A Significant Anniversary

By Howard W. Rosenberg
Updated: September 6, 2008

VIRGINIA — Even casual Chicago baseball fans may know that 1908 is when the Cubs last won the World Series. But when it comes to the history of racism in baseball, hardly anyone knows that Chicago was once the site of a one-of-a-kind moment, which took place September 6, 1908.

On that date, Adrian “Cap” Anson, the then-former Chicago National League star who today is sometimes blamed for the drawing of the sport’s color line in the 1880s — at the professional level — played with his Chicago semi-pro team in a game against Rube Foster, the then-manager and star pitcher of the Leland Giants, an all-black team in the same league.

The game ended as a 13-inning tie, with Anson and Foster as the opposing first basemen throughout. The box score of the game is arguably one of the 10 most interesting in all of baseball history; that’s because for the 1920 season, Foster would found the first of the Negro Leagues.

Anson, with his Chicago semipro team Anson’s Colts, had played for the first time against another all-black semipro team in his league, the Leland Giants, on August 22, 1908. However, the September 6th game is arguably more symbolic.

The September 6th game was played on the home field of the Leland Giants: Auburn Park, around West 77th Street. The August 22nd game was played on Anson’s field (where Anson claimed to have built the first grandstand made at least partly of steel, in the city’s history): 63rd Street and South Saint Lawrence Avenue, near the site of the 1893 World’s Fair.

Anson, who was the lone big leaguer to reach 3,000 hits before the start of the 20th century, played from 1871 to 1897, the last 22 of which with Chicago of the National League. Anson would die in 1922, two years after the founding of the first Negro League.

In a year 2000 article on the golden age of Chicago semi-pro baseball, 1906 to 1910, baseball historian Raymond Schmidt wrote, “Semiprofessional baseball provided much of the entertainment for the sports fans of the city prior to World War I.

The semipro teams associated with particular sections of the city represented big-time baseball for most Chicago fans in this era, and the years of semiprofessional baseball prior to World WarI represent the true Golden Era of the diamond sport in Chicago.

From 1906 to 1910, semipro baseball flourished in the city as never before or since. . . In addition, barriers between different types of teams had not yet solidified: major league and minor league teams from organized baseball sometimes played the semipros, and black teams regularly played white teams.” The article appeared in the Winter 2000 edition of Chicago History, a publication of the Chicago Historical Society.


On the Internet, a narrative by Schmidt, putting semi-pro ball in the context of the city’s baseball history, can be readily accessed at the following link: http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/114.html

A recent news article referring to the game, written by Rosenberg for the McClatchy-Tribune wire, can be accessed at the following link:http://www.standard.net/live/sports/133033/