A Tragic Tale of Prejudice

By Tony McClean, BASN Staff Writer
Updated: June 25, 2005

NEW HAVEN, Ct. (BASN) — At the peak of his career, righthander Porter Moss was considered one of the finest pitchers in Negro League baseball.

The Cincinnati native, born on June 10, 1910, was lucky enough to begin his pro baseball career in his home town team.

A product of West Virginia State College, the man known to many as “Ankleball” was a standout softball player in the Queen City. His unique, submarining motion caught the eye of many baseball scouts.

His career, which included three trips to the East-West All-Star Classic, began in 1934 with the Cincinnati Tigers. The Tigers, charter members of the Negro American League, were founded by another Cincinnati native DeHart Hubbard, the first black to win a individual gold medal in the Olympics.

Nearly 10 years after making his debut, Moss’ life would needlessly be snuffed out due to two acts of recklessness and prejudice.

Acquired by Memphis in 1938, Moss helped lead the Red Sox to the first-half championship of the Negro American League. Memphis was later declared league champs after defeating the Atlanta Black Crackers.

In 1944, the 5-foot-11 hurler was enjoying a another fine season (8-6 with a 2.34 ERA) with the Red Sox. Little did Moss or his teammates know of what tragic events would take place on June 15 of that year. En route to a game in Tennessee, the team bus broke down forcing them to take the train.

According to reports, a disorderly man was on the train causing a ruckus with passengers. He was approached by the the train’s porter and conductor about the ruckus.

The man would pull a gun on the officials before he would leave the train. As the train was leaving, the man shot randomly at the train on the outside. One of the stray bullets would hit Moss in the stomach.

He struggled to the next coach as he was gasping for air and holding his bloody stomach. His teammates quickly stretched out their uniforms for Moss to lay on until the next train stop. The next station in Waverly, Tennessee stated that Moss could not be helped.

The team was told that the town had no doctors or ambulances.

The next stop in Bruceton, Moss was given an injection by a doctor. But he would also in turn tell the team that this town had no hospital facilities and he would have to try the next town.

As Moss continued to bleed and suffer, the next stop in Lexington would also claim to not have any hospital facilities. It wasn’t until the train reached the city of Jackson that Moss would finally be taken for his wounds.

Unfortunately, it would prove to be too late for Moss. Nearly 12 hours after he was shot, Moss was given emergency surgery for his gunshot wounds. However at 6 a.m. the next morning, Porter Moss died at the age of 34.

Much like the senseless death of Lyman Bostock some 40 years later, Moss would be killed during the prime of his career. There’s no telling the kind of history that could have been written by the right-hander.

While his death is another reminder of how precious life is, Moss will also be remembered as a great athlete and one of the many pioneers that make it possible for us to enjoy the great Black ballplayers of the past and present.

NOTE: The Complete Book of Baseball’s Negro Leagues, pitchblackbaseball.com, and The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro League Baseball all contributed to this story.