Rube Foster

Foster, Rube

Born September 17, 1879, in Calvert , Texas , the Illinois baseball player who gained fame as a pitcher, manager, and owner of the Chicago, Leland Giants. In 1920 Foster founded the Negro National League and became known as the “father of black baseball” The Negro National League was the first successful professional league for African American ballplayers.

            Foster dropped out of school after the eighth grade, by the time he was 18 he had begun playing semiprofessional baseball in Texas , for the Waco Yellow Jackets. In 1902 he joined Frank Leland's Chicago Union Giants but soon left to play in a semiprofessional league in Michigan .

            Standing 6 feet 4 inches tall, the huge right-hander first made his mark on the game in 1903 as a pitcher for the Cuban X-Giants, winning four games out of seven against the Philadelphia Giants in the “Colored Championship of the World.” The next year, as a member of the Philadelphia Giants, Foster earned his nickname by out dueling the great Rube Waddell in a game against the Philadelphia Athletics of the American League. In 1905 he totaled 51 victories out of 55 games played.

            In 1907 after a dispute over money with the Philadelphia Giants Foster returned to Chicago and the Leland Giants. As both star pitcher and manager, he guided the team to a 110–10 record that year. His style as a manager was no different from his style as a player—aggressive and intimidating. He was an innovative strategist, and his team members were renowned for their bunting and base running, especially the hit-and-run which the batter is signaled to hit a pitch regardless of its location and the base runner on first begins running before the pitch is released. In 1910 Foster became the owner of the Leland Giants and guided the squad to a 123–6 record.

            The next year he joined with businessman John Schorling to form the Chicago American Giants. The American Giants led by Foster as player, manager, and owner, played at South Side Park and became one of the greatest teams in the history of black baseball, winning Negro league championships in 1914, 1915, and 1917.

            In Kansas City , Missouri , in 1920, Foster met with seven other owners of African American baseball clubs. The purpose was to establish the NNL. Although previous attempts to establish a league for black ballplayers and fans had failed, the NNL thrived under Foster's leadership. As chief executive of the NNL, he curtailed the excessive trading of players to establish some parity of talent between the clubs. His overbearing approach frequently enraged his fellow owners, despite his sacrifice of personal income to aid players and clubs with financial problems. In 1926 the strain of his work began to affect his mental health, and he was placed in a mental hospital in Kankakee , Illinois , where he died four years later. Foster died December 9, 1930 and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1981.

© 2006 by William Sims