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” entry every Wednesday. This week is the first African American to play professional baseball at the major-league level: Moses Fleetwood Walker. (I thought it was Jackie Robinson too! Read on!)
Moses Fleetwood “Fleet” Walker (October 7, 1856 – May 11, 1924) was an American baseball player, inventor, and author. He is credited by some with being the first African American to play Major League Baseball. Walker played one season as the catcher of the Toledo Blue Stockings, a club in the American Association. He then played in the minor leagues until 1889, when professional baseball erected a color barrier that stood for nearly 60 years. After leaving baseball, Walker became a businessman and advocate of Black nationalism.
Walker was born in Mount Pleasant, Ohio, the son of Dr. Moses W. Walker, the first African-American physician in Mount Pleasant, and his wife, a white woman. During his childhood, his family moved from Mount Pleasant, to Steubenville. Walker was educated in the black schools, until the schools in Steubenville were integrated. Both Moses and his brother Weldy attended Steubenville High School. He enrolled in Oberlin College in 1878 and played on the college’s first varsity baseball team in the spring of 1881. Walker was a star catcher for Oberlin.
Walker started in college ball and then minor leagues before joining the major leagues. He returned to minor leagues before the color line was drawn in baseball. After his sports career Walker was a Business owner and inventor. Walker applied for patents on several inventions for moving-picture equipment and even published a weekly newspaper. Also in 1891, Walker received patents for an exploding artillery shell. He had an incident where he was attacked and charged for murder when he defended himself. Fortunately he was acquitted. He is also known for his activism and politics as a supporter of Black Nationalism. He died on May 11, 1924, in Cleveland, Ohio, and is interred at Union Cemetery in Steubenville, Ohio. (Read the full wiki article for more details on the facets of his life)
SIDE NOTE IN THE WIKI ARTICLE:
Walker has traditionally been credited as the first African-American major league player. However, research in the early 21st century by the Society for American Baseball Research indicates William Edward White, who played one game for the Providence Grays in 1879, may have been the first.
Regardless, if White only played one game in majors, Walker deserves the honor in history in my opinion
WIKIPEDIA SOURCE LINKS:
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference, or Baseball-Reference (Minors)
- Negro League Baseball Players Association
- Baseball Hall of Fame
- Fleetwood Walker Honor Bill