A True ‘Foot Soldier’

By Tony McClean, BASN Editor In Chief
Updated: July 16, 2005

Cowan “Bubba” Hyde

NEW HAVEN, Ct. (BASN) — In every sport, be it baseball, football, or basketball, players come in many different categories. There are the ones that transcend their sport with either their god-given ability or immense talent.

There are also the personalities who are memorable because of a single event or single moment that can be transfixed forever in the hearts and minds of fans, opponents, and the critics.

And finally, there are the foot soldiers. While they may not be as well remembered as the superstars or the personalities, they still have a strong and special place in the grand scheme of things.

The history and legacy of the Negro Leagues are no different in this vein. For every Satchell Paige or Josh Gibson, there are several foot soldiers whose contributions on and off the field stand as a testament to the sport.

One such foot solidier came from the small town of Pontotoc, Mississippi. Cowan F. Hyde toiled in the Negro Leagues for over twenty years. Known affectionately as “Bubba” by his peers, the 5-foot-8 outfielder played for six different teams.

However, the team that he was most identified with was the Memphis Red Sox. Hyde got his first shot with Memphis in 1924 at the age of 14. That stint would end quickly as the youngster developed a serious case of homesickness.

Hyde attended Rust College in his native Mississippi. He would later transfer to Morris Brown College in Atlanta. Despite his size, the diminutive Hyde would play and excel in both baseball and football for the Wolverines.

When Hyde resumed his baseball career, he returned to play for Memphis and developed into one of the league’s best leadoff hitters. A exceptional base runner, he excelled as an outfielder and filled in at times at second base for player-manager Ted “Double Duty” Radcliffe in the late 30′s and early 40′s.

In 1938, Hyde helped lead the Red Sox past the Kansas City Monarchs to a first half title in the Negro American League. Memphis would go to win an aborted title that season as they defeated the Atlanta Black Crackers in a playoff.

Hyde who also played with the Birmingham Black Barons, Houston Eagles, Chicago American Giants, Cincinnati Tigers, and Indianapolis Athletics, was also a two-time (1942 and 1946) All-Star. He also briefly played in the Mexican League in 1940.

Ten years later, Hyde had an opportunity to join the majors in a tryout with the Boston Braves. While attending training camp that spring, Hyde’s wife would go into labor. Without thinking twice, he would leave camp to be with his wife.

While the decision cost him a shot at the majors, Hyde’s career was far from over. In fact, over the next five years, Hyde became a baseball vagabond playing in various leagues throughout the United States and Canada.

During that stretch, Hyde hit at least .300 every season. The high was a .348 mark for the Elmwood Giants of the Mandak League in 1951. He also barnstormed during the winter playing in exhibitions against some of the best pitchers in the majors including Cleveland Indian Hall of Famer Bob Feller.

When his career finally ended, Hyde still remained an active person. But his baseball exploits weren’t forgotten by his peers. In 1997, he became one of the first players inducted into the Negro Leagues Hall of Fame.

At the age of 95, Hyde passed away on November 20, 2003. To this day, one of Hyde’s uniforms is still prominently displayed at the Negro Leagues Museum in Kansas City. A lasting tribute to his career and his contributions.

Hyde’s humble, yet brilliant career is a tribute to the many foot soldiers of sport that have come before, during, and since Bubba’s time in the sun.

NOTE: The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues and Mudville Baseball all contributed to this story.