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Friday, April 16, 2021

The player who nearly integrated baseball in 1905

“When you say, ‘William Clarence Matthews was rumored to be breaking the color barrier in 1905,’ that’s true, because it was a rumor,” Lindholm says. “The question is whether or not it’s plausible.”

Any plausibility to the report derives from Matthews’ excellence as an athlete and his character as a person….

Fred Tenney’s Boston Nationals would complete the 1905 season with a 51-103 record, part of a stretch of 14 consecutive seasons at the start of the 20th century in which the franchise finished no better than 17 games out of first place in the NL. Between the record and the muddled middle infield, we can say with relative certainty that Matthews would have improved the club. The July 15 report in the Traveler assumed as much, claiming that “William C. is just the laddybuck [Tenney] needs.”

But the Traveler made another assumption that was far more suspect.

“Of course,” the article reads, “Captain Tenney will have to consult with the magnates but there is little fear of objection on their part.”

This confidence was clearly misguided. The article generated significant conversation within the sport and commentary in several newspapers around the country, and the quoted remarks of Cubs president Jim Hart in the Chicago Daily News best demonstrate the intractability a Matthews move would have been up against.

“Personally, I have no objections to a Negro playing baseball,” said Hart, “but I do not think it is right to inflict him on others who have objections or forcing white players to sleep in the same car with him and associate as intimately as they would have to under such conditions. That is the real objection to a Negro in baseball.”

Hart added that National League president Harry Pulliam’s “good Southern blood would never stand for it.”


RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: April 16, 2021 at 09:36 AM | 0 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: integration, william clarence matthews

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