Uncle Lloyd of Chicago


Got a breakthrough in the hunt for “Lloyd “Ducky” Davenport’s final resting place, albeit a limited one!

I talked to Alvin Davenport of New Orleans over the phone last night, and confirmed that his family had a professional baseball player in its ranks who lived in Chicago. That makes sense given that Lloyd Davenport played several seasons for the Chicago American Giants.

Alvin said he barely knew his Uncle Lloyd personally, given that the latter died when Alvin was only 7 or 8. But Alvin described his Uncle Lloyd as very light skinned with a mole on his face, which again aligns with what we know of Ducky Davenport, at least from pictures of him that still exist.

Alvin Davenport said his Aunt Delores — I’m guessing the current Delores White, the daughter of Walter Davenport Jr. and the former Beatrice Steptoe — is the one in the family who knows the most about the Davenport family tree and who frequently mentioned that the family did have a professional baseball player among its ranks.

“My Aunt Delores always told me something about my relatives,” Alvin told me. “We had an uncle who played baseball. But I was really young.”

However, Alvin said he knew few, if any, details about his Uncle Lloyd the baseball player; he wasn’t even aware that Lloyd’s hardball nickname was Ducky. In fact, it was obvious that I knew much more about Lloyd Davenport than Alvin did. And, that, in many ways, feels unfortunate and depressing.

That, again, isn’t unusual — quite often baseball researchers delve more into the lives and careers of former or even passed away players than relatives of the players. To many family members, their athletic relatives are simply, like in this case, their Uncle Lloyd — or, for example, in the instance of Gentleman Dave Malarcher, who is known among his surviving grand nieces and nephews as simply Uncle Dave.

Alvin Davenport, the one with whom I talked, is actually a Junior — his father was Alvin Davenport Sr., who was the son of Walter Davenport Jr. and Beatrice Steptoe. Walter Davenport Jr. was the brother of Lloyd “Ducky” Davenport, both of whom were the sons of Walter Davenport Sr. and the former Rody Holmes.

Walter Sr. was the son of George M. and Lucy Davenport; George was born in 1855. I haven’t yet been able to trace the family back further than that, although indications are that the family originated somewhere in Mississippi.

But now for the big question, the one I’d been waiting to ask Alvin Davenport for weeks — does he know where his Uncle Lloyd is buried?

When I talked to him last night, he said he had no idea and that he would consult with his Aunt Delores (his father, Alvin Sr.’s, sister, daughter of Walter Jr. and niece of Lloyd), the family genealogist.

Alvin called me back today and left a message saying that, upon doing so, the prevailing thought in the family is that Lloyd is buried in Chicago. (I haven’t yet had a chance to call him back.)

That belief, though, directly contradicts several of the online bios of Ducky Davenport, many of which say he passed away in NOLA. It also goes against this entry on findagrave.com.

However, as my previous post on Ducky Davenport’s whereabouts shows, the info included on that Find A Grave page seemingly comes from the Social Security death information of a man named George Davenport, not Lloyd.

And I haven’t been able to find any obituary at all for Lloyd Davenport, either in Chicago papers or NOLA publications.

So perhaps we need to ask ourselves this — can we find out where Lloyd “Ducky” Davenport spent his retirement years? Where did he live later in life? In fact, where his he claim official residence throughout his life?

But even that has proven to be an extremely difficult question to answer, a veritable jigsaw puzzle of cross-checking documents and matching up residences with names and dates.

The only time I’ve been able to more or less definitively locate Lloyd Davenport in Census records — at least the ones on ancestry.com — is in 1920, when he was roughly 9 and living with his family, headed by Walter and Rody, on Third Street in New Orleans. Walter’s profession is listed as janitor.


From there, we kind of have to go down the rabbit hole …

According to military documents and other records, Walter and Rody eventually moved to 3645 Erato Street in New Orleans.

At the same time, I couldn’t really find any Lloyd Davenports in city directories — or Census records, for that matter — for Chicago or New Orleans on Ancestry. But Ancestry only includes directories up through a certain time period.

(It could be worth noting, though, that I found a Charles Davenport living in Chicago in the 1940 Census. His birth date and place — Louisiana — both match up roughly with those of Lloyd Davenport’s brother, Charles Davenport, also a son of Walter and Rody. So did Charles Davenport follow his sibling to Chicago, where Lloyd spent several seasons playing for the famed American Giants?)

That drove me to go to the Louisiana Research Collection (LaRC) at Tulane U. here in NOLA, where they have physical copies of New Orleans city directories pretty much up through the present day. That turned out to be quite revealing.

The 1961 City of New Orleans directory lists a Lloyd Davenport living with his wife, Margie K. Davenport, at … 3645 Erato Street, exactly where Lloyd’s parents, Walter and Rody, moved later in life. Lloyd’s occupation is listed as custodian at Charity Hospital.


The same information and entry are listed in the 1962 city directory, except that no job is listed for Lloyd. That seems to indicate that Lloyd “Ducky” Davenport spent at lest some of his post-baseball life in his hometown of New Orleans.

However, the 1962 director is the last one in which a Lloyd Davenport is listed, which muddies the waters again. But Margie/Margaret Davenport continues to be listed for several more years by herself at different addresses, usually with the occupation of computer operator at Boeing.

But that’s as far as I’ve gotten. I couldn’t find any further documentation about Margie Davenport — birth, death or marriage to Lloyd. And why does Lloyd Davenport disappear from directory listings after 1962?

And the bottom line is that all of this — including my conversation with Alvin Davenport, Ducky’s grand nephew, as well as the directory research, brings us only a smidge closer to solving the riddle of where Ducky Davenport is buried.

My best guess still remains Holt Cemetery, a so-called potter’s field in New Orleans near the famed City Park where several of Ducky’s relatives and descendents are buried.

And I definitely want to follow up with Alvin Davenport and, ideally, his Aunt Delores. So there will continue to (hopefully) be more information forthcoming. We shall see, but I remained determined to find the final resting place of great Negro League outfielder Lloyd “Ducky” Davenport!

Gentleman Dave article/update

I just had this article published in the Louisiana Weekly newspaper about Dave Malarcher being inducted into the New Orleans Professional Baseball Hall of Fame on June 6 at a New Orleans Zephyrs game. Dave’s much deserved day in the sun is getting closer, and I’ll keep posting info about the ceremony as I get them. If you’re in the New Orleans area, please consider coming out to Zephyr Field at 6 p.m. June 6!

Japan meets blackball, possibly …

I had an article published a couple weeks ago in the Louisiana Weekly newspaper about the take (or myth) of Shumza Sugimoto, a Japanese player in the 19-oughts who allegedly competed for an African-American team in New Orleans. Here’s a link to a PDF of it, found by Bill Staples (the paper didn’t post the story online).

Instead of getting down to the nitty gritty and examining and analyzing the strands of theories and evidence for and against the Sugimoto story, I used the tale to explore the possible historical, as well as modern, connections between people of African descent and Asians/Asian-Americans. In my story, the theories and thoughts of the great W.E.B. DuBois are a crucial part.


More Waxey works


As I pursue research on Clarence “Waxey” Williams for one article (and hopefully more), a pretty remarkable picture of the man and the player is quickly crystallizing. Before I really started digging into his life and career, I knew him primarily as a top-shelf “colored” catcher (an sometimes center fielder) a few decades on both sides of the turn of the century, largely for the great Cuban Giants, beginning circa 1880s.

Williams is also at the front of the list for the nationally known Negro League Baseball Grave Marker Project — Williams is buried near Atlantic City in an unmarked grave, a situation that the NLBGMP, led by local volunteer Michael Everett, is quickly trying to rectify.

But now that I’ve really dug into the meat of Waxey’s story — a process I began with this blog post — a fantastic and, shall we say, colorful portrait emerges, one that for me, for one, was heretofore unknown.

Williams was a native of Harrisburg, Pa., and apparently he was quite the well known character in his hometown. Since research into segregation-era baseball began several decades, we know that Harrisburg was a focal point for a great deal of African-American hardball history, with great teams and individual players either emerging from or competing in the city.

Waxey Williams was one of them. While Williams wasn’t on the level of should-be-Hall-of-Famers like Rap Dixon and Spottswood Poles in terms of playing ability and achievements, he still made an indelible mark on the game, frequently via his lively tongue and wacky histronics on the diamond.

But, if the contemporary Harrisburg press is to be believed as they told it at the time, Waxey Williams also etched his name into local history through the law — both sides of the law. According to the papers, Williams was constantly in local courtrooms for a series of alleged crimes, often including robbery, assault and/or battery. (No, that is not a dorky reference to that lame Genesis song. Genesis ended when Peter Gabriel left. Period.)

Those run-ins with Johnny Law might have begun as early as 1878, when, at the age of 12, young Clarence was busted for allegedly stealing pears from a farm in Susquehanna while he was supposed to be herding cows in a nearby pasture. The Harrisburg Patriot wrote at the time that “there are a number of incorrigible boys in the city who annoy the farmers of Susquehanna and neighboring townships almost beyond endurance.”

This, mind you, despite the fact that Clarence’s father, William Williams, was reportedly the first African-American member of the Harrisburg police force (a tip I got from Harrisburg buddy and Malloy conference roomie Ted Knorr). Of course, William Williams was inexpicably removed from the HPD in April 1885 for reasons unclear but which I’m sure had absolutely nothing to do with race.

But for Clarence, it all steamrolled from there. And the press’ scrutiny of Williams only intensified once he became a member of the famed Cuban Giants, who played in Harrisburg quite often during various seasons, leagues and incarnations. The Cuban Giants were a major attraction in the city of Harrisburg, and their players, including a native like Waxey Williams, were highly publicized.

And there was a chance that such popularity was due to the white sporting public’s sheer curiosity in African Americans and their culture, almost as if black players were novelties — albeit highly respected novelties, at least for their diamond prowess.


Proof of these attitudes of the white population toward people of color could possibly be found in the way the local newspapers reported on whatever type of incident in which Waxey Williams was involved — almost always writers referred to him as some variation of “Clarence Williams, the famed colored ball player” or “the catcher for the colored Cuban Giants …”

Take, for example, this brief from the Oct. 29, 1895, issue of the Patriot:

“Christian Crone, a Susquehanna township farmer, sued Clarence Williams, the colored baseball player, for slapping his face at Verbeke street market … It is said the troubles arose over some vegetables.”

About a year earlier, this appeared in the Patriot:

“Clarence Williams, the colored ball player, is in trouble. Last evening in the vicinity [of] Third and Broad streets, he became engaged in an altercation with Thomas Cunkle. The difficulty was terminated by the colored man striking Cunkle several times in the face. Cunkle, much used up, made information against his assailant at the mayor’s office, charging him with assault and battery. The colored man was arrested by Officers Stutsman and Johns and taken to the mayor’s office, where he was held for a hearing.”

Thus emerged a pattern, or an apparent pattern, at least. Williams’ legal troubles were even partially blamed for causing a less-than-stellar game to be played in June 1891. Stateth the Patriot:

“The game on the Island grounds yesterday was badly handicapped, owing to Clarence Williams being at court and [George] Stovey is sick in bed.”

But despite allegedly — and I stress allegedly — crossing the boundaries of the law on numerous occasions, Clarence Williams was actually appointed to be a police officer himself.

When John D. Patterson assumed the mayoralty in 1896 (his second stint in the office), he cleared house in the police department, a move that included anointing a bunch of new officers. In reporting the developments, the Patriot, naturally, referred to Waxey as “Clarence Williams, the colored base ball player …”

But Clarence’s tenure on the force was tumultuous and brief, terminating just months after it began in him resigning his position under pressure after reportedly beating the stuffing out of a prisoner. (This was a month or two after Waxey seemingly was caught napping while on duty, a “red mark” on his record that of course didn’t play into stereotypes of “lazy coloreds” at all.)

Clarence Williams’ tripping over the legal line continued into the new century and often made news, particularly the Harrisburg Telegraph, which, it appears, unlike the Patriot, didn’t cover sports much, because from what I could find, Williams’ status as a Cuban Giant was mentioned in the paper only infrequently and only then, for example, in reference to his son who was serving as part of Gen. John J. Pershing‘s epic but futile pursuit of Pancho Villa.

Here’s one instance, from March 1917, of how the Telegraph reported on Williams:

“Clarence Williams, together with his wife, accused of stealing a package of tapioca and a cake from the grocery store of S. Woolffe Lacob. Steelton, were placed on trial this morning. The case was closed at noon. Williams is also held for attacking Lacob when the latter attempted to recover the cake and tapioca from the pair.”

The Harrisburg media’s somewhat bizarre infatuation with Waxey Williams even veered into non-legal territory and into his personal life. And, much like the lousy supermarket tabloids of today, such reporting was sometimes satirical and/or sarcastic in nature. From the April 3, 1891, Patriot, under a header titled, “Clarence Williams’ Contract”:

“Clarence Williams, the famous colored base ball catcher, put his name to a contract last night which will bind him for life, and there is no report of him having received any advance money. Miss Helen Harris, a colored lass of many charms, caused Clarence to be so thoroughly hoodooed that he became convinced that he could no longer play ball and coach so uniquely, unless he should have the charms of his heart constantly by his side, and instead of the offer to sign coming to Clarence, he made the offer to Helen. It was an offer to marry. She accepted. Terms not made public. Look out for some great ball playing from Mr. Williams this season.”

The prose is almost cartoonish in nature. It’s not quite on the “black Sambo” level, but would the paper have reported on the marriage engagement of a white player so snarkily and with the term “hoodooed?” No, of course, not, only nutty “Negroes” allowed themselves to be mystified and hoodooed by a mojo hand.

But I’ll (finally) conclude this post by perhaps placing a frame of reference on why the Pennsylvania press might have taken such a view of Williams — and, indeed, other black players of the day — and how that view might have manifested itself in the papers. Here’s the Patriot transcribing a passage from a York newspaper of yet-to-be-ascertained identity in August 1889; after disparaging the Cuban Giants as “the champion kickers of the league” who pointlessly elongate games by constantly harassing the umps, the York paper stated:

“Clarence Williams, the catcher of the Giants, who patronized the grand stand yesterday, was boisterous and insolent in the highest degree, and in a loud voice, he decried the York players, and said among other things that the Trenton pottery boys club could beat such a club as the York club. He yelled at the umpire, sneered at the York players and indulged in all kinds of derogatory remarks. When remonstrated with he emphasized his insolence by insulting retorts.”

Insolence? Yeah, Cap Anson was never insolent on the field. He was always a perfect gentleman. And white players never flapped their yappers at umps and jeered the opposing dugout.

But when a black player as the audacity to trash-talk, it’s virtually a mortal sin. And actually, mere “insolence” was frequent a literal mortal sin, especially below the Mason-Dixon, where simply being “uppity” could get a black man lynched.

But, naturally, this all has to be taken into the context of the era and on a case-by-case basis, especially when it comes to the reportage pursued by the contemporary media.

Was Clarence “Waxey” Williams truly a career criminal off the field and an A-1 schmuck on the field? It’s all, of course, a matter of opinion and perspective — opinion and perspective that is then necessarily filtered through the passage and prism of time.

So we may never truly know. But it doesn’t change the fact that one of the best backstops of his day has rested in an unmarked grave a fur piece from his hometown since he died in 1934.

More on Waxey Williams to come …

Snapshots of Waxey Williams, Part 1

Many apologies for not putting up anything new for a week or so — May is Jewish American Heritage Month, and I’ve been busy research and writing about Lipman Pike, the first Jewish superstar, the sport’s first great power hitter and one of the game’s first openly professional players. I actually just had this article published at philly.com.


Anyway, I’ve been assigned to write an article for the Press of Atlantic City about fantastic turn-of-the-century African-American catcher Clarence “Waxey” Williams, who, while being born in Harrisburg and living (and playing) in his hometown for much of his life, ended up dying and being buried near Atlantic City.

Williams is currently high on the priority list for the Negro League Baseball Grave Marker Project, which is the hook of my story for the press. As a result, I’ve been doing beaucoup research about Waxey, his life and his career. Of course, I still have a lot more to look into, but I wanted to do a couple blog entries about some tantalizing nuggets from the contemporary mainstream media’s coverage of Williams, as well as his roots and his genealogical background.

This post will zero in on some of the more fascinating ways the newspapers covered Williams and the teams for which he played, especially the great Cuban Giants and various Harrisburg squads.

Williams is best known as one of the first players on the roster of the Cuban Giants, the sports first professional African-American team, in 1885. For much of their existence, the Giants were based in Trenton, N.J., a city which seemingly, as far as I could tell from media reports, treated the squad with a mixture of pride, puzzlement and paternalism (apologies for the alliteration, I couldn’t resist). That included descriptions of Waxey Williams.


Let’s begin with one of the Trenton Advertiser’s preseason evaluations of that year’s Cuban Giants club, in which the paper went player by player. Here’s how the publication described Clarence Williams:

“Catcher No. 2. Clarence Williams was born January 27th, 1866, at Harrisburg. Played left field for the Harrisburg’s [sic] in ’82, caught for the Middletown base ball club, of Pennsylvania, in 1883, and played the same position for the Williamsport professionals in the early of the season ’85, and joined the Cuban Giants the later part of the season. He is a heavy batsman, a fine base runner and good catcher.”

Within a couple years, Williams had apparently become somewhat of a fan favorite in Trenton and elsewhere, in large part because of his enthusiastic approach to coaching and encouraging his teammates.

One article in 1887, under the headline, “Williams’ Great Luck,” highlights his feat of scoring two runs in one inning against the New York Reserves. It also refers to Williams multiple times as the Cubans’ “mascot,” a tag that, at least contextually in such articles, seems to mean more of a coach than, say, the Phillie Phanatic. Stated the Times:

“In the seventh Clarene Williams coached his fellow-players. There were two men on the bases when Whyte took up the bat. Clarence paralyzed the Reserves by his ‘R-o-o-t the Air!’ and other encouraging coaching terms. …”

A week later, on May 7, 1887, the Trenton Times wrote thusly:

“Clarence Williams is popular with the occupants of the stands. His peculiar coaching at first base brings down the house every time.”

In 1890, Williams had shifted to the almost-all-white Harrisburg team on the Eastern Interstate League, where he and Frank Grant brought the only diversity to the squad and the athletic proceedings.

In February of that year, the Philadelphia Inquirer described how the Harrisburg players were getting in shape for the impending season by cultivating their home diamond and ground themselves. However, according to the Inquirer, in what smacks of the old stereotype of the “lazy Negro”:

“Clarence Williams, late of the Cuban Giants, does not take so kindly to landscape gardening.”

The press also reported the events when Williams got into a legal jam in August 1891, when he was arrested when the Cuban Giants — to whom Williams had returned — ventured back to Trenton and defeated a local (apparently white) club. Here’s how a wire service article described what happened next:

“After the game a riot broke out, caused by Thomas, the catcher of the visitors, cuting a ball belonging to the Trentons. “Selden, Thomas and Clarence Williams were the ringleaders in the row with followed. Some desperate head pounding occurred before the disturbance was quelled. The special officers arrested the members of the colored club and took them to jail, but no one speaking against them to make charges they were released. Later warrants were issued for Selden, Thomas and C. Williams, and officers are now looking for them.”

It’s not immediately apparent what became of that legal dust-up, but it’s … interesting, to say the least, that pretty much the entirety of the “riot” was blamed on the African-American team in general and especially the three named players.

But that, apparently, wasn’t the only time Williams was accused of violent acts. By 1896, Waxey had actually become a police officer in Harrisburg, but his tenure as a cop didn’t go all that well, it seems. Penned the Sept. 16, 1896, Harrisburg Patriot under the header, “Clarence Had Foresight”:

“Clarence Williams, the baseballist policeman, who ws under suspension for brutally clubbing a man, probably read the writing on the wall and forestalled dismissal by sending his resignation to Mayor Patterson yesterday morning.

“Williams’ letter was brief; after the usual tender of resignation, he wished the mayor ‘all the successes you deserve.’ The mayor promptly accepted the resignation, but did not make any appointment yesterday, although he announced that he had made up his mind as to who would be appointed.

“Alex Barber, a well-known colored politician of the Fourth Ward, will be appointed in the place of the ex-catcher of the Cuban Giants, who will probably swing a baseball bat next Spring instead of the police mace which got him into trouble.”

Was the case against Officer Williams and his subsequent departure from the Harrisburg PD trumped up or exaggerated because of his race? That remains unclear and certainly could be debatable. But there is an interesting pattern here emerging — that of the media latching on to Williams’ alleged violent outbursts and rabble-rousing, fair or not.

But the turn of the century brought the media’s focus back to Waxey’s performance on the baseball diamond. For example, in June 1903, when Williams had shifted to the Cuban X-Giants (one of the offshoots of the original Cuban Giants), the Trenton Times reported on the Waxey’s gutsy hustle on one play in a game against a Trenton white team:

“Would any one think that Clarence Williams, who cannot remember just how long he played ball before the civil war, would have the nerve to bunt and try to beat it out to first? That’s just what he did Saturday. He bunted right down towards first base, and no one tried to say him nay. Cook, who should have covered the bag, looked in wonder as Clarence carried his burden of 250 pounds down the line and deposited it on Tommy Travers’ sack. Tommy had to go and get the ball but it was too late to do business with Clarence.”

OK, first of all, the phrase “deposited it on Tommy Travers’ sack” is a little creepy, if I might be so bold and blue. But beyond that, the article’s claim that Williams had started playing ball well before the Civil War is ludicrous given that it’s generally accepted that Williams was born in 1866, a year after the war ended. So where the paper got that info is mystifying.

There’s also the question of whether there are any racial connotations when the paper uses the term “have the nerve” to beat out a bunt. Does that innocuously mean simply that any ballplayer would be gutsy for trying to do so? Or is there a more subtle and sinister implication that an “uppity colored player” had the gall to do so to against a white team.

We may be able to glean a little of the Trenton Times’ attitude in the very same issue of the paper, only a few short articles down the same column:

“We thought we had a pretty good team until the Giants came here and that’s no fairy tale, but the big blacks made us look so foolish that in the future we will have nothing to say. You win, ‘Mistah’ Williams, and we do not hesitate to say that we think your bunch of midgets could have scored about twice that many runs had you desired. Some day we hope we will have a team that will keep you warmed up while playing but at present we are forced to admit that we are too easy.”

Sure, that is, at least for the times, a pretty nice compliment to the X-Giants and a self-deprecating, realistic assessment of the home team’s generally lousiness. But even then, with terms like “big blacks,” “Mistah” and “bunch of midgets,” there’s embodied shades of stereotypes and racial connotations.

Since this post is already getting fairly lengthy, I’ll stop there, but just from that you get a gist of the media’s attitude not just toward a burly, talented, African-American player, but also journalists’ regard and perception of black baseball players of the day.

I’ll try to have two more Waxey entries over the next couple weeks, one on his genealogical background, and another on his leading an all-star team to Cuba.

Winfield and Wesley go live

I’m working on some fresh blog fodder that I’ll hopefully have up soon, but for now, I had a couple stories published over the last couple weeks …

This one I wrote for the Louisiana Weekly newspaper about the Wesley Barrow grave ceremony …

This one I penned for Louisiana Life magazine and myneworleans.com on the great but vastly underrated manager and Napoleonville, La., native Winfield Welch …

Enjoy, and many thanks, as usual, for reading!

Ducky Davenport, where are you?


Holt Cemetery, New Orleans

Honestly, the more I dig into the question of where Negro League All-Star and NOLA native Lloyd “Ducky” Davenport is buried, the more stymied and, frankly, the more bummed I get.

Every new piece of information I pick up just frustrates, confuses and/or dismays me, and there’s been so many of them flowing in that it’s hard to know where to begin here. So let’s start with this …

My colleague and mentor Gary Ashwill at Agate Type emailed me after my first post on Ducky and asked me, among other things, from where the “established” birth and death dates for Davenport came. Those dates, according to multiple online sources are Oct. 28, 1911, and September 1985 (no exact date).

When I thought about it, I really didn’t know how those dates were established. In fact, the only record I could find of any document properly fitting this Lloyd Davenport’s birthday was a airline passenger manifest that gave it as Aug. 20, 1911, a more-than-two-month discrepancy from what’s been “established.” I’ve found no draft card, no death record … nothing like that for a person fitting Ducky’s description.


But while fumbling around ancestry.com, I think I’ve finally found where those dates came from — a Social Security death index for a man with those exact same dates named … George Davenport. The record states that his SSN was issued in Illinois, which would make sense given that Davenport played a couple years for the Chicago American Giants.

But George Davenport? What?!?!?!

I gave this info to Gary via email, and he responded that while he’s come across numerous cases of misidentification of people by Social Security and other databases, but rarely an instance when the first name is completely different.

Upon further review, I suppose it’s not totally beyond the bounds of reason that Lloyd was given the misnomer of George by the government — I’ve gathered, through Census and other records, that George was the name of Ducky’s paternal grandfather, who was born in Mississippi in about 1852, moved to New Orleans (where he toiled, I believed, as a porter) and died in January 1910.

But Social Security’s apparent flub might not be the only time Ducky was misidentified by the powers that be. In September 1939, when NOLA Negro Leagues promoter and executive extraordinaire Allen Page was putting together his first North-South All-Star game, the Times-Picayune listed, in really tiny type, the lineups for the two teams. One of the outfielders was stated as “Walter Davenport, who batted .315 with the Memphis Red Sox, a native of New Orleans …”

Umm, no, T-P, that’s Lloyd Davenport, not Walter. Doy. I’m pretty sure of that, because Ducky did play for the Red Sox in ’39.

But I think I know from where the mainstream — and, in the 1930s, fairly racist — paper got that name. Walter Davenport was Ducky’s father’s name. Walter Davenport was born in 1884, according to Census records and his World War I draft card. I haven’t been able to pin down a death date yet.

But wait! Even more confusion! Because another one of Walter’s sons — and therefore, Lloyd’s brother — was named Walter Davenport Jr., who was born in 1906 and died in 1948, according to Social Security and death records. However, what I think is Walter Jr.’s WWII draft card lists a birth date of June 30, 1909.


But regardless, I’ve found no record that Walter Jr. ever played pro ball.

Also complicating matters is that there appears to be another African-American Davenport family, including a Walter Davenport, existing in New Orleans at the same time on a parallel track. I think I’ve followed the correct Davenport familial line by matching up city directory addresses and other documents, but I’m certainly not ready to rule out a connection between the two Davenport families.

While all this name confusion has been unfolding, I’ve done a couple other things to see if I can find Lloyd Davenport in death. One was to follow up the lead given by a 1994 newspaper article that states he died in 1988, not 1985. As mentioned before, the online archives for the New Orleans Times-Picayune and other mainstream papers don’t report any deaths of a Lloyd Davenport in 1988.

So I tried the Louisiana Weekly, the local African-American paper. I went through every single issue in 1988. The hard copies. By hand. Had fingers covered in ink.

But I found nothing, zip, nada, zero. So there goes that idea.

Then I called the offices of Holt Cemetery back. Holt is one of the city’s biggest burial grounds for the local indigent, a so called potter’s field. Several members of Lloyd Davenport’s family, including his parents Walter Sr. and Rody, are interred there.

Given the revelation of the SSA’s seeming misidentification of Ducky’s name upon his death, I asked a staffer at Holt — which is owned by the city of New Orleans — if there was a record of any Davenports buried there anytime in 1985.


But I asked her a couple other questions as well, and the answers depressed me even further. I posed if there are any sort of “family plots” at Holt. She said no, not really. Then I asked if the graves in the cemetery are marked are unmarked.

She said that in all likelihood, they’re unmarked.


There’s also indications that Lloyd Davenport could very well have been buried there, though, based on a few court records I’ve found in newspaper databases that indicate he had some financial trouble later in life.


In June 1961, the Aetna Acceptance Corp. received a roughly $550 judgment against him in First City Court, while in January 1967, Home Finance Services received a roughly $330 judgment against Lloyd in First City Court.

Those court records also seem to indicate that Ducky did live, and quite possibly die, in his hometown instead of somewhere else, which helps firm things up in terms of place of death.

One final thing … In my previous post I discussed how one of Ducky’s grand-nephews, Roy Hopkins Davenport, died of a gunshot wound a half-block away from his father’s, Alvin Davenport Jr.’s, home in Gert Town in August 2005.

After I wrote that post, I was reminded that Katrina happened that month, but Roy’s death occurred a couple weeks before the storm came. But that still left open the details of that death, because the Times-Picayune didn’t cover it beyond a brief obituary.

So I asked my buddy, David Hammer, at WWL TV, to see what archival reportage the station might, and David and his supervisor, Dominic Massa — many thanks to both, btw — did find coverage of the death …

It seems that between 11:30 p.m. Aug. 15 and 6 a.m. the next morning, there were actually four murders in the city, a shocking spate of violence. The final one of the four was Roy Hopkins Davenport’s. According to the WWL reports, 28-year-old Roy was allegedly shot by 23-year-old Michael Jackson (yes, that appears to be his real name), who was being sought by police. Roy died at the scene on the 7200 block of Fig Street and was, as his published obituary stated, buried in Holt Cemetery.

That’s all the details that were in the TV reports, so I still don’t know about a motive or what happened to Jackson. But we know now that one of Ducky Davenport’s descendants was murdered, an event that only adds to the entire aura of gloom over Ducky’s story and the search for his burial location.

I’ll keep doing more digging, but as stated in my last post, it’s looking more and more likely that the only way to solve this mystery is by contacting people who might be living relatives of the great, and mysterious, Lloyd “Ducky” Davenport. And again, if anyone might have any information or clues that could held solve this mystery, please feel free to email me at rwhirty218@yahoo.com.

A painful inquiry


The question I’ve come to pose to myself is this: how do you even approach someone about a highly sensitive subject when their lives — and to a large extent their entire bloodline — have been riddled with hardship?

I’ve now become fascinated by the fate of New Orleans native and longtime Negro Leaguer Lloyd “Ducky” Davenport. Ducky’s playing career was certainly solid — he played in the blackball big time for about 15 years for teams like the Birmingham Black Barons, Chicago American Giants, Memphis Red Sox, Cleveland Buckeyes and Cincinnati Tigers — but he wasn’t a superstar by any means.

According to contemporary reports and fellow players, Ducky — who got that nickname because he seemed to walk with a waddle thanks to his stumpy legs — was a premier fielder in the out garden and a savvy hitter and baserunner. As contemporary and fellow New Orleanian Bob Bissant told reporter Ted Lewis in 1994:

“He was a little bitty guy, but he could hit the ball, and he could run a lot faster than anybody though. He could play just about any position, and he was a good football and basketball player, too, when we were kids.

“He could beat you just about every way but with the home run, and he probably hit a few of those, too.”

But Davenport, who also had a cup of coffee in the minors toward the end of his career circa 1950, wasn’t a Hall of Famer by any stretch of the imagination, and when he retired from the game, he kind of disappeared, possibly into the crowded, gritty streets of his hometown of NOLA.

The story is, unfortunately, a familiar one, for vintage ballplayers of all races — a hardscrabble career followed by a vanishing into the ether after stepping away from the sport. But while that’s depressing, what’s even more heartrending is that now, roughly three decades after he died, no one seems to even know where he’s buried.

And I don’t mean that his grave is unmarked in a known cemetery. I mean that it’s a complete mystery in which burial ground, if any, he ended up at all. The findagrave.com posting for him lists his burial as “unknown.”

What’s more, I can’t even seem to pin down in which year he died, let alone which month and day. Some online sources say he passed away in New Orleans in September 1985, but Lewis’ 1994 article in the New Orleans Times-Picayune states he died in 1988. And unfortunately, there’s pretty much no one left — at least no fellow ballplayers — who knew him personally and could attest to what happened to him in death.

What’s worse, I couldn’t find any evidence that Ducky himself had any children and, therefore, that he has any directly descendants. Plus, assuming he did die in New Orleans — and all known evidence points to that likelihood — I can’t seem to find any sort of obituary about him at all … Not in the Times-Picayune for either 1985 or 1988, or in the Louisiana Weekly, the local African American newspaper, from 1985. (I do still need to check the paper’s 1988 issues, but that could turn into a needle-haystack proposition.)

I do have a few leads, however, albeit vague ones. The primary hint is that both his parents, Walter and Rody Davenport, were buried in Holt Cemetery, one of New Orleans’ biggest and most popular “potter’s fields,” where residents of little means were often interred. Holt has struggled over the decades to remain kept up and in decent condition, which is certainly not unusual for a pauper’s cemetery.


Holt Cemetery is now apparently owned and maintained by the city of New Orleans itself. But after speaking with a staffer at Holt, she said there’s no record of a Davenport being buried there in either 1985 or 1988. While she added that doesn’t complete negate the possibility that Ducky is buried there — she said the records they have were copied from earlier issues of the forms — it’s still unlikely.

So that leaves few avenues for investigation, a primary one being attempting to hunt down any sort of living relative of Ducky Davenport.

But that has proven problematic in its own right. Ducky, as stated, didn’t have any children of his own, but what about his siblings, Walter Alvin Davenport and Charley Davenport? If they had offspring, it would mean I might be able to locate nephews and/or nieces, or more likely given their age, grand nephews and nieces.

So let’s focus on Charley first. Well, actually, there’s not much there on which to focus. I couldn’t find out really anything about him — possible marriages or children, or even when he died. On that later count, the only clue I have is that in the 1953 obituary for his and Lloyd’s mother, Rody, he’s listed as “the late Charles … Davenport,” meaning he died before 1953. That’s all I got.

However, Ducky’s other brother, Walter Alvin Davenport, provides a little more promise. He died, according to the Times-Picayune, in December 1948 at the age of 42. Although the paper doesn’t provide anything in the way of a formal obituary — a situation that certainly wasn’t unusual for a mainstream Southern paper reporting the death of a black man in the 1940s — the single-line listing under “Deaths,” states that he died at Charity Hospital, an LSU-connected, now-closed facility that, in the first half of the 20th century, provide medical services to the poor an indigent.


That seems to indicate that Walter, like his (and Ducky’s and Charley’s) parents, was struggling financially, to put it mildly, which could mean that he was also interred at Holt Cemetery.

In addition to that, Walter Alvin Davenport did have children. Although right now it’s somewhat unclear to me who Walter’s wife was or with whom he had those children, and even which Davenports listed in various Census and other records in New Orleans were his kids, there’s one child who is clear — Alvin Davenport, who was born around 1930 to Walter and Beatrice Davenport.

But there’s a lack of clarity here as well. While I’m still collecting and sifting through information, Beatrice and Walter Jr. might have divorced; while they and Alvin are listed in the 1930 Census as living together on South Johnson Street, later records show Alvin living with Beatrice, who has a different last name — Steptoe, I believe, but right now I can’t locate that record in my files, although I know I’ve seen it. (I’m old.)

And the 1940 Census lists Walter now living with what appears to be another wife, Mary, on Willow Street. Mary seems to have had a previous husband who died, Mac McCree. Mary herself passed in October 1986, about 38 years after the death of her second husband, Walter Alvin Davenport.

But given the 1930 Census placing Alvin with Walter and Beatrice, and the 1940 listing including Walter in Beatrice’s household, it’s clear to me that, at least, Alvin is indeed Beatrice and Walter’s son.


Now, I’m still trying to string together when Alvin Davenport and Beatrice Davenport/Steptoe died, but I have indications that Beatrice and Walter had other children in addition to Alvin — namely, a 2013 obituary for an Edward “Red” Davenport that states he was the son of the late Walter and Beatrice Davenport and the brother of Delores White, Beverly Edwards, Carolyn Freeman and “the late Roy and Alvin Davenport.” Those are leads I intend to pursue soon, especially because Red’s obituary states that he was also buried in Holt Cemetery.

But for now, we’ll focus on Alvin Davenport. While, yet again, I can’t completely pinpoint when Alvin died, I did find a current home listing for what is in all likelihood his son, Alvin Davenport Jr.

And that, dear friends, finally brings us back to the very beginning of this post: how do I approach a couple that has endured tremendous hardship themselves and who don’t know me from Adam?

Because Alvin Jr. and his wife, the former Karen Mannery, have had not one, but two children die at tragically early ages. The first came in 1996, when their 15-year-old son, Rodney, died of cancer.

Then, in 2005, another son, Roy Hopkins Davenport, according to an obituary in the T-P, “died Tuesday of a gunshot wound at the corner of Broadway and Fig streets. He was 28.”In addition, Roy Hopkins was interred … in Holt Cemetery. Details of Roy’s death are unclear, because apparently the T-P didn’t cover it as a news story, so I’m not immediately sure if he was murdered or died of accidental causes. On top of the tragedy of Roy’s death, is even more tragic — and, unfortunately, not too surprising — that the city’s mainstream daily newspaper didn’t even bother to cover the violent death of a black man.

So how do I approach Alvin Jr. and Karen Davenport and ask them if they know where their great uncle, Negro Leaguer Lloyd “Ducky” Davenport, is buried? How do I approach them at all?

There’s also one more complication: I haven’t been able to find much of a phone number for the couple. But even if I could find one, how do I cold call them? Again, these poor people don’t know me from Adam.

I could just go to what’s listed as their home on Broadway Street, but — how do I put this as delicately as possibly — it’s in Gert Town, which is not the best part of town. Or at least a part of town where a mysterious white man knocking on a stranger’s door would raise some flags for the street’s largely working-class, African-American population. (Roy Hopkins Davenport’s death location is, actually, just a half-block away from his parents’ house.)

So that’s where things stand right now. In essence, I’m really not much closer to finding out where the great Ducky Davenport is buried — or, for that matter, even when he died. For all I know, he could have passed away in some other city than his hometown. Anything, at this point, is possible.

So if anyone out there knows anything about the fate of Lloyd “Ducky” Davenport, please feel free to contact me at rwhirty218@yahoo.com.

A park to honor a Gretna legend


It apparently took his death for the City of Gretna to finally acknowledge Negro Leaguer and Gretna native J.B. Spencer‘s contributions to both the history of baseball and the city community.

Spencer, an infielder whose career included a stint with the Homestead Grays during their prime in the 1940s, died in May 2003. Two months later, the city renamed the park on Fried Street J.B. Spencer Park in a move that was long, long overdue.

Not only did Spencer play in the golden age of the Negro Leagues, but after retiring from baseball he worked for the city of Gretna’s recreation department for three decades, including a tenure as park supervisor.

According to a 2003 New Orleans Times-Picayune article covering the park name change, the move was recommended by City Councilman Jonathan Bolar. At the time, the paper quoted Mayor Ronnie Harris about Spencer: “His memory will live on in a park he truly loved.”


That kinda gives you the warm and fuzzies, but you have to keep in mind that both the T-P and the city of Gretna virtually ignored Spencer’s contributions to baseball and community history right up until his death.

And there’s another factor here: unlike Gretna’s sprawling Mel Ott Park (named, of course, after the New York Giants Hall of Famer, whole was also a Gretna native), Spencer Park has always struggled to be kept up and maintained. That could be due to the notion that it’s located in a majority African-American neighborhood and serves mostly black kids and youth baseball leagues from that area.

It wasn’t until 2012 that upgrades to the park were adopted. The City Council approval of those upgrades in November 2012 was covered by the New Orleans Advocate, which noted that the funding would go toward refurbishing the lighting systems at the park, which was damaged during Katrina.

The project went ahead after the city clinched several hundred thousand collars in Community Development Block Grants and FEMA funding. Prior to that, the paper noted, the Gretna administration never had the money to fund such upgrades.

Leading the charge for the project was Councilman Milton Crosby, who recently also helped get a grave marker placed at the burial spot of local Negro Leagues managerial great Wesley Barrow.

“I don’t know if it was a priority until I started pushing it,” the Advocate quoted Crosby as saying. “I’m trying to look out for my community area. … We need recreation. People in the community are always asking me.”


Will Spencer Park continue to receive the upkeep it needs and deserves? We’ll have to see. But as you can tell from the picture above, you can’t even really make out an actual diamond at the park’s primary ball field. That doesn’t seem good …