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They Played for the Love of the Game

Posted by Sarah , 02 June 2016 · 1,207 views

They Played for the Love of the Game More than 100 years ago Minnesota was home to one of the best baseball teams in the country. The St. Paul Colored Gophers, who in 1909 beat the Chicago-based Leland Giants for the title of “Blackball World Champions,” are just one of the teams highlighted in the new book “They Played for the Love of the Game: Untold Stories of Black Baseball in Minnesota” by Frank White.

A thoroughly researched addition to our state’s history, this title is also visually appealing with the inclusion of approximately 100 photos, including one of Prince Honeycutt, Minnesota’s presumed first black baseball player who helped form the Fergus Falls North Stars baseball club in 1873, and scorecards from the Uptown Sanitary Shop, a baseball club formed by a dry cleaning business in St. Paul in 1922.

The Negro National League, which ultimately included some of the most famous names in baseball history including Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson, was started by Chicagoan Rube Foster in 1920. When reading White’s book, one question comes to mind: with Minnesota’s prominence in the world of black baseball why weren’t they awarded a team when the league started? Perhaps it was because of an issue that still confronts us today – travel. “It was probably just too financially difficult to have a team in Minnesota,” Frank White told me recently.
“Minnesota was considered far away from the other teams.”

In today’s over stimulated world of endless varieties of entertainment, another theme of the book is the rise of baseball as America’s game – one picture from 1925 shows a girls team from the Phyllis Wheatley Settlement House in north Minneapolis. What was it about baseball that captivated a nation no matter who you were? “It allowed you to walk away from everyday challenges,” said White. “For those who played the game, there was nothing quite as satisfying as the feeling of hitting the ball flush with a wooden bat.”

White also includes a personal connection to this slice of state history – his father, Louis White, played with the Twin City Colored Giants in the 1950’s and Buck O'Neil (who gained fame after eloquently sharing his remembrances of the Negro Leagues for the PBS miniseries "Baseball") once tried to recruit him to join the Kansas City Monarchs. The annals of baseball lore run deep and the stories are seemingly endless for those who played for the love of the game.
Frank White will be doing a talk at the Hosmer Library in Minneapolis on Monday, June 27 from 6:30 - 8 pm. For more information or for future events, you can visit his website at http://www.minnesotablackbaseball.com

  • Oldgoat_MN, mikelink45 and Hosken Bombo Disco like this