A U of R (baseball) trailblazer

beatricehoward

This is just a little thing, perhaps a self-indulgence, based on my love of my hometown, Rochester, N.Y. …

While I was in the Roc between grad school and moving to NOLA, I frequently wrote for Rochester Review, the University of Rochester alumni magazine, for which I remain eternally gratefully, especially to editor Scott Hauser.

As a result, I developed an affinity for the university even though I wasn’t an alumni and had no official connection to it other than my high school football coach and one of my teammates coached there briefly. I also covered several events at UR’s Fauver Stadium, like high school pigskin and such.

Because of my work for Rochester Review and my current dedication to the Negro Leagues, I’ve been wondering for a while now if the university and black baseball ever intersected.

For example, it’s fairly well known that the New York Black Yankees called Rochester home during the 1948 Negro National League season, the last year of their existence. I’ve been curious whether the Black Yanks might have trained at the campus pr perhaps even played exhibition games against the UR varsity squad.

Or did any Negro Leaguers attend and possibly play for the university? Or, who was UR’s first African-American varsity baseball player?

So far, in my limited, long-distance, cyber research from the Big Easy, I’ve found no such links. But what I did find is a pretty cool little nugget.

It turns out that the first black woman to graduate from UR was Beatrice Amaza Howard, a Rochester native who appears to have received two degrees from the institution, a BA in 1931 and a grad degree two years later. She went on to a long, very respected career as a teacher.

And, while she was matriculating at UR, Beatrice lettered for the … women’s baseball team! She received her “R” in 1931, according to the 1931 university yearbook. (She’s not pictured in the team photograph in the publication, however.)

“In the spring time a young girl’s fancy turns to — baseball, or course,” the yearbook stated. “After Easter the indomitable urge comes on, and out come bats, balls and bases, regardless of rain, shine or snow.”

32848_B094046-00328

1915 NYS Census for the Howards

Beatrice Howard was born to Robert and Beatrice Howard in about 1909 in New Jersey and grew up in a largely white, middle-class neighborhood in the city of Rochester. Robert was a chauffeur for a UR trustee, while Beatrice was a high achiever at East High School — she was class valedictorian — and earned a scholarship to the university. Both her parents were from Virginia, where they each graduated from the Hampton Institute. Beatrice had one sibling, younger sister Victoria.

Beatrice eschewed attending an HBCU, telling a newspaper at the time that while black schools offered more in terms of social opportunities, “white” schools like UR had higher academic standards and learning facilities. In addition to playing baseball at the university, she was also on the basketball team.

In an interview for the Spring-Summer 1993 issue of Rochester Review, Howard — then Beatrice Howard Hall, post-nuptials — said she found adjusting to a white college fairly easy, with no major issues; in fact, she attended UR with many of her East High classmates.

“I was accustomed to having the same friends all the way through, so for me, that wasn’t any kind of problem,” she told the magazine. “Also, I suppose, your experiences depend on the way you conduct yourself and the way you look, too.”

Again, nothing earth-shattering, and Beatrice Amaza Howard’s story is fairly far afield from what this blog is usually about, but thanks for allowing me this return to my home stomping grounds in Rah-Cha-Cha.

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