Walker, Moses Fleetwood

Little-known Fleet Walker was first black in major leagues Walker played in 42 major-league games in 1884

The next time you run across a baseball know-it-all, ask him this trivia question: "Who was the first black player in the Major

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Format: Paperback Publisher: Paul E. Rieger Sylvania, OH 1908, 1993 Associated Dealer: Archer's Used and Rare Books
OUR HOME COLONY: A Treatise on the Past, Present and Future of the Negro Race in America Walker, Moses Fleetwood

Leagues?" If he answers "Jackie Robinson" you've got him. The correct answer is Moses Fleetwood Walker, who played for Toledo in the American Association, then a major league, in 1884. Fleet Walker, as he was known, was the regular catcher for Toledo in 1883, when it played in the Northwestern League, a minor league. In 1884 the team was admitted into the American Association and Walker remained the catcher. He caught 42 games that year before an injury forced him to the sidelines. His brother, Welday, an outfielder joined him that season for five games. Most accounts say the fans accepted Walker, except in Louisville, Ky., and Richmond, Va. According to the biographical encyclopedia, The Ballplayers, his teammates at least pitching ace Tony Mullane appreciated his talents. But Mullane didn't care for Walker personally. "(Walker) was the best catcher I ever worked with, but I disliked a Negro and whenever I had to pitch to him I used to pitch anything I wanted without looking at his signals," Mullane said. Toledo released Walker at the end of the 1884 season, but it didn't matter much. The team folded soon after. Walker played minor league ball with several teams, and eventually caught on with Newark in the International League, a minor league, in 1887. He was joined on the team by black pitcher George Stovey, and they became the first all-black battery in organized baseball. Having a black player on the team, regardless of the town or the player's talent, led to controversy. In 1883, while Toledo was still in a minor league, the major league Chicago White Stockings scheduled an exhibition game against them. The legendary Cap Anson led the White Stockings, and he protested playing on the same field as a black man. But Toledo stood firm and Anson had to play against Walker. But in 1887, when the White Stockings played an exhibition game against Newark, Anson got his way. Walker and Stovey were benched, and for a short time the International League banned blacks. Walker played two more seasons, finishing in 1889 with Syracuse, the champion of the International League. After baseball, Walker used his college education to launch a career as an author and newspaper publisher (he used his writing talents to advocate black emigration to Africa). Stovey nearly made it to the National League in 1887 when John Montgomery Ward, owner of the New York franchise, tried to buy him. Again, Anson's protests prevailed. Other black players continued to pursue their baseball dreams in the minors for several more years. From 1889 to 1891, an all-black team played in several minor leagues. Bud Fowler wasprobably the first black to play professional baseball when he appeared for the minor league New Castle, Pa., team in 1872. He continued to play until 1895. The last known black player in professional baseball before Jackie Robinson was Bert Jones, a pitcher in the Kansas State League in 1898. Several other players nearly won the distinction of integrating the modern-era major leagues in the early 1900s. New York Giants manager John McGraw tried several times unsuccessfully to sign black players. He once went so far as trying to pass off his new second baseman as "Chief Tokahoma," a full-blooded Cherokee. The Chief never lasted beyond spring training when it was discovered that he was Charley Grant, an African-American. The discovery was made by none other than Cap Anson. Bill Veeck, the often controversial owner of several major league teams, attempted to buy the Philadelphia Phillies in 1943 with the intention of integrating the team with star Negro League catcher Josh Gibson. The deal fell through because of the controversy surrounding integration. So it wasn't until 1946 when the Brooklyn Dodgers signed Jackie Robinson, John Wright and Roy Partlow that African-Americans had the opportunity to play in the minor leagues. In 1947 Robinson became the first black player of the modern ear to play in the major leagues. But he was only the third behind Fleet and Welday Walker to play in a major league game..