Since there are so many facets of the history that people of African descent have made in this country, I’ve decided to continue my “Black History 365″ series from my poetry blog here on my AfrocentriqueAZ blog. I’ll be posting a new “First Black” every Wednesday. This week is John W. “Bud” Fowler
John W. “Bud” Fowler (March 16, 1858 – February 26, 1913) was an African-American baseball player, field manager, and club organizer. He is the earliest known African-American player in organized professional baseball; that is, the major leagues and affiliated minor leagues. He played more seasons and more games in organized baseball than any African-American until Jackie Robinson played his 11th season in 1956.
Fowler was “born John W. Jackson, the son of a fugitive hop-picker and barber” (Riley 1994, 294). In 1859, his family moved from Fort Plain, New York, to Cooperstown, and he learned baseball there. Why he selected the name Bud Fowler is unknown. According to biographer L. Robert Davids, he gained the nickname “Bud” because he called the other players by that name.
The earliest known newspaper identification of Fowler as a player is in April 1878, when he pitched for a team in Chelsea, Massachusetts. Later that month, he pitched a game for the Lynn Live Oaks against Boston of the National League. He finished that season with the Worcester club. Largely supporting himself as a barber, he continued to play for teams in New England and Canada for the next four years.
Cooperstown, N.Y. declared April 20, 2013 “Bud Fowler Day,” dedicating a plaque and presenting an exhibit by The Cooperstown Graduate Program in his honor at Doubleday Field. The street leading to the Field has also been named “Fowler Way.”