Friday, September 18, 2015

Captain of the ship - Andrew "Rube" Foster

Calvert, Texas is located between Bryan/College Station and Waco, on State Highway 6.  Travelling that route a few times, I remember that the main section of Calvert is slightly east of the highway.  In this small town in the central part of the “Lone Star State, Andrew “Rube” Foster was born on September 17, 1879.  Considered “the father” of Negro League baseball, Rube Foster is not given the credit deserved for his impact on professional baseball as a whole.

 Foster’s success as a league organizer and team manager overshadowed an early career as a dominant pitcher.  He was one of the best pitchers on first the Cuban X Giants and then the Philadelphia Giants, two of the best black baseball teams in the “dead ball” era of the early 20th Century.   Foster received the nickname “Rube” after defeating the Philadelphia A’s future Hall of Fame pitcher “Rube” Waddell in an exhibition game.  He then went on to become owner and manager of the Chicago American Giants, one of the most successful black teams from 1911-1919. 

 In 1920, Foster formed the first official Negro professional baseball league, the Negro National League (NNL).  It was the fulfillment of his vision patterned after Major League baseball which at that period of time due to racism banned African American and dark skinned Latino ballplayers.  Prior to the NNL, several black leagues were organized, but none operated long enough to be historically significant.

“We are the ship, all else the sea”, is what Foster said to describe the NNL.  He saw it as a ship travelling through the sea troubled by the stormy strong winds of racial segregation and discrimination.    Long term, Foster hoped the success of the NNL would highlight the talents of African American and Latino ballplayers; eventually leading to the breaking down of the racial barriers and integrating the Major Leagues. 
The league structure Foster set up for black baseball continued despite his death in 1930.   Through the racially oppressive 1920s, the worst economic depression in this country’s history during the 1930s, and the largest global military war in world history from 1939 - 1945; Negro League baseball survived.  And just as Foster hoped, it gave African Americans and dark skinned Latinos ballplayers the opportunity to professionally express their God given talent; the opportunity not given them by white organized baseball.         

Also; what Foster hoped became reality when Jackie Robinson, a former Negro League player, in 1947 became the first African American to play Major League baseball in the 20th Century.  Fifty other former Negro League players had Major League baseball careers after Robinson erased the “invisible color line”. 
Andrew “Rube” Foster was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1981.

Read more about the journey of Negro League baseball in my book “Last Train to Cooperstown:  The 2006 Baseball Hall of Fame Inductees from the Negro League Baseball Era”.  For more information, go to  or

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