Black History 365 – First African-American baseball player in organized professional baseball

1878:  First African-American baseball player in organized professional baseball: John W. "Bud" Fowler.

1878: First African-American baseball player in organized professional baseball: John W. “Bud” Fowler.

In 2016 for my Black History 365 series, I explore the obvious and not so obvious parts of American history that those called Black have taken part in. The things that we (Black people) have done other than be stolen from our homeland and made forced labor in a land foreign to us. I’m going to start this series by looking up the first time someone African-American did something and broke the color barrier in that activity or field. I’ll be starting with Wikipedia and working my way out:

I will be learning a lot of this as I go since I am a product of the standardized Euro/Anglo/Caucasian leaning public school system. I hope you enjoy learning with me. I’ll be going down the list chronologically as it appears in the Wikipedia article.

If you have any other sources or additional information for this topic, please share in the comments. I also welcome any and all comments and discussion. Thanks for reading!

From Wikipedia:

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.

In 1883, Fowler played for a team in Niles, Ohio; in 1884, he played for Stillwater, Minnesota, in the Northwestern League; and, in 1888, he played for a team in Terre Haute, Indiana.

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.”


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