Does Ed Stone’s wife hold a clue?

In an effort to locate outfielder Ed “Ace” Stone’s grave, I’ve tried to do a little research into his wife, the former Bernice Baskerville. I actually found a neat Web site put together by a relative of the Baskervilles, Denise-Oliver Velez, who explores her ancestry.

According to the Web site, Ed and Bernice Stone has two children, Edward Jr. and Linda. In an initial communication with Mrs. Oliver-Velez, she suggested I talk with the younger Ed, but she added that she doesn’t remember where Ace might be buried.

Bernice, according to multiple documents, was born in New Jersey on Oct. 26, 1912, to James and Letitia Baskerville, both of whom were born and had roots in Virginia. The couple raised their family in Newark. James was a horseshoer at a blacksmith shop.

The family lived in a racially mixed neighborhood, including next door to a large clan of Jewish, Russian-Polish immigrants who spoke, according to the 1920 Census, “Yiddish.”

4313334-00981

1920 U.S. Census for the Baskervilles

The 1920 Census lists the the entire Baskerville family as “mulatto.” As of the 1930 federal report, they were still living on a diverse street, with several whites, including two  households of Russian and Polish Jews. James and Letitia had four daughters: Mae, 19; Bernice, 17; Ethel, 15; and Janette, 10. By that time, both Mae and Bernice were toiling as elevator operators. The entire family, interestingly, is recorded as “Negro.”

By 1940, Ed Stone and Bernice Baskerville were married and living with James and Letitia in Newark; Stone, at various times in his career, played for the Newark Eagles and Atlantic City Bacharachs, making in natural for the couple to meet in Jersey.

m-t0627-02419-00047

1940 U.S. Census for the Baskervilles and Stones

The extended family was now residing in an apparently all-black neighborhood, with James Baskerville still laboring at a blacksmith shop, while Ed is listed as a “baseball player” and Bernice was working in an “office.”

Ed Stone spent much of his baseball career south of the border, in Latin America, and Bernice appears to have traveled with him on numerous occasions, according to multiple ship and flight manifests from the 1930s and ’40s. Some of the voyages were to and/or from Cuba, others between Puerto Rico and New York, yet others to and and from San Antonio.

What happened to Bernice and Edward from then on is a bit fuzzy, but I’ve only done limited research. In 1983, when Ed died in New York City, public records have Bernice living in Wilmington, Del., Ed’s hometown. At some point after that, Bernie moved to Las Vegas, where she died on Nov. 14, 2007. I have yet to hunt down an obituary.

So, the long and short of it is that while I’ve filled in some of the picture, I still really have no idea where Ed “Ace” Stone is buried. Again, if anyone has any ideas or knowledge …

One side note: It’s clear Ed died in New York City, but the borough is unclear; one record says the Bronx, another says Queens …

How did Cannonball start his career?

redding_dick_1

One facet of Cannonball Dick Redding’s life and baseball career — aside from his sordid, 1948 death in a Long Island mental hospital — that’s been gnawing at me has been how, exactly, he picked up America’s pastime and the way in which he got his start as a legendary fastball flinger.

Biographies of him seem to be clouded as to this matter. How did he go from an Atlanta youth with familial roots in rural Georgia to Negro Leagues greatness? That’s been hard to pin down.

Scattered bios of him feature a rather fantastical story about mythically famous major leagues manager John McGraw being blown away by Redding’s talent when the later pitched batting practice for McGraw’s New York Giants as the major-league club passed through Atlanta.

These biographical sketches — perhaps largely begun by an early essay John Holway did about Cannonball’s life based on an interview with Redding’s contemporary, Jesse Hubbard — claim that Redding’s prowess at the G-men’s batting practice in 1911 prompted McGraw to bring Cannonball north with him. McGraw then allegedly hooked the youthful Georgian up with black baseball legend Sol White, whose Philadelphia Giants were just starting to become an Eastern power, and off Redding went on a stellar, easily Hall-of-Fame-worthy hardball career.

52813a_lg

John McGraw

But the historians and enthusiasts I’ve spoken with either discount that tale or have never even heard of it before. Indeed, there’s no proof whatsoever that anything like that actually happened. It’s also unclear how McGraw would have known White well enough to convince the season African-American baseball veteran to sign Redding up for the nascent Philly Giants. Although White sometimes wrote about the irascible Giants manager in the former’s newspaper columns and even lauded McGraw’s racial open-mindedness on occasion, there’s no hint that the two were personal friends or anything.

What seems more likely is that White and the Philadelphia squad themselves picked Redding up as they moved through Atlanta. But if that was the case, how did White see Cannonball in the first place?

Did Redding play for the semipro Atlanta Deppens that then played an exhibition against Sol’s team? That’s another possibility. But again, I haven’t found any articles or box scores from Deppens games that include Redding, who was apparently known in Atlanta as “Spaniard” for unclear reasons.

Then there’s the notion that Dick hurled for the Morris Brown College baseball team. However, I called an archivist in Atlanta specializing in historical collections from regional HBCU’s, and no Morris Brown yearbook lists Dick Redding as an enrolled student or baseball player. In addition, no contemporary articles or box scores of MBC games feature any reference to a Redding.

So what’s the deal? This seems like a major gap in the Cannonball Dick Redding story — verifiable and/or documented proof of not only started playing baseball but how he reached the big time.

The Negro Leagues community loses a shining light

I only formally met Dick Clark once, but it was one of the biggest honors and thrills of my life and career as a researcher and journalist. One of the major movers behind SABR’s Negro Leagues Committee and the Jerry Malloy Conference, Dick was respected and beloved by all who knew him, making his passing on Monday a sad, sad occurrence for our community. Read current committee co-chair Larry Lester’s testimonial commentary on Dick’s death here.

The Albritton plot thickens

102814_Byberry_600

Byberry hospital

The running theme continues … Former Negro Leagues players whose final resting places remain a total mystery. Last week I looked at Delaware native Ed Stone, and in this post I’ll come back to Philadelphia’s Alexander Albritton, who was beaten to death in Byberry mental hospital in 1940, as detailed in this story I did for philly.com.

Albritton’s death certificate states that he’s buried in Eden Memorial Park in Collingdale, Penn. However, Eden staffer Mina Cockroft says that facility has no record of any Albritton whatsoever at any point in time, and she double-checked.
She then suggested I contact three other Philly-area cemeteries — Mt. Lawn in Sharon Hill, Mt. Zion in Collingdale and Merion Memorial Park in Bala Cynwynd.

I called all three, and the first two, Mt. Lawn and Mt. Zion, are like Eden — no Albritton’s anywhere at any time.
However, Merion does have at least four Albrittons — Ralph in 1935, Leah in 1954, John in 1958 and Frances in 1998.

Now we could be on to something, because several of those names pop up in Census records as possible relatives of Alexander. Alex had a brother named John, who was born circa 1886), and he has children named Ralph (né about 1916) and Frances, born around 1930.

hart_stone_015

But there’s a couple hitches regarding Merion Park. One, apparently the cemetery endured a fire in 1947 that destroyed many records of burials before that year.

Plus, an employee of Merion says that if a certain cemetery is listed on a death certificate — like Eden on Alexander’s record — 99 percent of the time, that is indeed where the person is. She said she’ll do a more detailed search for any Alexander Albritton, but she doesn’t expect to find him there.

That leaves a couple further options at tracking down where Alexander is. One is the funeral home that conducted the burial ceremonies and other events connected to his death and final resting place. The death certificate lists that as Black & White Funeral Home at 1410 S. 20th Street in Philadelphia.

Black & White no longer exists, but that address is still home to a mortuary — Mitchum Funeral Home. However, I’ve left multiple messages there and have yet to receive a call back.

Which winnows the possibilities down to a single one — living residents or descendants of Alexander Albritton. Unfortunately, according to a surviving family remember related by marriage all children and grandchildren of Alexander and his wife, Marie, have passed away. In addition, this relative says the Albritton family never discussed either Alexander’s career in baseball or his tragic death at Byberry.

As a side note, it should be noted that I took a flyer and gave the Pennsylvania state hospitals administration to see if staffers there could be of any help in this matter, and of course these bureaucrats refused to provide any.

“I can’t give out that information,” one nudnik told me. “Nobody can answer any questions about any case. We might permission to even look up the records.”
Sooooooo … there we are.

As a tangent to this conversation, I found out a little big about the lives of Alexander and Marie’s children, and it’s by and large not a pretty picture. In 1938, a 22-year-old man named Joseph Albritton was arrested for fatally shooting a former friend in the head after the former was reportedly beaten and robbed after a “numbers” game went bad at a tap room.
Census records confirm that Joseph Albritton was indeed the son of Alexander and Marie.

4639447_01037

Alexander Albritton and family in the Census

But Joseph wasn’t the only Albritton offspring who ran into legal trouble. In 1966, Alex and Marie’s daughter, then-37-year-old Frances “Goldie” Albritton, a factory worker, allegedly shot to death — and here a sad pattern develops — a former friend in a bar.

Even one bright spot in the Albritton family tree appears to have been snuffed out tragically. Victor Alexander Albritton, Alexander and Marie’s son, was an active duty Marine Corps sergeant who married Janice Crawford in 1948 at the age of 40. However, Victor died five years later at the much-too-young age of 45.

So, all in all, the Albritton saga is just a depressing one all the way around. I’ll keep trying to track down Alexander’s burial site, but at this point I’m not very optimistic, and that’s just very disheartening … Yet another Negro Leaguer, and his family, lost in a cloudy haze of tragedy.

Where is Ed Stone?

ed_stone

A common theme seems to be developing with the players about whom I research and write:

Where are they buried?

First, in this article I wrote for philly.com, we find that the remains of Alexander Albritton, who pitched briefly in the Negro League big time, apparently disappeared after he was beaten to death at Byberry mental hospital, aka Philadelphia’s house of horrors. I’ll explore that mystery in an upcoming post.

But right now, I’ll return to my Delaware theme with the case of Edward “Ace” Stone, a star outfielder, briefly, in the Negro Leagues. Stone got his start in paid baseball circa 1933 with the Wilmington (Del.) Hornets before stints with, among others, the Atlantic City Bacharachs, the Newark Eagles, the Philadelphia Stars, the New York Black Yankees and the Kansas City Monarchs.

Best known for his howitzer of an arm that some compared to that of the great Roberto Clemente, Stone also frequently hit in the middle of the lineups of some of the best teams in blackball history.

But in addition to his ability to whip the ball from the wall to home plate, Stone was also somewhat notorious for another reason: He was easily lured south of the border, playing much of his career in the Mexican and Cuban leagues, a fact that was lamented by both infuriated Negro League owners and perplexed media types.

The 1946 season seems to have been a tipping point, when in mid-spring, Stone bolted from the Philadelphia Stars and their owner, the clearly chapped Ed Bolden, for Mexico. Stated Pittsburgh Courier columnist W. Rollo Wilson in the paper’s May 11 issue:

“The Pasquel brothers of Mexico stopped feasting on the white major league clubs long enough last week to bit off another Negro National League player. This nip was right at home, for the athlete taken was Ed Stone, vintage outfielder of the Philly Stars, Ed Bolden’s entry in the eastern loop. Stone, one of the real sluggers of the club and whose long hits have kept many a rally going in past years, has already left for south of the border, where he will be assigned to one of the power-packed clubs of so-called ‘outlaws.’”

A couple months later, Randy Dixon of the Philadelphia Tribune opined that the defection of Stone was a big reason for the Stars’ languid performance so far that year. Penned Dixon:

“ … the Philadelphia Stars failed to cop the first half bunting because of the serious dents in personnel occasioned when big Ed Stone, an outfielder, bolted to Mexico and Marvin Williams, second baseman from Texas, remained in Venezuela. …

“It could have been different had a long distance hitter been in the lineup. That is where Williams and Stone come in. They represented the fence-busting backbone of the Boldenmen. With them out of action, it became a case of needing a batch of low-run pitchers such as Barney Brown or Leon Day to compensate.”

And so on and so on …

It is perhaps Stone’s propensity for pursuing his career in Latin America that led to so many gaps of knowledge in his off-the-field life story. Let’s begin with his origins …

First there’s the issue of his hometown. One of the very, very few even halfway comprehensive biographies of him is found here on the site Pitch Black Baseball, which gives his hometown as “Black Cat, Delaware.”

But there is no official city, town or municipal jurisdiction called “Black Cat” in the state of Delaware. But I did find this neat blog post on the site Delmar DustPan, which explains that “Black Cat” was actually a small community near Wilmington that earned its name from the famous night club that served as the hamlet’s cultural and economic center for a few decades in the first half of the 20th century. The blog post speculates that this is what is being referred to when bios of Ed Stone list his hometown as Black Cat.

(That’s all aside from the fact that I haven’t been able to find any contemporary references during Stone’s playing career and life that mention his hometown as anything but Wilmington.)

Then there’s the issue of Stone’s birth date, which is even cloudier. The Pitch Black bio lists it as Aug. 21, 1910. But the documents I’ve been able to find give a variety of different dates …

The Social Security Death Index, for example, states his birthdate as Aug. 21, 1909. But  various ship manifests list the date as Aug. 23, 1909; Jan. 2, 1909; Aug. 22, 1909; and Aug. 22, 1910.

Actually, some of the manifests are pretty interesting for other reasons. All of them list Wilmington as his birthplace, except for one, which seemingly inexplicably gives it as Newport, Del.

Also, one manifest states that in a 1939 voyage, Stone sailed from NYC to San Juan, Puerto Rico with his wife, Bernice Stone, née Baskerville on Oct. 23, 1912, in Newark, N.J.

IMG_0882

All-star team!!!

Others feature him on the same page with a slew of other Negro Leaguers who were traveling to and from Latin America for winter ball. One, from November 1936, includes a veritable all-star team — Terris McDuffie, Leroy Matlock, Dick Seay, George Scales and … ol’ Satchel himself. Another manifest has Stone couple with Buck Leonard.

The final documents I turned up were a few Census reports. The one from 1930 has 20-year-old Ed living alone in the unincorporated New Castle County (Del.) hamlet of Christiana with his father, 60-year-old widower Daniel Stone, who was apparently born in North Carolina. Ed Stone’s occupation is listed simply as “day worker,” while Daniel is toiling in a factory.

The 1940 Census has 30-year-old Ed living in Newark with Bernice and her parents, the Baskervilles, and his occupation is “baseball player.”

IMG_0875

There is now one final, looming mystery: Where is Ed “Ace” Stone buried? To first take a quick step back: When and where did he die? Social Security says March 1983, with his last SS benefit going to Long Island City in Queens, N.Y. But both Pitch Black and this entry on Find-A-Grave say he expired on April 11, 1983, in the Bronx. I’ve been able to uncover no immediate obits for him, and I’m looking into whether I can ask for a death certificate.

But the most puzzling part of all of this, and one that harkens back to the mystery of Alex Albritton’s burial location (on which I’ll have more to come, hopefully by the weekend), is that, as you can see on the Find-A-Grave site, his burial is “unknown.”

Yeah, somewhat creepy. I found this entry on a message board, and this Negro Leagues Baseball Museum article on Ed and his son, Russell. But finding Russell Stone is proving difficult, and barring getting my hands on either an obit or death certificate, finding Stone’s eternal resting place might be durn near impossible.

So if anyone out there has any information on Ed Stone, and especially where he’s buried, let me know!

The lowdown on Rap Dixon

Rap_Dixon_Large

This one’s for my buddy, Malloy Conference roomie and Harrisburg boy Ted Knorr, who possesses a singular devotion for two things: teaching people about the heritage of African-American baseball in his hometown, and getting outfielder Herbert “Rap” Dixon in the Hall of Fame.

Now, coinciding with that is the fact that I’m just wrapping up a story for Pennsylvania Magazine about the Negro Leagues in the Keystone State. So, naturally, I cyber-interviewed Ted for the story — the first draft of which stands at about 3,400 words — about his love of Harrisburg blackball, his impressions of the Negro Leagues in the average Pennsylvanian’s consciousness and, of course, Mr. Rap Dixon.

Much of this post will be in Ted’s own words, beginning with how he developed his devoted interest in the Negro Leagues:

“My earliest baseball memory was having a Brooklyn Dodger uniform given to me by my grandmom (of Brooklyn) … later my father (her son) told me about Satchel Paige, the Homestead Grays and the Pittsburgh Crawfords of his adopted hometown (and my birthplace), Pittsburgh. So I had a long ignored foundation when I joined SABR in ’79 and finally attended a conference in ’84, where I met John Holway … I was hooked.”

He adds, “My passion is fueled, I suppose, by my training as a school teacher.”

Before we discuss Rap specifically, it’s important to note that the Baseball Hall of Fame, that most hallowed of sports institutions, ushered in a huge class of segregation-era blackball figures in 2006, then declared that, Wham! The Hall’s doors were again closed to Negro Leaguers, a travesty that many enthusiasts of African-American baseball have been decrying and trying to change for the last eight-plus years.

One of those enthusiasts is Ted, who believes that numerous players still merit induction, including several, like Spots Poles, who played in Harrisburg at one point or another.

But specifically he’s an advocate for Rap Dixon, part of arguably the greatest outfield in baseball history — the 1924-27 Harrisburg Giants trio of Hall of Famer Oscar Charleston, Fats Jenkins and Dixon.

Aside from the fact that Rap’s contemporaries consistently testified to his greatness with tales of amazing talent and incredible feats, Ted believes that, compared to white players from Rap’s area who are in the Hall of Fame, Dixon’s numbers more than qualify him for induction.

rap-dixon-paul-w-faust-impressions-of-light

I’ll let Ted explain, beginning now. (I’ll note that there’s so many names for possible hyperlinks that I’ll forgo that on this post):

Rap Dixon is a spectacular largely untold story, a story best told in statistics, opinions and legends.

His statistics, as established by the $250,000 MLB funded, Hall of Fame assigned, Negro League/Researchers and Authors Group study, merit the Hall of Fame. Of the five Negro League outfielders (Spottswood Poles, Fats Jenkins, Alejandro Oms, Roy Parnell and Dixon) remaining on the 2006 ballot, his SABRmetrics are the best.

The opinions, particularly those voiced long ago, on Rap also happen to be the best among those on the ballot, with the first three Negro League outfielders inducted in to the Hall of Fame – Monte Irvin (1973), Cool Papa Bell (1974), Charleston (1976) – all agreeing on Rap Dixon’s merits … Monte Irvin feeling Dixon is the most worthy of the five (based on his composite feelings in five separate sources), and both Cool Papa Bell and Oscar Charleston going further – Bell naming his all-time outfield to include Hall of Famers Turkey Stearnes and Monte Irvin and Rap Dixon, while Oscar Charleston favored Hall of Famers Cristobal Torriente and Martin Dihigo and Rap Dixon.

Thus, all three of the first three Negro League Hall of Fame outfielders agree that Rap Dixon is the best of the five outfielders remaining on the ballot, with two of them placing Rap Dixon as the greatest right fielder of all-time.
Alas, it is the legends – like miracles required by the Catholic Church for sainthood – that define the man. The litany sounds more like fiction, but each of the following is documentable:

As a player:
·         As a rookie in 1924, Rap Dixon was a member of the greatest outfield in Negro League history with Oscar Charleston and Fats Jenkins. They are the only Negro League outfield intact for four years. Only nine MLB outfields meet the four-year standard.

·         In 1927, Rap Dixon toured Japan playing so well that the Emperor awarded him a Loving Cup Trophy.

·         In 1929, Rap Dixon cracked 14 consecutive hits to set an unbroken, after-85-seasons, Major-League-equivalent record.

·         In 1930, Rap Dixon hit the first HR by a Negro Leaguer in Yankee Stadium. I refer to the House that Ruth Built as the House that Dixon Rehabbed.

·         In 1932, when Gus Greenlee opened his purse, telling Manager Oscar Charleston to field the best team his (Greenlee’s) money could buy … Charlie had Rap Dixon in right field for the Pittsburgh Crawfords.

·         In 1933, Dixon was elected, by the fans, to the initial East-West Classic. Dixon was a six time all-star.

·         In 1934, when the Concordia Eagles captured the Caribbean title, they featured Luis Aparicio Sr, Lorenzo Salazaar, Tetelo Vargas, Hall of Famers Martin Dihigo and Josh Gibson, and Rap Dixon.

·         In 1935, Rap Dixon was 6-for-18 with three homers and a double in leading the New York Cubans to the brink of the Negro National League championship only to lose when Dihigo tossed gopher balls to Charleston and Gibson of the Pittsburgh Crawfords late in game seven. Undaunted, Charleston picked Dixon up to barnstorm against Dizzy Dean after the season. Rap Dixon did not disappoint, going 2-for-4 against ol’ Diz.

eagles rap dixon

As a manager:

·         In 1934, Rap was the first professional manager of future Hall of Famer Leon Day.

·         In 1937, when the suspended Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell and the rest of the Trujillo All Stars returned from the Dominican Republic, they solicited Rap Dixon to manage their barnstorming tour, which culminated with the Denver Post Tournament championship.

·         In 1942, Rap took an integrated Harrisburg Giant team (with four white players) to Philadelphia to play the Hilldale Club.

Thus, Rap Dixon is not just a great player with spectacular statistics and kudos from his peers, but a legend who was a baseball ambassador, leader in the advent of integration, manager of men, and a teammate of more Negro League Hall of Famers than any player not yet inducted.

Hi. It’s me again. After reviewing all that, it’s for me not to agree with Ted — Rap Dixon deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. Let’s get him in there! Seriously, what more does the Hall need, except a swift boot to the fanny?

Look out, Delaware …

… I’m coming for ya!

That’s right. In keeping with my admittedly whimsical and mercurial researched interest, I’ve been thinking about looking into the Delaware blackball scene. Why? I like exploring, quite simply, and the Blue Hen State seems like fertile ground for such endeavors. It just seems like under-explored territory.

So, with that, I’ll use this post as a segue from my focus on NOLA and Louisiana the last couple weeks to not just spotlight Delaware, but to examine and search for answers to a handful of mysteries that’ve been bugging me lately (one of which will involve a Delaware native).

ghost4

Oliver Marcell

So what’s a connection between the Pelican State and the First State? Why, the irascible Oliver Hazzard Marcell, of course. The legendary third baseman with the equally legendary hot temper and penchant for getting into drunken scraps is a native of Thibodaux, La., who first cut his teeth for teams in New Orleans before moving on to fame, fortune and a bitten-off nose.

But in 1933, when his career was on the downward side, Marcell — that’s the proper spelling of his name — plunked himself down in Delaware — Wilmington, to be precise. Why? Because he signed on as the manager of the Wilmington Hornets, a semipro team that had existed for a while but that in summer 1933 joined the new Eastern Negro Baseball League, which, according to reports emanating from the nascent circuit’s meeting in Chester, Pa., would include franchises in Wilmington, Atlantic City, Chester, Newark and Jersey City. The loop’s schedule was set to start in early July, with every team playing four games a week, two at home and two away.

The movers and shakers behind the new organization believed that each franchise was already drawing well enough in good baseball towns to provide sufficient financial support for the enterprise to survive. (This despite the fact that the entire country was mired neck-deep in the Great Depression.)

“All clubs are playing before good crowds and with the added inventive [sic] of league competition the interest should be even greater,” reported the July 8, 1933, Baltimore Afro-American. The article named Marcell and Sam Johnson as the guys at the helm of the Hornets, and future Hall of Famer John Henry Lloyd as the skipper for the Atlantic City squad.

lloyd

“Pops” Lloyd

The league’s formation was the lead topic in the Pittsburgh Courier’s W. Rollo Wilson’s July 8 column. Wrote Wilson:

“Such a league ought to serve a worth-while purpose and be in effect what I have always contended for — a minor loop for the development of stars for the big clubs. With such men as Marcell and Lloyd in there teaching the kids the finer points of the game much good can come out of such a body. In their days and times Ollie and John Henry were rated the best in the business in their particular positions and Lloyd has established a reputation as an instructor of young talent.”

But in actuality, Marcell had already been with the Hornets for a few months, and Wilson sang Marcell’s praises weeks before the formation of the ENBL, especially in a June 10, 1933, column under the subhead, “MARCELLE PUTTING WILMINGTON ON MAP”:

“That old-time third baseman — the best of the race I have ever seen — is back in the baseball picture in a big way and his thousands of admirers will be glad to know that he is the playing manager of the Wilmington (Del.) Hornets, already rating as one of the better clubs of this eastern section. …

“Wilmington is a good ball town, and Marcelle will give the public a team which will make hot competition for the best of them. Here’s wishing him and Sam Johnson, the owner, the best of luck in a tight year.”

Wilson wasn’t the only writer ballyhooing the ENBL, Marcell and Lloyd. Afro-American columnist Bill Gibson, in a July 15 piece, echoed Wilson’s sentiments that the new loop would serve as a stepping stone and teaching ground for young players with talent destined for the big-time:

“A sort of middle ground has been a long-felt need — a place where these youngsters can be farmed out for seasoning. I was, there, able to tell Oldtimer [a visitor to Gibson’s office] of the efforts of Ben Taylor here in Baltimore and of Ollie Marcelle, at Wilmington, Del., and of John Henry Lloyd in Atlantic City.

“The two last-named managers only recently entered teams in an Eastern League which it is hoped will stimulate interest in semi-professional baseball and at the same time develop and polish off players who may have aspirations to climb. Taylor, Marcelle and Lloyd are of the old school of baseball and they not only know baseball flesh when they see it, but they have patience in nursing it along until it becomes of age.”

But, like so many ventures in the American pastime during the Depression, it wasn’t to last, for the ENBL or for Marcell in Wilmington. By early September, an internal shakeup had bumped Marcell out of the Hornet managerial position in favor of Highpockets Hudspeth, and the new circuit died a rapid, ignominious death.

Marcelle reportedly retired from the game a year later and, according the James A. Riley in “The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues,” “he faded from the sport scene and into obscurity.” Riley’s entry on Marcell makes no mention of the legendary player’s brief stint in Wilmington, and neither do the vast majority of bios on Marcell.

That’s how obscure Marcell’s tenure in the Blue Hen State was — obscure, but not insignificant, certainly for Delaware, which, I am learning, has a richer blackball heritage than I ever expected.

And thus do I shift from Louisiana to Delaware. The next chapter, which will hopefully come later this week? The mystery of the fate of Delaware native and one-time superb Negro Leagues outfielder Ed “Ace” Stone …

Amazing news

WARNING: SEMI-RESTRAINED BRAGGING AHEAD!

Something incredible happened to me last week, the week of giving thanks, and I’m certainly grateful for this …

I’ve been asked, and I eagerly and gratefully accepted, to play a close consulting role in a movie being developed about a Negro Leaguer on whom I’ve been doing a bunch of research and writing. I can’t give away any more details on it at this point, but this could be the big career break for which I’ve been wishing for so long. It would also bring to light the story of a man and player who remains grievously hidden in the shadows.

I’ll keep posting updates as they come along and as things develop. For now, I’m just stunned with amazement and gratification at what could lie ahead.

I also want to thank every single person who reads this blog and supports my modest work. You all have helped greatly in making this happen.

Onward and upward!