Black History: Special Delivery!!
Formed in 1885, the Cuban Giants were the first African American professional baseball club in the United States. The team was formed at the Argyle Hotel in Babylon, New York by Frank P. Thompson, a waiter at the hotel. It was comprised of African American players. Sources differ on whether hotel staff comprised the team or whether it was a mix of players from the hotel and other cities. The team was initially assembled to provide entertainment to hotel guests. The Cuban Giants were highly successful defeating most of its opponents including white teams.
The team’s success attracted the attention of promoter, Walter Cook. Originally called the “Babylon Black Panthers”, Cook changed the team’s name to the Cuban Giants in an attempt to avoid racial tension. It is believed that none of the players were actually Cuban. The Cuban Giants were a dominant force for over twenty years; defeating both African American and white teams. Some white teams refused to play the Cuban Giants because they did not want to be beaten by an African American team. The team was known for its flair and athleticism on the field; with one writer referring to them as the “Harlem Globetrotters of Baseball”. Notable players on its roster include Frank Grant, Sol White, and Bud Fowler. Fowler was considered the first African American player to be paid by a white team.
In 1887 and 1888 the Cuban Giants were the “World Colored Champions”. Many other teams attempted to imitate the Cuban Giants as well as adopting the name “Cuban” as part of their team name. Once again, this was done to attract white fans that might not be drawn to the games if they knew the team was African American. Ownership of the team changed hands multiple times. The National Baseball League was integrated in 1947 when Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Cuban Giants preceded Robinson’s admission into the National Baseball League by almost 70 years.