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‘The Teacher’ Of The Negro Leagues
NEW HAVEN, Ct. — In the early years of the Negro Leagues, standout players like shortstop John Henry “Pop” Lloyd, pitcher Rube Foster, and outfielder Spotswood Poles were part of the league’s showcase.
However like any other professional sport, there were the several unsung everyday players that were also a part of the glue of the league.
George Alexander Sweatt was a versatile player who roamed the infields and outfields of the Negro Leagues during the decade of the 1920s. Born on December 12, 1893 in Humboldt, Kansas, the man known as “The Teacher” played for three teams (Kansas City Monarchs, Chicago American Giants, and Chicago Giants) from for seven seasons.
He became the only regular player to appear in the first four Negro League World Series with the Monarchs and the Giants (1924-27). During his professional playing years, Sweatt taught sixth grade and physical education at the Cleveland School in Coffeyville, Kansas.
In fact, sports and education was a big part of Mr. Sweatt’s development on and off the field. An all-around athlete at Humboldt High School, Sweatt played baseball on the hometown white team and later on a nearby town’s black team, the Iola Gold Devils.
He received a scholarship to attend Pittsburg Normal College (now known as Pittsburg State University) in Kansas, where he excelled in baseball, football, basketball, and track.
Sweatt was a pioneer for PSU as the school’s first African-American student-athlete to letter in four sports. He also earned numerous honors in the sprints and set a school record in the shot put in track and field for PSU.
Sweatt lettered in football in 1921, missing All-KIAC honors when injuries cut short his playing season. Sweatt also lettered in basketball in the 1920 and 1922 seasons. After completing his studies in 1922, Sweatt accepted a teaching position while he also continued to play semipro baseball.
Both of Sweatt’s careers, in education and in baseball, however, were interrupted by World War I. Sweatt was enlisted in the 816th Pioneer Infantry Division, which arrived in France only two weeks before the Armistice.
After his discharge the following year, he returned to teaching and playing semipro baseball. His big break in pro baseball came when the owner of the Kansas City Monarchs watched him play in a Pittsburg game.
Sweatt’s performance impressed J.L. Wilkinson, the Monarchs owner, who signed him to a professional contract. Sweatt joined K.C. in 1921, playing both second and third base.
He helped the Monarchs win the Negro World Series, which pitted the best team from the Negro National League against the best from the Eastern Colored League, in 1924.
Sweatt and the Monarchs were Negro World Series runners-up in 1925, and he helped the Negro National League’s Chicago American Giants win the Negro World Series in 1926 and 1927.
Sweatt retired from professional baseball in 1928 and accepted a position with the Chicago Post Office. He couldn’t stay away from baseball, however, and on weekends managed Joe Green’s Chicago Giants for a season.
He then managed a semipro team, Jimmy Hutton’s All-Stars, for six years. In 1936, Sweatt moved to Evanston, Illinois, where he was active in civic and church activities and was a Boy Scout leader.
Sweatt later moved to Los Angeles, where he became more involved in youth baseball, coaching several different teams and belonging to several coaches associations.
He retired from the postal service in 1957. But he also remained active in sports even in his later years. He would become an avid bowler who alledgedly maintained a 153 average in his seventies.
Just a few months short of his 90th birthday, Sweatt passed away in Los Angeles on July 19, 1983.
On August 27, 2005, Sweatt along with four others was inducted in the Pittsburg State University Athletic Hall of Fame.
NOTE: The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro League Baseball Leagues, The Bailey Hotel, and the Negro League Baseball Players Association contributed to this story.