For those who would like to learn more about Pittsburgh’s role in black baseball, the gold standard is Robert Peterson’s 1970 classic Only the Ball Was White, which features interviews with Cool Papa Bell among others. A short documentary by the same name is also available on YouTube. If you’re visiting Pittsburgh (and provided things are open), you’ll want to pay a visit to the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum, located in the Heinz History Center in the Strip District, which has a great display about the Grays and Crawfords.
On to the answers!
Which player did not play for both the Crawfords and Grays?
A. Cool Papa Bell B. Buck Leonard C. Satchel Paige D. Judy Johnson
First baseman Leonard played all but one year of his Negro League career with the Grays; his first year, he played for the Brooklyn Royal Giants. He was nicknamed “the black Lou Gehrig” to go along with his teammate Josh Gibson’s sobriquet “the black Babe Ruth.” Since both Grays and Crawfords ownership were very free with the money back then, there was a lot of player crossover, although in my research I found more players who only played with the Grays than those who spent most of their careers with the Crawfords.
The Grays were most closely associated with this major league team:
A. New York Yankees B. Pittsburgh Pirates C. Washington Senators D. Brooklyn Dodgers
Although based in the Pittsburgh area and playing in Forbes Field, starting in 1940 the Grays were playing half their home games in DC’s Griffith Stadium, and by 1943 were playing most of their home games there as they were outdrawing the then-pitiful Senators. After the Montreal Expos came to DC and became the Nationals, there was an internet campaign to rename the team the Grays, and several Grays can be found in the Ring of Honor at Nationals Park, not to mention a statue of Josh Gibson.
Greenlee Field, home of the Crawfords, held what distinction?
A. Oldest stadium in the Negro League B. First black-built and owned stadium C. First stadium shared by a Negro League and major league team D. First stadium used for baseball and football
Depending on your source, Pittsburgh Crawfords owner William Augustus “Gus” Greenlee was either a benevolent philanthropist or a criminal who used his baseball team to launder money. There’s ample evidence for both views, but one thing that’s for certain is that Gus Greenlee loved baseball. He built Greenlee Field, which was designed by noted African-American/Pittsburgh architect Louis Bellinger, in response to his players not being allowed to use facilities in white-owned parks such as Forbes Field.
Who was the last Pittsburgh-based Negro League player to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in the twentieth century?
A. Josh Gibson B. Martin Dihigo C. Smokey Joe Williams D. Cumberland Posey
Right-handed pitcher Williams, who spent the last part of his very impressive professional career with the Grays, was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1999. If you go by sabermetrics, as I know many of you do, he is ranked as the 55th-best all-time player between Sandy Koufax and Roy Campanella and the twelfth-best pitcher between Koufax and Bob Feller, although there are those who will say that Satchel Paige was better. Without good records, though, it just makes for a good bar argument.
Which former Homestead Gray is credited with teaching Jackie Robinson how to turn a double play?
A. Buck O’ Neil B. Oscar Charleston C. Bill Foster D. Willie Wells
Yet another Hall of Famer, Austin native Wells, aka “El Diablo” or “the Devil”, is widely considered to be the best black shortstop of his time, combining power, speed, and deadly accuracy. In addition to tutoring Robinson on the fine art of the double play, he was also the first known professional ballplayer to wear a batting helmet, sporting a construction helmet at the plate after being hit in the head and concussed in a 1942 game. The Austin Chronicle has a great article about Wells finally getting recognition, albeit nearly nine years after his 1989 death.
See you next Tuesday!