June 20, 1890|
|Died: March 28, 1946
|Member of the National|
|Baseball Hall of Fame|
|Election Method||Committee on African-American Baseball|
Cumberland Willis "Cum" Posey, Jr. (June 20, 1890 – March 28, 1946) was an American baseball player, manager, and team owner in the Negro leagues, as well as a star professional basketball player and team owner.
Cumberland Jr. was born into Western Pennsylvania's Negro elite, the son of Cumberland Willis Posey Sr. and Angelina "Anna" Stevens Posey of Homestead, adjacent to Pittsburgh. Posey senior worked on riverboats and became in 1877 probably the first African American licensed engineer in the United States, then earned the chief engineer license and title Captain. "Cap" Posey was a riverboat builder, general manager of the Dexter Coal Company, owner of the Diamond Coke and Coal Company, and industrial partner of Henry Clay Frick. He was president of the Loendi Social and Literary Club for three years and president of the Pittsburgh Courier newspaper for its first fourteen years, to 1924.(Williams) The family lived in a palatial Italianate mansion on the heights.
Despite his commanding wealth Captain Posey still had to deal with racial discrimination, according to historian William Serrin. In that crucible of race his son began to excel as a young athlete.
In football, Cumberland Jr. was a star player and manager for semi-pro sandlot teams in the Pittsburgh area prior to 1910, including the Delaney Rifles and the Collins Tigers.
Posey was the best African American basketball player of his time, playing from the early 1900s (decade) through the mid-1920s. His peers and the sporting press considered him an "All-Time Immortal". "The mystic wand of Posey ruled basketball with as much eclat as 'Rasputin' dominated the Queen of all the Russias", observed the Harlem Interstate Tattler in 1929.
Posey led Homestead High to the 1908 city championship, played basketball at Penn State for two years, did a stint at Pitt, and formed the famous Monticello Athletic Association team that won the Colored Basketball World’s Championship in 1912. He later played varsity basketball for Duquesne University, under the name "Charles Cumbert", and led the Dukes in scoring for three seasons through 1919. Today he is enshrined in the Duquesne Sports Hall of Fame under his real name.
During the mid-1910s, Posey formed, operated, and played for the Loendi Big Five, which became the most dominant basketball team of the Black Fives Era through the mid-1920s, winning four straight Colored Basketball World Championship titles. He retired from basketball in the late 1920s to focus exclusively on the business of baseball and on his weekly sports column in the Pittsburgh Courier, "In The Sportive Realm."
In baseball, Posey played with the Homestead Grays in 1911, was manager by 1916, and became owner in the early 1920s. In a quarter-century running the team, he built it into one of the powerhouse franchises of black baseball, winning numerous pennants, including nine consecutively from 1937-45.
In 1910, a group of Homestead steelworkers was organized into one of baseball’s greatest clubs by Posey. This team, the Homestead Grays, played many locations such as Forbes Field and Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C. The team won eight out of nine Negro National League titles.
Posey, the principal owner of the Homestead Grays, spent 35 years (1911–1946) in baseball as a player, manager, owner and club official. He built a strong barnstorming circuit that made the Grays a perennially powerful and profitable team, one of the best in the East.
Posey began playing baseball for the semi-pro Grays in 1911. He soon ended his playing career to become field and business manager. He took control of the Grays in 1920 and turned them into a highly successful regional enterprise as an independent team. The Grays' strong identity in Pennsylvania and surrounding states enabled them to survive the depths of the Great Depression.
Posey, an aggressive talent seeker with the Grays, at one time or another had over a dozen current Negro leagues Hall of Famers playing for him. He was often accused of raiding other clubs' rosters, enticing their best players to join his team. He suffered a heavy dose of the same in the early 1930s, when he lost several stars to the well-financed Pittsburgh Crawfords. The Grays rebounded and became a member of the second Negro National League in 1935, soon dominating the circuit. Posey's teams reeled in nine consecutive pennants from 1937-1945.
Posey unwisely attempted to start the East-West League in 1932, during the Depression, but it did not last the season. He later became an officer of the Negro National League, and was a major force at its meetings throughout the rest of his career. He also was a frequent critic of the league, both before and after joining it, in his regular sports columns for the Pittsburgh Courier, a leading black weekly newspaper.
Courier sportswriter Wendell Smith once wrote of Posey: "Some may say he crushed the weak as well as the strong on the way to the top of the ladder. But no matter what his critics say, they cannot deny that he was the smartest man in Negro baseball and certainly the most successful."
He died of cancer at age 55 in Pittsburgh. His hometown of Homestead declared a school holiday in his honor the day of his funeral.
- Riley, James A. (1994). "Posey, Cumberland Willis, Jr. (Cum)". The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues. New York: Carroll & Graf. pp. 636–38. ISBN 0-7867-0959-6.
- (Riley.) Cumberland "Cum" Posey, Personal profiles at Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. – identical to Riley, except for notice of 2006 Hall of Fame induction (confirmed 2010-12-12)
- Serrin, William (1993). Homestead. New York: Knopf Publishing.
- Williams, Rachel Jones (2010). "Cumberland Willis Posey Sr.", Black History in Pennsylvania. Reprinted from Pennsylvania Heritage Spring 2010, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. Confirmed 2010-12-11.