Joe Williams and Satchel Paige. However, Redding isn’t in the Hall himself, which many in the Negro Leagues committee consider a huge oversight on Cooperstown’s part.
The fact that Redding, unlike Sol, isn’t in the HoF is one way their stories differ. In addition, unlike White, Redding does have a grave marker; thanks to his service in World War I, Cannonball was afforded a full military burial.
But the two Negro League legends are alike in one key way: They both died in state-run psychiatric hospitals in Suffolk County, N.Y., on Long Island. Sol White passed away at Central Islip State Hospital in 1955 after nearly six years at the institution, while Redding died at nearby Pilgrim State Hospital in 1948. Pilgrim and Central Islip, by the way, were, at their peaks, the largest and second-largest psychiatric institutions in the world. They were both quite literally their own self-contained, self-sufficient villages. That’s how massive they were.
The catch: It’s unlike why exactly either Sol White or Dick Redding — who both lived in Harlem after their retirements — were committed to state “mental asylums.” It’s also very unclear exactly how each of them died.
That’s the mystery, and it’s one I’ll explore a little bit in tomorrow’s post.