Toledo Blue Stockings Baseball
Toledo Blue Stockings 1883
Toledo Ohio Blue Stockings
On May 1, 1884, African American baseball player, Moses "Fleetwood" Walker broke the colored barrier in baseball. He accomplished this sixty-three years before Jackie Robinson! History credits Robinson with this historic achievement, but it should be Fleetwood's claim.
The Blue Stockings was formed in 1883 and won the Northwestern League championship in 1883. In 1884 they were in the American Association League. The roster of the Blue Stockings had three notable players.
Moses "Fleetwood" Walker, Hank O'Day, and Tony Mullane. Walker and O'Day went on to be Baseball Hall of Famers. Walker in 1962 and O'Day in 2013.
Toledo has always had a love for baseball, but like other leagues, financial problems existed. Most were still recovering from the Civil War and Reconstruction. And then the depression hit the country, WW I and WW II took their tolls also.
Unfortunately, Cap Anson was only one of many bigots who had a hand in colored baseball. He was especially critical about Moses "Fleetwood" Walker.
Fifth Third Field for Toledo Mud Hens
Fifth Third Field, Mud Hens
In 2002, Fifth Third Field opened for the ToledoMud Hens, a farm, team for Detroit Tigers. The public appears to welcome their new stadium and attendance has surpassed expectations.
Its been a long way from 183 when Moses "Fleetwood" Walker played in Toledo as the first African-American to break the colored barrier.
Before Fifth Third was built, the Mud Hens used Swayne Field as home field. A lot of history came from the stadium. Even Babe Ruth played an exhibition game there on September 13, 1928, beating the Mud Hens 8-6. The highlight was a home run by the "Babe."
Babe Ruth 1928 Toledo Ohio
Moses "Fleetwood" Walker
Moses "Fleetwood" Walker
Walker was born 1856 in Mt.Plesant, Ohio, later moving to Steubenville, Ohio. He attended Oberlin College, then transferring to the University of Michigan, leading the baseball team to a 10-3 record. After graduating from Michigan, he signed with the Toledo Blue Stockings. He played the position of catcher and, with no glove or protection! As a result of playing like that, he suffered many injuries throughout his career.
While on the field, constant racial slurs and death threats were shouted at him. He suffered a season-ending injury, and in 1885, the Blue Stockings folded. His brother Weldy also played for the Blue Stockings during this time.
A game played between Chicago Cubs (then called the "White Stockings," Cap Anson refused to play because Moses was on the field.
Walker bounced around playing in the minor league when he came across Anson again. Anson rallied support and had Walker removed from the roster, and that very day the league managers agreed not to allow black players. The racism and bigotry from Anson would not be allowed today, but racism was alive and well at that period of history.
Newspapers at the time even printed an article calling Walker a "coon player."
While playing in Syracuse, NY, a group of white men threw a rock hitting Walker in the head. Walker pulled a knife in self-defense, stabbing the man. He was tried for murder and found not guilty by a jury of all white men. Walker ended up as a billiards clerk and died in 1924, Cleveland, Ohio. He is buried in Union Cemetery, Steubenville, Ohio.
Today, October 7th is celebrated as "Moses Fleetwood Walker Day.
Hank O'Day, Toledo Blue Stockings
Born Henry Martin Francis 1859 in Ireland. He was also known as the "Reverend." His parents were Irish Immigrants, and both were deaf.
Hank was inducted into the Baseball of Fame in 2013.
Tony Mullane, Toledo Blue Stockings
Mullane was born in 1859, and his nicknames were the "Count" and "Appolo of the Box." Ladies loved his exceptional good looks, and when he was scheduled to play, managers would make it 'Ladies" Day to add to their gate. On a game in Toledo, he received $50. in gold coins, a silver drinking cup, a rifle and, a quilt.
Tony made it known that he disliked Negroes and wouldn't take orders from them. He, therefore, pitched whatever he wanted. He did go on to say, "Walker was the best catcher he ever worked with. Mullane would go on to play with the Cincinnati Red Stockings for the next seven years.
After baseball, he joined the Chicago Police Department retiring in 1924. He is buried in Holy Sepulchre Catholic Cemetery, Worth, Illinois.