As I’ve stated several times — and as exemplified, for example, by my fascination with the Berkeley International League — it’s quite often the little details, the fine grain of sands on the beach of baseball history that enrapture me and jog my attention.
And frequently, I happen across such subjects — some might admittedly call them minutiae — via either sheer curiosity, dumb luck or a combination of both.
And just as frequently, these topics involve such obscure amateur, industrial and semipro leagues that they have been lost in the historical haze for decades. I don’t say that to puff up my own importance in writing about them; rather, my intention is to show how enthusiastic and optimistic the people involved in the leagues, lives or other happenstances at the time and how important they each were to their contemporary geographic regions and social circles.
The fact that these leagues often came and went in the blink of an eye is somewhat irrelevant; it’s the enthusiasm, optimism and faith in their hopeful success that is what makes baseball history truly remarkable and so fun to explore. When it comes to baseball, hope always springs eternal, whether it be in the formation of semipro black circuits in the 1930s or today, every February when major league pitchers and catchers report. Those involved think they are on the brink of something grand, and it’s that belief alone that does indeed make every hardball venture grand. It’s not whether an adventure succeeds or not that makes it wonderful. It’s the spirit behind it that truly does.
But I digress … I recently tripped across two such African-American league ventures that I’d like to share a little bit about this week — the 1940 Pennsylvania Colored Baseball League, and the 1948 East Carolina Baseball League.
Those two items could represent the bulk of my posting this week, but hopefully there’ll be two or three other things:
• An update on the effort to purchase and place a grave marker at the burial site of NOLA baseball legend Wesley Barrow.
• An update/refresher on the investigation into the 1925 murder of a Harlem man that might very well have somehow involved three Negro Leagues superstars — Dave Brown, Frank Wickware and Oliver Marcell.
• And possibly — possibly — an exploration into the veracity of the legend that Ty Cobb refused to take BP from Cannonball Dick Redding. Two great Georgians in what would have been a duel for the ages … if true.