Captain of the Ship – Andrew “Rube” Foster

foster

Calvert, Texas is located between Bryan/College Station and Waco, on State Highway 6. Travelling that route a few times, I remember that the main section of Calvert is slightly east of the highway. In this small town in the central part of the “Lone Star State, Andrew “Rube” Foster was born on September 17, 1879. Considered “the father” of Negro League baseball, Rube Foster is not given the credit deserved for his impact on professional baseball as a whole.

Foster’s success as a league organizer and team manager overshadowed an early career as a dominant pitcher. He was one of the best pitchers on first the Cuban X Giants and then the Philadelphia Giants, two of the best black baseball teams in the “dead ball” era of the early 20th Century.   Foster received the nickname “Rube” after defeating the Philadelphia A’s future Hall of Fame pitcher “Rube” Waddell in an exhibition game. He then went on to become owner and manager of the Chicago American Giants, one of the most successful black teams from 1911-1919.

In 1920, Foster formed the first official Negro professional baseball league, the Negro National League (NNL).  It was the fulfillment of his vision patterned after Major League baseball which at that period of time due to racism banned African American and dark-skinned Latino ball players. Prior to the NNL, several black leagues were organized, but none operated long enough to be historically significant.

“We are the ship, all else the sea”, is what Foster said to describe the NNL. He saw it as a ship travelling through the sea troubled by the stormy strong winds of racial segregation and discrimination.   Long term, Foster hoped the success of the NNL would highlight the talents of African American and Latino ball players; eventually leading to the breaking down of the racial barriers and integrating the Major Leagues.

The league structure Foster set up for black baseball continued despite his death in 1930. Through the racially oppressive 1920s, the worst economic depression in this country’s history during the 1930s, and the largest global military war in world history from 1939 – 1945; Negro League baseball survived. And just as Foster hoped, it gave African Americans and dark-skinned Latinos ball players the opportunity to professionally express their God-given talent; the opportunity not given them by white organized baseball.

Also; what Foster hoped became reality when Jackie Robinson, a former Negro League player, in 1947 became the first African American to play Major League baseball in the 20th Century. Fifty other former Negro League players had Major League baseball careers after Robinson erased the “invisible color line”.

Andrew “Rube” Foster was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1981.

 

Read more about the journey of Negro League baseball in my book “Last Train to Cooperstown: The 2006 Baseball Hall of Fame Inductees from the Negro League Baseball Era”. For more information, go to www.klmitchell.com or http://booklaunch.io/kevinlmitchell/last-train-to-cooperstown.

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2 responses

  1. you write ” Rube Foster is not given the credit deserved for his impact on professional baseball as a whole.” – yet you don’t say by whom, or give any evidence of his not being given credit. Indeed, the article credits him for alot – so… are you arguing against yourself ????

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    1. Great response! My intent was not to argue against myself. Most, not all, baseball fans younger than baby-boomer age may not be aware of Foster and his accomplishments. Branch Rickey along with Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, and the other former players Negro League baseball that first went into the Major Leagues deservingly get notice for erasing the “invisible color line”. I believe Foster should get more mention for his role. It was the league structure he set up and which was maintained that prepared Robinson and the other players for their Major League success.

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