Tuesday, April 3, 2018

1988 Pittsburgh Pirates Negro League Stars (Part 1 of 4)

I was fortunate to find this small set of Negro League Stars available on eBay recently.  The 20-card set was team-issued by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1988, in celebration of the Pittsburgh-area Negro Leagues teams, the Homestead Grays and the Pittsburgh Crawfords.  The cards are perforated, and appear to have been given out as a sheet at a game on September 10, 1988.

The set came to my attention while searching COMC for cards of Judy Johnson.  On COMC, cards from the set are kind of expensive, so I'm glad to have found a complete set on eBay.  The set wasn't listed on Trading Card Database, so I'm in the process of submitting it to them.

I want to do a reasonable job showing each card in the set, so I'm breaking the 20 cards up into 4 posts, showing 5 at a time today, this Thursday, next Tuesday, and next Thursday.
#1, Andrew "Rube" Foster.
Card back.
The front of the cards have a logo saying "A Celebration of History Saluting Negro League Baseball September 10, 1988."  The card backs have the Pirates logo, and show that they're copyrighted by the Pirates.  The text on the back is written by Rob Ruck, who is currently Professor of History at University of Pittsburgh, specializing in U.S. history, sports history, and Pittsburgh history, and author of several books.

Rube Foster was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1981.  Foster was a successful pitcher, with the Philadelphia Cuban X-Giants and the Philadelphia Giants, among other teams.  But he's really most important as an organizer -- he founded the Negro National League in 1920.  With the NNL in place, conditions improved for players, with higher salaries and better travel.  He had health problems starting around 1925, and died in 1930; the league wasn't the same without him, and fell apart by 1931.
#2, 1913 Homestead Grays.
Homestead is a town immediately outside Pittsburgh, most famous, I'm sure, for the Homestead Strike.  The Homestead Grays operated for 38 seasons, playing many of their games in Pittsburgh, and even somewhat moving to Washington, DC towards the end of their days in the 1940s.  They disbanded in May, 1951, after the integration of Major League Baseball.  When Major League Baseball honors the Negro Leagues, the Grays are remembered both by the Pirates and the Nationals these days.
#3, Cum Posey and the 1943 Homestead Grays.
Cum Posey was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2006, under the auspices of the Committee on African-American Baseball.  I don't know anything about early basketball or segregated basketball, but he apparently was also a big figure there, and is also in the Basketball Hall of Fame!  Posey owned the Homestead Grays for many years, and with his leadership, they made it through the Great Depression and thrived.
#4, 1926 Pittsburgh Crawfords.
The other Pittsburgh team in the Negro Leagues was the Pittsburgh Crawfords.  The Crawfords operated from 1931-1940, in Pittsburgh from 1931-1938, then in Toledo in 1939, and in Indianapolis in 1940.  They had a comeback in Pittsburgh from 1945-1946.  Many great players played for the Crawfords, including Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, and Cool Papa Bell.
#5, William "Gus" Greenlee and the 1936 Pittsburgh Crawfords.
The owner of the Crawfords was Gus Greenlee, who founded the second Negro National League.  He built a stadium, Greenlee Field, for the Crawfords to play at; most Negro League teams didn't have their own parks.  He wasn't really a baseball guy, but was a businessman and racketeer.  He stayed with baseball while the business was good, but when most of his strong players left, he folded the team and razed the stadium.

Thanks for reading!  The next five cards will be posted on Thursday.

No comments:

Post a Comment