Andy Cooper, the early days?

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Andy Cooper’s WWI draft card

Following up on this recent post from about Andy Cooper and the Texas Sports Hall of Fame, I’ve been trying to delve into Cooper’s family roots, youth and young adulthood in Waco and beyond before he signed on with Rube Foster’s Chicago American Giants in 1920, the same year as the formation of the first Negro National League.

These posts coincide with the 75th anniversary of Cooper’s sudden death coming up this July, as well his continued omission from the TSHOF despite being inducted into Cooperstown in 2006.

For many years, it’s been believed that Cooper, one of the greatest pitchers in Negro Leagues history, was born in 1898 in Waco. He did spend much of his life in Waco and McClennan County, he went to J.A. Moore High School in Waco, he died there and is now buried there in historic Greenwood Cemetery. In addition, many contemporary documents and media reports state that he was a Waco native.

However, I have reason to believe that he might not have been born there — and perhaps not in Texas at all.

In addition, many of the biographical sketches of him don’t include much in the way of his early baseball career — namely, between the time he was a student at Moore HS and when he was inked by Foster in ’20 — so I’ve been trying to discover how he made that leap and what baseball activity could have bridged that chronological chasm.

Because I’m still trying to put the pieces of Cooper’s genealogical puzzle together, this entry will focus somewhat on his pre-American Giants hardball career, with maybe a little tease at the end about his familial background. …

When Andrew Lewis Cooper died in June 1941 — almost 75 years ago — the Chicago Defender printed a commentary by columnist Russ Cowans in which the writer recalled watching the future Hall of Famer pitch. The article contained this paragraph:

“Born in Waco, Tex., April 24, 1896, Cooper came to the Detroit Stars, April 4, 1920. He started his career with the Waco Navigators in 1916, remaining until 1918. The following year Cooper was at Paul Quinn College.”

I’ll discuss Cooper’s attendance at that HBCU in Dallas a little later in this post, but as to the claim that Cooper competed for the Waco Black Navigators in the mid- to late-19-oughts, I haven’t found any evidence — and least not yet — that he ever did so.

In fact, the earliest article I’ve found referencing Cooper donning the spikes for any professional squad in Texas is an April 12, 1919, report in the Dallas Express, a former African-American paper. The story discuss the upcoming season for the Dallas Black Giants, who were entered in that season’s Texas Colored League.

The article lays out the Giants’ tentative lineup for the upcoming campaign. Among the team’s pitching staff is Andrew Cooper. (The rotation also includes Dave Brown, probably the one who went on to fame and fortune in the highest levels of the Negro Leagues before becoming entangled in a murder investigation in New York, after which he went on the lam and became one of the great mysteries and enigmas in baseball lore.)

Express reporter J. Alba also listed the Navigators’ lineup and outlined the Waco squad’s prospects for 1919. Nowhere in discussion is any reference to Cooper ever playing for that squad. Stated Alba:

“The Navigators this season will present fans of Texas with a practically new club with exception of a few veterans whose faces are familiar to fandom and with the installation of new blood in their line-up it is rumored Waco should be quite a formidable outfit for the coming season.”

However, nowhere else, in archives of Texas papers between roughly 1915 and 1920, could I find any mention of Andy Cooper whatsoever. That includes some coverage of the Waco Black Navigators from that time period. That includes a handful of articles in the Houston Post and the Waco Morning News from 1915 and ’16.

None of that means for certain that Cooper didn’t don the flannels for teams like the Black Navs or other squads, of course, but it doesn’t do anything to clear up his pre-Negro National League days.

It doesn’t look like Cooper even considered himself a professional baseball player during this time period; he doesn’t even seem to have identified himself thusly in any official records from the era. His WWI draft card from June 1918 lists him as “unemployed,” with an address of 2603 South 9th Street in Waco, which appears to have been the future home of his mother, Emma, and next door to his brother Henry’s abode.

However, there’s evidence that, at least from the mid-1900s onward, Andy Cooper didn’t maintain an official residence in Waco; instead, he “lived” in Dallas. The 1930 and 1940 federal Censuses document an Andy Cooper living in that city with a wife, also Emma, and an age pegged in the late 1890s. In 1930, his occupation is “farmer,” while in 1940 it’s stated as a laborer on a WPA construction project (which an extremely intriguing notion).

In addition, several Dallas city directories from the 1910s and 1920s list an Andrew Cooper at various addresses in that city, including one with a wife named Emma. On top of that, the May 7, 1921, issue of the Dallas Express reported that a boy was born to a Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Cooper, whose address matches up with one listed in a Dallas city directory.

All of this could make sense, because Paul Quinn College is located just south of Dallas, and because Dallas would probably offer more employment opportunities, such as the Black Giants.

On the other hand, I’ve found no newspaper reports that list him on the Paul Quinn roster during this time period, including a clash in May 1920 between the school and, as it turns out, the Waco Black Navigators.

So I’m investigating Cooper’s connection to Paul Quinn, as well as his high school, Moore HS, a segregated African-American institution in Waco.

Head & shoulders posed portrait of newly inducted Hall of Famer, Andy Cooper.  Cooper is often ranked 2nd only to Bill Foster among the Negro Leagues left-handed pitchers.  Image is cropped from 1920 Detroit Stars 2442.89 PD

However, of course, that, to some extent, is admittedly speculation on my part. But from what I’ve found so far, that’s the best theory I could assemble at this point.

Now, on to Cooper’s genealogical background. And, naturally, I’ve again run into some confusion, starting with his birthdate. Various published biographies online place it as April 24, in either 1896 or 1898.

Further, his death certificate also pegs it as April 24, 1898. (Coincidentally, the document also lists him as a “ball player.”) And Cowans’ June 1941 article about Cooper’s death asserts that his birthdate was 1896, as do a selection of ship manifests.

But … his WWI draft card states it as April 24, 1897, as does a Social Security record. So what’s the real story?

And that, my friends, leads us into my next post about Andrew Lewis Cooper — one that explores his familial and geographical roots. For years, it’s been believed that he was born and grew up in Waco, but now I don’t think that’s the case. From records I’ve dug up, he spent his childhood in …

Ahh, we’ll have to keep that a mystery … for now. 🙂

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The case for the Hall: George Stovey

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“The Newark club will probably place a novelty in the field next season in the shape of of a ‘colored’ battery. Stovey, the pitcher, and Walker, the catcher, are both colored men. Stovey played with the Jersey City club last season and showed he was a great pitcher. Several of the League managers contemplated signing him last season, but the prejudice against his colored prevented. Had he not been of African descent he would have pitched for the New York club last fall.”

— Dec. 18, 1886, issue of The Sporting News

“There is another Stovey in the field. The new man is named George, and he is a colored left-handed pitcher, just brought from Canada by the Trentons, late Cuban Giants.”

— June 23, 1886, issue of Sporting Life

Such was the introduction of ace African-American pitcher George Stovey to much of the base ball loving public in America. Stovey, a native of Williamsport, Pa., was one of the early “colored” stars in what had already become the national pastime.

As a hurler in the still evolving sport, Stovey was good enough to play for several squads in Organized Baseball before the final, firm drawing of the color line. He was also associated as a manager and organizer with some of the greatest 19th-century black teams, including the seminal Cuban Giants and the Page Fence Giants, making him a trailblazer in many ways.

So, the question is this: Does George Stovey belong in the National Baseball Hall of Fame?

This is another entry in my ongoing series of posts highlighting some of the legendary segregation-era, African-American players, managers and executives who have, for whatever reason, so far been shut out of the the halls of Cooperstown.

One of the key reasons for this historical cold shoulder is the HOF’s continuing, almost decade-old policy that the hallowed institution is no longer admitting any pre-1947 African-American candidates, despite the continued existence of a committee that occasionally votes in white players from the same era.

In recent weeks I’ve argued the cases of Bruce Petway and Frank Warfield, and now it’s Stovey’s turn. I’m focusing on George today especially because it’s the 80th anniversary of his death — March 22, 1936, in Williamsport — and because the 150th anniversary of his birth is rapidly approaching next month.

So, what’s the case for Stovey? I’ll let SABR’s Brian McKenna chip in with an excerpt from his bio of George:

“George Stovey came of age just as overhand pitching became legal. A left-hander, he hit the top minors in 1886 at the age of 20 and dominated, winning 50 games over two seasons. He struck out more than 300 batters and posted stellar 1.13 and 2.46 earned-run averages, respectively. Surely, a major-league club could use a young lefty with an array of curves. It was not to be, though, not because he blew out his arm or drank himself out of the game; Stovey couldn’t crack ‘The Show’ because the men who ran the game and those who played with and against him rejected him because of his skin color. Stovey was a mulatto and as such was soon forced out of Organized Baseball and the white minor leagues altogether.

“Considered “the first great Negro pitcher” by historian Robert Peterson, Stovey finished his career with the Cuban Giants, the New York Gorhams and other barnstorming black clubs. His career was spent exclusively with East Coast clubs. As often happens in baseball, the best African-American pitcher of the 19th century manned the box for some of the best black teams of the era.”

And just a couple weeks ago, Clinton Riddle wrote in The Baseball Magazine:

“He was six foot tall and most certainly taller than many other players of the time, as reaching that height one hundred years ago would be somewhat akin to 6’5” in the present day (average height at that time would be closer to 5’5”-6”). Highly athletic and quick, he in all likelihood would have performed well as an outfielder, but it was “in the box” that he found his calling. Generally known as a curveballing artist, Stovey was as likely to strike out an opposing batsman as he was to induce a ground ball and simply glide to cover first for the out. In short, he was an accomplished hurler and seemed to be a shoe-in for the pro ranks.”

What particular fascinates me about Stovey’s career and life is his lifelong connection and devotion to his hometown of Williamsport, which is today widely renowned as the setting of the Little League World Series, a sign that the Pennsylvania burg has always savored its hardball tradition.

Because of that appreciation for the national game, Williamsport seems to have held native son Stovey in high regard, at least for a “colored” man of the time. The local media did a decent job of relating his baseball activities about town after his retirement as a player. For example, the Sun-Gazette newspaper of May 8, 1901, stated: “George Stovey’s Williamsport base ball team was organized Tuesday evening and now challenges any team in Central Pennsylvania.”

Apparently, one reason the town showed a soft spot for George is that, in his golden years, he tutored numerous other aspiring players. In August 1910, the Sun-Gazette detailed how Stovey had taken local lad Lleweylln Wyckoff under his wing, a key factor in the up-and-coming right-hander’s jump from the area Trolley circuit into the prestigious Tri-State League.

But, IMHO, the thing that places Stovey a cut above other contemporaries was his late-life maturation into a highly sought-after umpire; once he donned the officiating gear circa 1900, he was selected by various local white teams as their official ump.

Other aggregations held an affinity to the Williamsport guy; in July 1903, the Sun-Gazette noted that one manager, after rejecting the assigned umpire, specifically requested Stovey, saying, “He is a good umpire and will do what is right. I will be satisfied with him.”

That same summer, the S-G stated: “Umpire Stovey is one of the best umpires officiating at independent games when he wants to be …”

Apparently, Stovey presented an authoritative, stentorian voice. “Stovey’s fog horn voice sounded natural as he called the balls and strikes,” the paper reported after a 1902 contest.

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He was also wise to any tomfoolery. “Campbell made a great bluff on Willig’s hit to center, but Stovey was too foxey and it didn’t work,” the Sun-Gazette printed after a July 1903 clash.

Stovey was officiating into the 1910s; in 1911, the S-G stated: “The teams that have Stovey to umpire are always certain of good work from from the ‘ump.’”

Besides the quality of his umpiring work, his presence behind the plate made him the second known African-American ump to officiate games with white minor-league teams, a feat of no small stature.

George died 25 years later after a, shall we say, colorful personal life in Williamsport, one that included occasional violent scrapes and run-ins with the law, employment at a sawmill, liquor bootlegging, organizing youth teams, and an instance of almost drowning while fishing.

While the arguments for Stovey’s Hall of Fame candidacy center around his multitalented skills as a pitcher, manager, organizer and ump, there are also several weighty factors working against him — a lack of verifiable statistics and shoddy record-keeping, often paltry media coverage on a national scale; hopping around from team to team and region to region; sometimes shaky performances against white competition; and, most importantly, never playing in the Majors.

True, those evidences against his possible induction are indeed significant; however, several, if not all, of them, were the direct result of the bigoted color line that kept him in the shadows of the national pastime for much of his career. And that’s certainly not his fault.

In the end, I certainly like George Stovey and admire the way he fought and clawed his way to a measured amount of baseball prominence, the way he persevered in the face of prejudice and racial exclusion, and his blossoming into a highly respected umpire.

But because of the dearth of concrete stats and records, his inconsistent efforts against white competition, and the fact that there are so many other qualified 19th-century black candidates — such as Bud Fowler and Grant “Home Run” Johnson — I’d have to say, No, Stovey doesn’t merit induction into Cooperstown.

What do you think?

The 1910 Western Colored League

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Topeka Jack Johnson

It’s weird, in 2016, to envisage the Midwest and Great Plains as “the West,” including when it comes to the sport of baseball. It’s been almost 60 years since the Dodgers and the Giants and the A’s bailed on the East Coast and headed to California, and the Pacific Coast League has existed for 113 years.

In fact, with Japan, Korea, Australia and other countries on the Pacific Rim continuing to nurture and grow their already beloved and well established baseball cultures and traditions, the concept of the West in hardball circles has been rendered almost moot.

But things were quite different way back in 1910, especially when it came to segregated African-American baseball in the middle of our then-still-expanding country. (Of course, most of that expansion occurred through war, violence and duplicity, and decimated the Native-American population and cultures, not to mention the blatantly imperialistic Mexican War. But that’s neither here nor there for the purposes of this post.)

By the end of the 19-oughts, a bunch of black baseball teams — all of them mostly barnstorming and independent aggregations — had established secure roots in the East  and blossomed, making baseball a staple of African-American life on the upper Right Coast. In addition, several teams were starting to crystallize and establish stability.

What about the Midwest? There, too, existed a large handful of successful, independent and touring blackball squads in Midwestern burgs like Chicago, Kansas City and Minneapolis-St. Paul. And the frontiers of the far West? Aggregations had already popped up in Salt Lake City, Los Angeles and the Pacific Northwest.

However, nowhere in the nation were any long-lasting, stable blackball leagues that could parallel the circuits in so-called Organized Baseball. There had been a series of attempts to do so in various parts of the country, but all them invariably collapsed at the end of their first seasons — if they had even survived that long.

(That’s fully professional, multi-state leagues, however; many cities and states had local African-American semipro, industrial, sandlot and amateur loops that featured vigorous competition and solid attendance in terms of the scale of the ventures.)

Surprising, then, is the fact that many of the nation’s regional blackball circuits sprouted up — or tried to, anyway — in the Midwestern and Plains states, areas that were, in many ways, still getting their footing and prosperous permanence in terms of economies and populations that could support such a league.

True, it was Rube Foster’s seminal Negro National League — featuring mostly Midwestern teams — in 1920 that emerged as the first long-lasting black league in the country. (An East Coast-based companion loop came about in 1923 in the form of the Eastern Colored League.)

But there had been and would later be multiple other attempts at establishing a steady blackball league in the region, many of which have already been uncovered and studied by researchers.

One coagulated during the last week of December 1910 that actually stretched into the South, with more-or-less formal headquarters in the Windy City and projected franchises in Chicago, Kansas City, Louisville, NOLA, Mobile, St. Louis and Columbus.

The circuit had the hearty involvement and/or involvement of influential entrepreneurs and baseball magnates like Foster and Topeka’s Jack Johnson, who wasn’t related to the similarly named black heavyweight champion but who would become arguably the Midwest’s most passionate, proactive and expansive African-American hardball enthusiast, promoter, player and manager.

Unfortunately, the loop never really got off the ground during the ensuing, proposed 1911 season, and there doesn’t seem to have been another earnest attempt at a “Western,” i.e. to the left of the Mississippi River, until 1922 — two years after the formation of the NNL — when the nascent Western Colored League tried to get off the ground during an organizational gathering in Wichita in May of ’22.

Jack Johnson (the baseball one) was named president of that circuit, but even his enterprising leadership couldn’t secure the WCL’s survival, and the league disintegrated a short time later.

Those two aborted endeavors have probably been the two earliest, highest-profile, most well known black baseball leagues to exist — or at least attempt to exist — in the Midwestern and Plains states during the first quarter of the 20th century.

But there was another two, heretofore unknown, that tried to materialize in the summer of 1910, six months earlier than the one that tried to form in December of that year for the 1911 season.

One of the primary reasons for the 1910 circuits’ anonymity — which has lasted through today — is a seeming lack of coverage at the time of the loops’ coalescence; in fact, the best, most detailed account I could find of one of the mid-1910 leagues was in the June 10, 1910, edition of the Nashville Globe, even though that city didn’t even have an entry in the entity.

Calling the June confab “an enthusiastic meeting,” the Globe stated:

“Plans for the formation of a league, ‘The Western Colored Baseball League,’ were perfected last week at St. Louis, Mo. …

“The following cities have secured franchises in the league: Kansas City, Mo.; Kansas City, Kans.; St. Joseph, Mo.; Topeka, Kans.; St. Louis, Mo.; Springfield, Ill.; Peoria, Ill.; and Chicago.

“The officers of the league have arranged a salary limit not to exceed $1,000 per month for each club for the first year.

“It is planned to begin playing this season, and the schedule is being arranged to open June 15th or 20th. The schedule will be ready for publication sometime next week, as will the names of the managers of the eight clubs.

“Mr. [W.H.] King, the vice-president stated that two well-known St. Louis players had already been dispatched to the South to round up players for the St. Louis team.

“Negotiations are under way for players by the other managers, and as the business of the League will be ably managed, there is no reason why it should not be a financial success.”

In addition to King as VP, other circuit officials included George Washington Walden as president, David Wyatt of Chicago as secretary, and J.W. Spence of Chicago as treasurer.

Wyatt was a could have been a critical cog in the operation; as a prominent correspondent for the Indianapolis Freeman, he had the eloquence and the medium with which he could spread the word about the black baseball world and predict and hope for its future success.

In fact, in the April 16, 1910, edition of the Freeman, Wyatt published a lengthy diatribe to that effect, one that also perhaps foreshadowed the June 1910, league organizational meeting. He predicted that the 1910 campaign would be a banner year with teams like the Chicago Giants, the Leland Giants, the Philadelphia Giants, the Brooklyn Royal Giants and the Kansas City Royal Giants.

In the missive, Wyatt also asserted that African-American players and teams were the equal of any in major league baseball. However, he also urged black franchises to follow white teams’ lead in utilizing public relations and cozy ties with the media to strengthen blackballs popularity and, therefore, its financial prospects.

Wyatt wrote:

“Reports from all sections of the country have been coming in and all convey fresh information of gigantic plans under consideration of the promotion of baseball. If the many plans which have been hatched are brought to a healthy life we take it to mean that the new year of 1910 will be the banner year in Negro baseball. …

“… There is no profession which is a greater leveler of the races and there are none which will tend to mold a higher standard of moral character than our national game. …

“The class of baseball that the Negro is putting up at this time is very evidence that he is giving his moral and physical welfare the proper amount of attention. He has advanced far beyond that brand in which comedy plays the leading part, and has now captured the attention of persons in all walks of life who appreciate intelligence. These same persons have thrown down the gauntlet to all agitation of the time-worn color line and have openly declared the Negro baseball player the equal of the best and worthy of the same loyal consideration which has been shown the white players. …

“We should speedily eliminate the prevailing methods of selfishness in baseball and we should awake to the realization of the fact that the more towns and players that we can put upon the map, the better and more substantial our financial resources become. Negro baseball has been at a stagnation for years and for no other reason that the game has been confined to a select few. We at this time demand that all be given a chance and if a city or town is worthy of financial consideration it should be worthy of having their business placed in print. … Why our colored managers insist on maintaining such an amount of silence and secrecy concerning their operations and plans is part of baseball that years of experience has taught me against the wisdom of. …

“If we intend to do anything in baseball we must not be backward and dull in getting our plans before the people. Months in advance we are put in touch with the doings of big league clubs, and by the free use of the daily press their plans are heralded far and wide. These are the methods that bring success.

“By the time this letter reaches the eyes of the people we will have some definite reports on the Negro in a real contest. We sincerely hope that all clubs will have the largest and most prosperous that has ever befallen the lot of the Negro in baseball.”

However, on top of that league (and also perhaps presaged by the type of optimism for blackball espoused by Wyatt), there seems to have been another 1910 that endeavored to get off the ground, with a short account in the June 18, 1910, issue of the Leavenworth Post, with a Topeka dateline:

“Next Sunday marks the local opening of a new baseball league at League park, according to a report this morning. Arrangements have not yet definitely been made but will be announced tomorrow. The league is to be known as the Colored Central Western baseball league.

“The towns included are reported to be Omaha, Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City, Kan., Topeka and St. Joseph [Mo.].”

The article states that St. Joseph’s W.S. Carrion was chosen president, while Tobe Smith of K.C. was tapped treasurer. Finally, Topeka Jack Johnson, whose ubiquity on the Midwest African-American baseball scene is well documented, was selected secretary.

In fact, the Post asserted that Johnson was now making his home in Kansas City, Kan., and that, “It was largely through his efforts that the league was organized.”

Neither of these distinct and valiant undertakings stuck at all, but they do, however, mark one of the  earliest and previously uncovered attempts at unity and cohesion in the nebulous world of black baseball in the first couple decades of the 20th century.

In addition to the brevity of each circuit’s existence, one key, common variant running through their parallel story lines is the involvement of men from both halves of Kansas City — namely, Jack Johnson, Tobe Smith and George Washington Walden. The trio were both collectively, variously and separately responsible for two popular franchises in those twin cities circa 1910, the Kansas City Giants and the Kansas City Royal Giants.

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George Washington Walden’s WWI draft card

The two franchises, and the three owners, intermingled and formed alliances at certain times, and were at other times passionately competitive as sworn enemies who played out their dramas not just on the field, but also through the media (namely, the influential Indianapolis Freeman).

The story of early-20th-century African-American baseball in KC is a complex, convoluted and fascinating saga in the years leading up to the rise of the legendary K.C. Monarchs. It’s a narrative that’s already been well researched to some extent, such as this piece is Baseball History Daily.

Also noticeable in the articles about each league is the inclusion of two cities in both entities — Topeka and St. Joseph — which raises a question of whether the squads from each city were in fact in both leagues, and, correspondingly, if the presence of the two cities in both proposed circuits are a hint that what we’re dealing with were differently reported versions of the same, i.e. only one, league.

Those pontifications remain unclear and without concrete answers, However, in my next post about the trailblazing but short-lived Western colored leagues of summer 1910, I’ll focus on those two overlapping cities — Topeka and St. Joseph — that helped create the two loops —or the one loop.

Fond memories of the Duncans

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Frank Duncan Jr. (courtesy of Julian Duncan)

Here’s an email I received last month from reader Guy Provenza after I had an article about the Duncan family published in the Kansas City Star. Guy related his incredible personal experiences with the different generations of Duncans. Here’s his message:

“My name is Guy Provenza and I just read your article in the Kansas City Star about the Duncan family of the Negro Leagues. I can’t tell you how excited I was to read this! For a few years I worked with Frank Duncan III in Southfield, Mich. He was the doorman at the Radisson Hotel, and I worked for an audio-visual company located inside the hotel. We spoke daily and had lunch together at least three times a week in the cafeteria.

“I used to love his stories about Satchel Paige, Count Basie, Jackie Robinson, Charlie Parker and other Kansas City celebrities that he had known through the years. In fact, I gave Frank the news one morning that Roy Campanella had died. After he told me how close they had been, I felt like a jerk for delivering Campy’s obit to him so cavalierly.

“In 1999 I left that company and learned shortly after that Frank had passed. Since then, I have become a Negro League fanatic and tried to read everything I can about those times, especially Frank III. I have a Google alert set for ‘negro baseball,’ which is how I saw your article. So many questions I wished I could have asked Frank. I am happy to learn that Julian still lives in the Detroit area and will try to look him up.

“I can verify the stories about Frank’s modesty. He told me the same thing about being the first father-son battery that he told Brent Kelley, saying the newspapers made a bigger deal out of it than it really was.

“Frank said that Satchel liked to bring this ‘raggedy ass guitar’ he had over to the house ‘because my mom liked to sing.’ He had told me that his mom sang in a band with his uncle, George E. Lee. Typical Frank understatement! I learned after he died that his mother was Julia Lee, who not only ‘sang,’ but was invited to the White House to perform for President Truman and was quite a star in her own right!

“Please forgive me for the long email. I have never been able to track down an article that mentioned the father-son battery, but thanks to you I know to check out the New York Amsterdam News. Since looking you up online I’ve bookmarked The Negro Leagues Up Close blog and plan on reading more of it this weekend.

“Thanks again for making my day!”

Many thanks to you, Guy, for making my day with your email, and thanks for letting me post it! Keep reading if you can.

Andy Cooper and the Lone Star State

Head & shoulders posed portrait of newly inducted Hall of Famer, Andy Cooper. Cooper is often ranked 2nd only to Bill Foster among the Negro Leagues left-handed pitchers. Image is cropped from 1920 Detroit Stars 2442.89 PD

This June 3 will mark the 75th anniversary of the death of Hall of Famer and Negro Leagues legend Andy Cooper in Waco, Texas. Thus, I’ve been angling to land a magazine or newspaper assignment about that milestone in Cooper’s legacy, and to that end, I did some googling to find a few publications in Texas to which I could send pitch emails.

When I tried to enter “texas sports magazines,” one of the options the ever-friendly Google filled in for me was “texas sports hall of fame.”

“Ooh,” I thought to myself, “let’s see when Andy Cooper was inducted into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame.”

When I went to the TSHOF Web site and checked out the list of inductees, I found, much to my dismay, that Cooper isn’t in that particular Hall of Fame.

And, to my further consternation, I discovered that several other Negro League Texas natives and Cooperstown inductees — including Biz Mackey and (I thought) Joe Williams — weren’t on the list of those enshrined in the Texas Hall.

I was almost immediately incensed — and, let’s be honest, also sensing a juicy story as well — and fired off an admittedly angry and indignant e-mail to Jay Black, the TSHOF’s vice president of museum operations. The contents of my message — which was typed ever so eloquently and sent from my phone at the Dairy Queen on the Westbank Expressway in Gretna, La. — are contained herein:

“Dear Mr. Black,

“I’m an award-winning freelance journalist who is planning on writing a blog post and/or article about the fact that the three members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame — all of them, coincidentally, Negro Leaguers — are NOT in the TSHOF, which, at first glance, is a severe oversight and injustice that reflects very poorly on the TSHOF.

“I was wondering if someone with the TSHOF would like to offer comments regarding this omission so I can include the Hall’s side in my article.

“Thank you very much,

“Ryan”

First off, I readily admit that the inclusion of the term “award-winning” was absolutely self-aggrandizing and somewhat gratuitous. However, I do include such chest-puffing in many of my e-mails to both publications and possible sources so I can ramp things up and better encourage the receiver of the e-mail to write me back.

Beyond that, as I stated previously, that e-mail wasn’t exactly the most level-headed and so-called journalistically “objective” missive I’ve ever issued. (I want to note, however, that in recent years many scholars and media types, of which I probably am one, have advocated for an end to an increasingly outdated, toothless concept that defines “objective” as simply including the views of “all sides” or “both sides” in an article or broadcast. We feel that, in place of that crumbling standard, a new paradigm should be established and nurtured, one that values not just the non-critical regurgitation of information and viewpoints but also an interpretative evaluation and appraisal of that conceptions. But, of course, I digress …)

Jay Black, in response, was extremely gracious but also firmly championing his organization’s mission and efforts in this e-mail:

“Hello Ryan,

“Thanks for your email. There are eight Negro Leaguers from Texas in the National Baseball HOF. Four of these men have already been inducted into the TSHOF and there were three Negro League players on last year’s ballot. In fact, Smokey Joe Williams was inducted as part of our class of 2016. So I respectfully disagree with your premise that the TSHOF is willfully trying to exclude Negro League players.

“I could make the case that it is easier to gain entry into the National Baseball HOF than the TSHOF since we are an HOF that includes all sports – not just baseball. While I have great respect for the National Baseball HOF, just because an individual is in that HOF doesn’t mean they should automatically be in the TSHOF. Our members must go through a nomination and voting process.

“As you know, HOF voting can be subjective, with many deserving candidates lined up to get in (especially in a large state like Texas). I attend the nomination meetings and members of our selection committee have campaigned and reminded each other to vote for Negro League players. It is tough to get in since only two candidates are selected from our 12 person veterans ballot.”

Black then listed the Negro Leaguers who were in one or both of these HOFs and when they were so inducted. He also listed this year’s nominees for the Texas Hall:

   Cooperstown    TSHOF
Andy Cooper        2006
Rube Foster           1981                       1998
Biz Mackey             2006
Louis Santop          2006
Hilton Smith           2001
Willie Wells             1997                       2010
Smokey Joe
Williams                   1999                       2016
Bill Foster                1996                       1998

2016 VETERAN BALLOT NOMINEES
ANDY COOPER (deceased) – Baseball / Waco
KEN GRAY — Football / San Saba
LESTER HAYES — Football / Texas A&M University
KING HILL (deceased) – Football / Rice University
BILL HOWTON — Football / Rice University
LUCIOUS “LUKE” JACKSON — Basketball / Pan American College
DAVE MARR (deceased) – Golf / Houston
CYNTHIA POTTER – Diving / Houston
JAMES SAXTON (deceased) – Football / University of Texas
HILTON SMITH (deceased) — Baseball / Giddings
FLO HYMAN (deceased) – Volleyball / University of Houston
“SMOKEY” JOE WILLIAMS (deceased) – Baseball / Seguin

So they had three NBHOF Negro Leaguers on the ’16 ballot, and one, Joe Williams, got in, Black said.

I haven’t, in order to draw a more “apples to apples” comparison, been able to look up the national or international halls of fames in each of those other sports to see which members on the TSHOF 2016 ballot have been enshrined in their sport’s larger HOFs.

Plus, being a Negro League historian and writer, I’m manifestly at least a little biased in my original view that Texas blackball legends are getting short shrift from the Texas Hall.

Thirdly, as evidenced by the presence of five gridiron stars on that ballot, Texas is, as widely known, is bonkers over football, which has always seemed to loom and lord over the athletic scene and traditions in the Long Horn State.

Finally, Black is dead-on when noting that the Texas Hall must include all sports when it considers each year’s enshrinement class. On that note, the TSHOF ballots and votes include both genders (and, hopefully, the transgendered, but that’s surely problematic in such a diehard red, almost reactionary red state as Texas), unlike Cooperstown, which, thanks to lingering and unfortunate dearth of successful women at the highest levels of baseball, in reality has a miniscule pool of female talent from which to choose.

Given all those factors, it’s certainly understandable that all baseball figures, not just segregation-era African-American players, take a backseat to football folks in the TSHOF voting.

Which is not inherently or necessarily a bad thing.

So, the queries remain: 1) Can any sort of parallel be drawn between the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s current policy of excluding further Negro Leaguers from induction and the Texas Sports Hall of Fame’s practicality and situationally induced lack of blackball figures within its doors? and 2) Is it therefore fair to protest the lack of Negro Leaguers in the TSHOF and actively lobby for those circumstances to change?

But then, perhaps, there’s an even larger question here: Does it even really matter? Do such luminaries as Andy Cooper, Louis Santop, Biz Mackey and Hilton Smith need to be enshrined in a state athletic hall of fame to have their legacies and greatness burnished or validated? In the grand scheme of history, is it truly that important?

Those are the questions I pose to you today, and feel free to voices your thoughts either on this blog, on Facebook or via e-mail to me at rwhirty218@yahoo.com.

Now, hopefully, I’ll draw up an ensuing post that looks at Andy Cooper’s back and family roots in Texas in general and Waco in particular.

Interested in contributing? I want you!

SamAllen

Howdy all, just a quick post before the weekend. I hope everyone is well and digging spring training. I’ve been eyeing the Cards camp — I became a St. Louis fan through my cousin Cory, who lives a few minutes from the city and has been a bonkers Cards fan his entire life — and am not sure about the team’s prospects. I’ve seen some online evaluations that show optimism, and some with a more pessimistic slant. We shall see.

Anyway, for the next couple weeks I might step back a bit from Home Plate Don’t Move — I need to focus on some article deadlines and, hopefully, a couple long-term projects, including the effort to research and publicize the fact that Hall of Famer Cristobal Torriente is buried in a mass, unmarked grave in Queens. That’s something Ralph Carhart and Gary Ashwill have been helping me with.

I have a couple more posts I’m working on — I hope to have them up next week — but other than that, I’d like to publish any guest posts or photos from y’all out there. You could write about pretty much anything Negro Leagues-related, but I’m especially looking for articles about figures you think should be in Cooperstown, as well as personal narratives about your personal experiences.

If you’re interested, shoot me an email at rwhirty218@yahoo.com!

I’ll close today with the photo above of former Negro Leaguer Sam Allen. It was sent to me by Mark Aubrey, who snapped it in July 2010 at historic Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Ala. Allen played for the Raleigh Tigers, among other squads. Many thanks to Mark for sending it!

Again, I want you! Email me if you’d like to contribute something!