Baltimore Elite Giants
|Baltimore Elite Giants
|League titles||1939, 1949|
The Baltimore Elite Giants were a professional baseball team that played in the Negro leagues from 1920 to 1950. The team was established by Thomas T. Wilson, in Nashville, Tennessee as the semi-pro Nashville Standard Giants on March 26, 1920. The team was renamed the Elite Giants in 1933, and would move to Baltimore, Maryland in 1938, where it played until its final season in 1950. The team pronounced the word "Elite" to rhyme with "light".
The Nashville Standard Giants was formed as an amateur all-Negro team in Nashville, Tennessee in the early 20th century. Tom T. Wilson took control of the club in 1918. On March 26, 1920, the team was chartered as a semi-professional team. The Standard Giants welcomed any and all competition, including white-only teams. The team was renamed the Nashville Elite Giants in 1921. This team would play independently, that is to say that they did not play in an organized league, through 1929.
Also in 1929, Wilson built a new ballpark for his team to play at, Tom Wilson Park, which also served as a spring training site for other Negro league teams, as well as white-only minor league teams. Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Roy Campanella are known to have played at the park. The 8,000 seat facility featured a single-decked, covered grandstand. The ballpark was centrally located in Nashville's largest black community, known as Trimble Bottom, near the convergence of Second and Forth Avenues. Before his death in 1947, Wilson converted the park into a dog racing track and later the Paradise Ballroom, a popular black nightclub that attracted top musical talents of the day, including Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong. The structure was later demolished and is presently the site of semi-truck loading dock.
Negro league years
The Negro National League collapsed after the 1931 season, and the team moved back to Nashville, reverted to being called the Elite Giants, and joined the Negro Southern League, where they played in 1932.
Second National League
A second incarnation of the Negro National League was formed in 1933, where the Elite Giants played for the following two seasons. Nashville finished the 1933 season in fifth place with a 29-22 record and tied as winners of the second half of the season with the Pittsburgh Crawfords. Nashville lost a three-game playoff with Pittsburgh for a spot in the league championship game. In 1934, the Elite Giants finished in fourth place with a 20-28 record.
In 1936 the team moved to Washington D.C. and became the Washington Elite Giants. In their first season, they finished in fifth place with a 21-24 record. In 1937, the Elites finished in third place with a 27-17 record.
The team moved again in 1938 to Baltimore, Maryland and became the Baltimore Elite Giants. In 1939, the Elites won the Negro National Title, defeating the Homestead Grays. In 1948, they won the first half, but lost the championship to second half winners, the Homestead Grays.
In 1949, the Negro National League ceased operations, so the Elite Giants joined the Negro American League. In their first season with the new league, Baltimore captured the Eastern and Western Division titles, earning them a second Negro National Title. In thirteen seasons in Baltimore, of the eleven which have available standings, the Elite Giants finished in the top three during nine of those seasons. In dire financial straits, the club played one final season in 1950 before dissolving.
A number of future major leaguers wore the uniform of the Elite Giants, including Hall of Famers Roy Campanella and Leon Day. Junior Gilliam (1953 National League Rookie of the Year), and Joe Black (1952 National League Rookie of the Year) were both former 'Elites' and won consecutive Rookie of the Year honors for the Brooklyn Dodgers in the early 1950s.
- Nipper, Skip. Baseball in Nashville. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2007. ISBN 978-0-7385-4391-8
- "Baltimore Elite Giants." Negro League Baseball Players Association. 2007. 28 December 2007.