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Rube Foster - Moves North, Earns Nickname

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In 1902, Foster moved to Chicago, where he joined the Chicago Union Giants, better known as the Leland Giants for owner Frank Leland, a veteran of black baseball. The same year, he moved to Philadelphia and switched to E. B. Lamar's Union Giants, or Cuban Giants. Around this time he outpitched the Philadelphia Athletics's star pitcher Rube Waddell in an exhibition game, earning himself the nickname "Rube" as a trophy. It would stick with him for the rest of his life.

In 1903 he switched to a rival Philadelphia team, the Cuban X-Giants, pitching that fall in black baseball's first World Series, which the X-Giants won five games to two. Legend has it that the same year McGraw asked Foster to teach his "fadeaway" screwball pitch to his New York Giants pitchers Christy Mathewson, Iron Man McGinnity, and Red Ames. Soon afterward, the Giants rose from last place in the league to second.

In 1904, Foster and most of the X-Giants team switched back to the Union Giants and won the three-game World Series over their former team. Statistics on Foster are often missing or sketchy and the truth is hard to determine, but for 1905 he is noted to have won 51 out of 56 games. Unhappy with his pay by 1906, Foster left Philadelphia to rejoin the Leland Giants in Chicago, where he offered to both play for and manage the team. Bringing seven of his best players with him, including power hitters John Henry Lloyd, Grant "Home Run" Johnson, and Pete Hill, Foster persuaded Frank Leland to fire his team members and hire Foster's. The new team won the Chicago semipro title in 1907, winning 110 out of 120 games, with 48 consecutive wins. In a postseason series against the Chicago City All-Stars, a white team that hired major and minor league players, Foster pitched four winning games, and his team finished first.


1879 Born in Calvert, Texas
1896 Begins pitching with the traveling Waco Yellow Jackets, at age 17
1901 Joins the Chicago Union Giants, also known as the Leland Giants
1902 Switches to the Union Giants of Philadelphia
1902 Outpitches white star Rube Waddell of the Philadelphia Athletics in an exhibition game, earning himself the nickname "Rube" as a trophy
1903 Joins the Cuban X-Giants, also of Philadelphia and helps the team win the first black World Series
1904 Rejoins the Union Giants and helps them win World Series over the X-Giants
1907 Joins the Leland Giants as both manager and player, bringing with him seven teammates; persuades owner Frank Leland to fire some of his players and hire Foster's
1911 Forms partnership with John M. Schorling and creates Chicago American Giants, a team Foster called the greatest he ever assembled
1919 Race riots erupt in Chicago and other cities
1919 Calls meeting of best black ball clubs in Midwest and proposes formation of Negro National League, to be governed by National Association of Colored Professional Base Ball Clubs
1920 Foster presents constitution and incorporation documents to owners of black ball clubs to form eight-team Negro National League; Southern Negro League is formed later in year
1922 Negro League teams barnstorm in Japan
1923 Eastern Colored League is formed
1924 NNL Kansas City Monarchs beat ECL Philadelphia Hilldale Club in official Negro World Series
1925 Is exposed to gas leak in Indianapolis; health begins to fail
1926 Is placed in Illinois state asylum at Kankakee after nervous breakdown
1928 Schorling sells American Giants to white florist William E. Trimble
1930 Foster dies of heart attack; 3,000 attend funeral in Chicago
1981 Is inducted into Baseball Hall of Fame

Foster's pitching skills were by this time so finely tuned that Hall of Famer Honus Wagner once called him "one of the greatest pitchers of all time … smartest pitcher I've ever seen." Chicago Cubs manager Frank Chance called him "the most finished product I've ever seen in the pitcher's box." Foster was a big man, standing six feet four inches tall and weighing between 224 and 260 pounds. Although the fans loved him, many players were said to dislike or even fear him because he "engaged in personalities" when he pitched and often carried his Texas six-guns. He unnerved players by smiling and appearing jovial and unconcerned on the field. He often distracted batters and tricked them into striking out. His searing fastball and powerful underhand screwball made him a star pitching attraction of black baseball and the envy of many white pitchers.

Rube Foster - Chronology [next] [back] Rube Foster - Boyhood And Early Barnstorming Career

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