Rube Foster – The Father of Black Baseball

2020 is the 100 year anniversary of the National Negro Leagues. On Friday, February 13, 1920, Rube Foster and 11 others walked into Paseo YMCA in Kansas City with one goal in mind: create a professional baseball league for black players that rivaled the Major Leagues. Foster already had made a name for himself as the owner of the Chicago American Giants. The Chicago American Giants were the most recognizable all black team of the era.

By Sunday,February 15, 1920, Foster got all the owners to sign the league papers and all eight teams were official. The eight teams were as follows: the Chicago American Giants, Kansas City Monarchs, Detroit Stars, Cuban Stars, St. Louis Giants, Indianapolis ABCS, Dayton Marcos, and Chicago Giants. By the time they left the YMCA, all owners had agreed to the bylaws, constitution, player selection, and elected Foster president.

Who is Rube Foster?

Rube Foster was born Andrew Foster in Calvert, Texas in 1879. He left school in eight grade in hopes to become a professional baseball player. As the story goes, 17 year old Foster beat star Philadelphia Athletics pitcher, Rube Waddell. It was after this that he earned his nickname, Rube. At this time, he was making $40 a month playing for the Chicago Leland Giants. Not much is known about black baseball during this time, but Rube Foster was surely known. It is said that he won 44 games in a row in 1902. In addition, Christy Mathewson learned his screwball from Foster. Foster was one of the best pitchers in the world at the time, but because of his skin color, not many people knew it.

Baseball Contributions

Foster’s impact on the game goes way beyond anything we learned in sport history class. He was known to use unconventional strategies (for the time) to beat his opponents as manager of the Leland Giants,. Foster often used the hit-and-run, the drag bunt, the double steal, and the suicide squeeze. All of these are prominent components to today’s game. 

In addition to all of his on field contributions, Foster did everything he could to grown the game. One goal he had was to get each member of the National Negro League their own ballpark. He knew the teams had a much better chance to thrive if they had their own park to call home. Ultimately, he fell short of this goal, but with Foster at the helm, the National Negro League took off. 

Interracial Play

MLB Commissioner, Kennesaw Mountain Landis, did not want his teams being shown up by the Negro League teams. Therefore, he banned MLB teams from playing them while in uniform. Babe Ruth openly defied this order and Landis handed down a 40 game suspension and a $3,700 fine on Ruth. Ruth continued to defy the commissioner and suggested that Landis could “go jump in a lake.”

Foster’s Lasting Impact

Furthermore, Foster wanted to spread black baseball around the country. His leadership style led to some controversy, but there is no question that the league was successful under his leadership. Unfortunately, Foster did not live to see integrated baseball as he passed away in 1930. The National Negro League disbanded in 1931 with the Great Depression. However, the league made a comeback just a few years later. It remained until Major League Baseball integrated in the 1940s. In addition, the Negro Leagues certainly had a ton of talent that included 16 hall of famers. One of those was Oscar Charleston. The Hall of Fame welcomed Foster in 1981.

Final Thoughts

2020 is the centennial celebration of the creation of the National Negro League. The Paseo YMCA was transformed into a research center in honor of Buck O’Neil. The Center is located just around the corner from the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. Foster was a giant in stature and in personality. Foster needs to be celebrated for what he did for the game of baseball. Not only did he change the way the game was played on the field, but also, he grew the game for black players. With that contribution, Foster will forever be known as the Father of Black baseball.

Here is a link to an article from The Undefeated where I got my information.

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