Early Games and the Independent Era
On a crisp October day in 1867, nine Harrisburg men
squared off against nine visiting Philadelphians in "a match game of
ball" that grew out of a friendly invitation by the secretary of the
Monrovia Base Ball Club of Harrisburg to the newly-formed Philadelphia
Pythians. The visiting Pythians outscored the hometown Monrovians,
59-27, in this historic game, and would shortly be involved in events that
would shape the game of baseball for the next century.
This game, however, was historic for Harrisburg because it
is the first recorded game between an all Black Harrisburg baseball team
and an all Black visiting team. Baseball had grown rapidly in
popularity in the years following the Civil War, enthusiasm for the sport
being strongest with veterans who had played the game in camp during the
war. Interest immediately spread throughout the post-war population
and soon games were being organized in every community across the
country. (Knorr and Jackson)
Like most social and cultural pursuits of the period, however, these
early games were usually segregated along racial lines. Although
some integrated teams did exist, the infamous "color line" was drawn
a few months after the Monrovians-Pythians game when the application by the
Philadelphia club for admission into the National Association of Base Ball
Players was rejected by the league, which declared, "If colored clubs
were admitted there would be in all probability some division of feeling,
whereas, by excluding them no injury could result to anyone." (Knorr
and Jackson; Knutson)
While the players who made up Harrisburg's Monrovia Base Ball Club
were amateurs with other livelihoods, a few Harrisburg men began to play with
emerging professional teams in the coming decades. Jack Frye played
professionally for a Reading, Pennsylvania club in 1883, and in 1885 joined
another Harrisburg native, Clarence Williams, with Black baseball's first
professional team, the Cuban Giants. (Knorr
By the end of the 19th century, many independent Black ball clubs were
appearing in cities across the country. In Harrisburg, a young and
ambitious entrepreneur named Colonel William Strothers began making inquiries
in 1890 regarding the formation of a professional Black baseball club.
Strothers' efforts soon led to the formation of the Harrisburg Colored Giants,
which joined the existing Harrisburg Ponies, an integrated team, in playing
visiting clubs such as the Cuban Giants and Cuban X Giants at various
locations around the city, including Island Park.
Under Colonel Strothers' management, the Harrisburg Colored Giants added local
talent such as outfielder Spottswood Poles, of Harrisburg, Philadelphia
Giant outfielder John Manning, and Arthur "Buddy" Carpenter.
By the beginning of the 1920's, Strothers had crafted his Giants into a
powerful and respected team. He added Herbert A. "Rap" Dixon,
who had distinguished himself with the (Steelton, Pennsylvania) Keystone
Giants a few years earlier. In 1922, legendary outfielder Oscar
Charleston married a Harrisburg woman, Janie Blalock, and shortly thereafter decided to settle
in the capital city and take on the dual role of player/manager for the
Giants. (Knorr and
Read more about
the 1867 game between the Harrisburg Monrovians and the Philadelphia
2 of this article
the original article by Ted Knorr and Calobe Jackson.
Olympic - Tyrolean Rivalry of 1876
For more information:
"League Play and Major League Integration"
Baseball in Harrisburg: The First Game"
by Ted Knorr and Calobe Jackson, Jr.
Spottswood Poles biography and notes at "Find
a Grave.com: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=3020