Other Free Encyclopedias » Famous Sports Stars » Baseball » Rube Foster Biography - Boyhood And Early Barnstorming Career, Moves North, Earns Nickname, Chronology, Chicago American Giants

Rube Foster - Chicago American Giants

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The facts are unclear on the year in which Foster first formed his great team the Chicago American Giants. Some sources say he changed the Leland Giants's name to American Giants as early as 1908, but most say he first formed the team in 1911, after entering into a partnership with John M. Schorling, a white tavern owner who was also baseball manager Charles Comiskey's son-in-law. This partnership allowed the American Giants to make use of the Chicago White Sox's former home at South Side Park after the white team moved into the new Comiskey Park.

Whether the Leland Giants or the American Giants, however, Foster's team in 1910 won 123 out of 129 games. No major league ball club stepped forward to respond to Foster's challenge of a series game that year. His team had narrowly lost to the Chicago Cubs in such a challenge in 1909. By 1911, the Chicago American Giants dominated semipro baseball in Chicago as well as national black baseball. They played about half of their games barnstorming and half in the Chicago City League, which included one other black team and a dozen white semipro teams.

The American Giants's popularity grew with each season. They won the Chicago semipro crown in 1911 and 1912. They enlisted Jack Johnson, heavyweight boxing champion, to give souvenirs to women fans and heavily advertised their games. While barnstorming, they traveled by private Pullman railroad car. The team wore a different set of uniforms each day and played with a variety of bats and balls. Foster was not above using certain tricks to ensure the success of his team. He reportedly froze baseballs to make them harder to hit and built slight ridges along the foul lines so bunted balls would stay within the playing field. Emulating such powerful white baseball executives as Ban Johnson and John McGraw, Foster paid his players well, demanded top performance from them, and enticed new players with the promise of prestige and the best in travel amenities. But for the color of his skin, Foster would likely have equaled his two colleagues in professional stature.

Some of the Chicago American Giants players who have since become baseball legends themselves were James "Cool Papa" Bell, Willie Wells, and Oscar Charleston. Many of the American Giants were known as "racehorses" because they could sprint a hundred yards in less than ten seconds. Foster continued to pitch for the team and developed a technique of bunt-and-run for his batters that nearly always led to successful plays. The fans, both black and white, loved the Giants. According to Michael L. Cooper in Playing America's Game: The Story of Negro League Baseball, one Sunday in 1911 when all three Chicago teams played at home, the Giants drew some 11,000 fans, the White Sox 9,000, and the Cubs 6,000. The American Giants won black baseball championships in 1914 and 1917 and shared the 1915 championship with the New York Lincoln Stars. They also won the California Winter League crown in 1915, competing with white major leaguers following the regular season. In 1916, with Foster still pitching for them at age 35, the Giants won the Colored World Series against the Brooklyn Royal Giants. By 1918, Foster was paying his players $1,700 a month, yet some Eastern teams enticed them away for more money.

Related Biography: Baseball Executive Ban Johnson

Byron Bancroft "Ban" Johnson is known as the founder of baseball's American League. He defined the role of baseball executive during the 1890s and early 1900s and earned the title "the Czar of Baseball" during his term on the National Commission, from 1903 to 1920. He was president of the American League from 1901 to 1927.

Born January 5, 1864, in Cincinnati, Ohio, the son of a school administrator, Johnson played baseball at Marietta College. He entered the University of Cincinnati Law School but did not complete his degree, instead becoming a sportswriter and then sports editor for the Cincinnati Commercial-Gazette.

Johnson and his close friend Charlie Comiskey, manager of the Cincinnati Reds, talked often of ways to improve baseball, and in 1894 Johnson was hired as president of the Western League on Comiskey's recommendation. After Comiskey left the Reds, he joined Johnson, and the two began expanding the league's teams and changed its name to the American League (AL) in 1900. One year later, the league had major status, and by 1903 its teams were competing with the National League (NL) in the World Series.

Johnson was known as a shrewd, imaginative, vain, stubborn, hard-driving executive with rigorous standards. He persuaded millionaires to finance his teams, brought order to rowdy play on the field, garnered respect for umpires, appointed managers, traded players, arranged travel schedules, and brought publicity and respectability to baseball through such tactics as having President William Howard Taft throw out the ball on opening day.

However, in time Johnson's iron rule sat poorly with American League owners. The infamous "Chicago Black Sox" scandal, in which players were accused of gambling fixes in 1919, led to an investigation and the resulting abolition of the National Commission. Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis was appointed Commissioner of Baseball, and although Johnson remained president of the American League, his power was limited. He resigned from the league in 1927 in ill health and died from complications of diabetes in 1931. He was named to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1937.

Rube Foster - Related Biography: Baseball Executive Ban Johnson [next] [back] Rube Foster - Chronology

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almost 3 years ago

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