Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The forgotten Philadelphia season; Hilldale and the 1925 pennant


By PATRICK GORDON | Managing Editor
October 23 2015, 1:00 PM EST.
@PGordonPBR

If you are interested in Philadelphia baseball history, particularly as it relates to the Negro Leagues, this series is for you.

Over the coming weeks, the Philadelphia Baseball Review will run a series of articles highlighting each of Hilldale's Eastern Colored League contests from the 1925 season.

Hilldale, a powerhouse in early Negro organized baseball, formed in the summer of 1910 in the borough of Darby, a community five miles southwest of downtown Philadelphia. The team won three ECL pennants and played in the first Colored World Series in 1924 before winning the Series in 1925.

In total, Hilldale played nearly 180 contests during the 1925 season. The research that follows, however, pertains only to the 58 contests accounted for in the final ECL standings. In particular, I wanted to decipher what games counted within the league standings and track day-to-day statistics from available box scores.

Prior to the start of the 1925 season, the owners of each of the eight ECL clubs (Hilldale, Harrisburg, Baltimore, Cubans, Lincoln, Wilmington, Brooklyn, and Atlantic City) reached an agreement on a 70-game schedule. The owners also agreed to limit the number of head-to-head contests between clubs to 10 with additional games counting as exhibitions.

Unfortunately, due to a lack of cooperation among the owners, the available press coverage of the ECL is far from comprehensive. Teams occasionally failed to report results to the papers, especially when they lost, and statistic tracking was shoddy at best.

For numerous reasons, the league fell short of completing a 70-game schedule. Transportation, lack of available stadiums and the folding of the Wilmington club in mid-July made it impossible for clubs to uphold the agreement.

Prior to conducting my research, I contacted baseball historian and author Neil Lanctot. His book, 'Fair Dealing & Clean Playing', details the history of the Hilldale baseball club from 1910 through 1932. He graciously shared a day-to-day schedule that he compiled, providing dates and scores for nearly all 180 Hilldale contests during 1925.

According to Lanctot's data, Hilldale faced the other seven ECL clubs 73 times. I examined corresponding box scores and articles of each of those 73 contests, searching for any mention of an official league game or an exhibition. I then tabulated Hilldale's results and compared the figures to the ECL standings regularly published in the Courier and Defender. Through this process, I was able to assemble, albeit backward, Hilldale's 1925 ECL schedule.

Compiling research on the Negro Leagues is not easy. I examined hundreds of scanned articles in academic databases and relied heavily on the black press, particularly the Baltimore Afro-American, Pittsburgh Courier, Chicago Defender, and Philadelphia Tribune.

This is a breakthrough in Negro baseball research, partly because of the void of scholarly writings examining the 1925 ECL season, but also because it chronicles Hilldale's journey in becoming Philadelphia's only Colored World Series champion.

Links to articles in the series:

Game 1 | 4/25/1925 | HILLDALE 6, Harrisburg 2
Game 2 | 5/2/1925 | HILLDALE 6, Cubans 1
Game 3 | 5/3/1925 | HILLDALE 6, Lincoln 4
Game 4 | 5/3/1925 | HILLDALE 12, Lincoln 9

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