Gordon on Baseball: Philadelphia's lost black baseball stars

Biz Mackey was a member of the World Champion 1925 Hilldale club

By PATRICK GORDON | Managing Editor
April 3 2015, 7:00 PM EDT.
@PGordonPBR

I'm currently teaching a course at Temple University on sports and popular culture and recently I lectured on the importance of the black press and the role media played in the breaking of baseball's color barrier.

As always, prior to talking about such storied writers as Wendell Smith and Sam Lacy, I spent some time discussing Philadelphia's expansive history as it relates to Negro baseball. I spoke about the origins of the sport within the African-American community and highlighted the success of Philadelphia black clubs like the Orions, Excelsiors, and Pythians.

Now, for the record, I've lectured on black baseball and the Negro Leagues for more than a decade. Unfortunately, despite how fascinating I find the subject to be, I'm continually amazed at how little interest black baseball generates with today's baseball fan.

As my lecture winded down a student asked why the Phillies, in particular with their Wall of Fame, seem disinterested in honoring some of the Negro legends that played in Philadelphia.

I paused for a minute before realizing there really is no logical answer.

Considering the Phillies Wall of Fame includes several players from the Philadelphia Athletics, why should black players from the pre-integration days of baseball in Philadelphia be excluded?

You can rightfully argue that several black baseball players that spent the majority of their career in Philadelphia are better than some of those already honored on the Wall of Fame.

Thinking big picture, this isn't just a Phillies problem, but rather a Philadelphia problem. What has the city done to honor black pioneers from the diamond?

According to data released by Major League Baseball, 8.3 percent of players on 2014 opening day rosters identified themselves as African-American - down from nearly 20 percent in 1986. Thankfully, Philadelphia has people like Steve Bandura to grow baseball in the inner city, but he isn't enough.

Philadelphia needs to honor black legends like Biz Mackey, Jud Wilson, and Louis Santop. The city needs to embrace the Hilldale club and their 1925 Negro World Series championship.

In contrast to Philadelphia, the Pittsburgh Pirates have an exhibit in PNC Park that includes statues of seven Negro players who competed for the city's Homestead Grays and the Pittsburgh Crawfords, including Josh Gibson and Satchel Paige. The exhibit also includes a 25-seat theater that plays a film about Pittsburgh's history with the Negro leagues.

Currently, the only mention of Philadelphia's strong connection to Negro baseball resides on the back of the batter's eye at Citizens Bank Park in the form of an abbreviated timeline of Philadelphia baseball history.

More needs to be done, and the Phillies are in a position to lead the charge.

- The Philadelphia Baseball Review is the top baseball news source in Philadelphia, providing news coverage and analysis of all things baseball related in the Philadelphia region.

1 comment:

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