“Salute to the Negro Leagues: The Homestead Grays

“Salute to the Negro Leagues: The Homestead Grays

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Another Chapter In Our Month-Long Salute to the Negro Leagues: The Homestead Grays

We can’t let the month of February end without a salute to the Homestead Grays, one of the great teams of the Negro Leagues. Check out this great Grays lineup. No wonder they won nine Negro League pennants in a row! L-R: Jelly Jackson, Ray Battle, Edward Robinson, Sam Bankhead, Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard, Dave Hoskins, Jerry Benjamin, “Cool Papa” Bell.

The Homestead Grays were founded in 1912 by Cumberland Posey and remained in continuous operation for 38 seasons. The team was originally based in Homestead, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh. By the 1920s, the team retained the name “Homestead” but crossed the Monongahela River to play all home games in Pittsburgh at the Pittsburgh Pirates’ home Forbes Field and the Pittsburgh Crawfords’ home Greenlee Field.

From 1940 until 1942, the Grays played half of their home games in Washington, D.C.. As attendance at their games in the nation’s capital grew, by 1943 the Grays were playing more than two-thirds of their home games there. The club then adopted the Washington, D.C. area as its “home away from home” and played its “home” games” at Washington’s Griffith Stadium, the home park of the then-Washington Senators. During these games, they were alternatively known as the Washington Grays or Washington Homestead Grays.

The Grays joined the American Negro League in 1929, but that league lasted only one season. The team operated independently again until 1932, when Posey organized the ill-fated East-West League, which also collapsed before completing its first and only season.

Posey then entered his Grays in the Negro National League in 1935. With the near-collapse of the Pittsburgh Crawfords, former Grays’ star Josh Gibson returned to the club in 1937, and combined with slugger Buck Leonard to power the Grays to nine consecutive (and a total of ten) Negro National League Championships and three Negro League World Series titles. Vic Harris managed the Grays during their years between 1935 and 1948, and piloted Homestead to eight pennants. He guided his team to six consecutive pennants from 1937 through 1942; in 1945 and 1948, and led the 1948 team to the Negro League World Series championship. The 1943 and 1944 Negro League World Series titles came under “Candy Jim” Taylor. Following the collapse of the Negro National League after the 1948 season, the Grays struggled to continue as an independent club, and ultimately disbanded at the close of the 1950 season.

Some of the greatest stars in Negro League history played for the Grays, and these “alums” have been inducted into the Hall of Fame: “Cool Papa” Bell, Ray Brown, Oscar Charleston, Martin Dihigo, Bill Foster, Josh Gibson, Judy Johnson, Buck Leonard, Smokey Joe Williams, and Willie Wells. In addition, founder-owner Cumberland Posey is also in the Hall of Fame.

-Gary Livacari

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Photo Credits: All from Google search

Information: Excerpts edited from the Homestead Grays Wikipedia page.

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I'm a baseball historian who also loves to write. My forte is identifying ballplayers in old photos, and my specail interest is the Dead Ball Era.

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