(c.1912 – c.1950)
|League titles||1931 • 1937 • 1938 • 1939
1940 • 1941 • 1942 • 1943
1944 • 1945 • 1948
|Negro World Series titles||1943 • 1944 • 1948|
The Homestead Grays (also known as Washington Grays or Washington Homestead Grays) were a professional baseball team that played in the Negro leagues in the United States. The team was formed in 1912 by Cumberland Posey, and would remain in continuous operation for 38 seasons. The team was originally based in Homestead, Pennsylvania, adjacent to Pittsburgh. By the 1920s with increasing popularity in the Pittsburgh region, the team retained the name "Homestead" but crossed the Monongahela River to play all home games in Pittsburgh, at the Pittsburgh Pirates' home Forbes Field and the Pittsburgh Crawfords' home Greenlee Field. From 1940 until 1942, the Grays played half of their home games in Washington, D.C., while remaining in Pittsburgh for all other home stands. As attendance at their games in the nation's capital grew, by 1943 the Grays were playing more than two-thirds of their home games in Washington.
The Grays grew out of an earlier industrial team. In 1900, a group of African-American players had joined together to form the Germantown (PA) Blue Ribbons, an industrial league team. For ten years, the Blue Ribbons fielded a team every season and played some of the best sandlot teams in the area. In 1910, the managers of the team retired. The players reorganized the team and named themselves the Murdock Grays. In 1912, they became the Homestead Grays, the name they retained for the remainder of the franchise's history.
American Negro League
The Grays did join the American Negro League in 1929, but that league lasted only one season. The team operated independently again until 1932, when Posey organized the ill-fated East-West League; that league also collapsed before completing its first and only season.
Negro National League
Posey entered his Grays in the Negro National League in 1935. With the near-collapse of the Pittsburgh Crawfords, Josh Gibson returned to the Grays in 1937, combining with slugger Buck Leonard to power the Grays to nine consecutive (and a total of ten) Negro National League Championships and three Negro League World Series titles. Vic Harris managed the Grays during their years in league play, between 1935 and 1948, and piloted Homestead to eight pennants. He guided his team to six consecutive pennants from 1937 through 1942; in 1945 and 1948, and led the 1948 team to the Negro League World Series championship. The 1943 and 1944 NLWS titles came under Candy Jim Taylor.
Pittsburgh Steelers and Pittsburgh Penguins founder and owner Art Rooney related in an 1981 interview that he "from time to time" had "helped financially support the Negro League team, the Homestead Grays, and . . . was a better baseball fan than football fan."
Post-Negro league play
Following the collapse of the Negro National League after the 1948 season, the Grays struggled to continue as an independent club, and ultimately disbanded at the close of the 1950 season.
From the late 1930s through the 1940s, the Grays played their home games at Pittsburgh's Forbes Field, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates. However, during this same period the club adopted the Washington, D.C. area as its "home away from home" and scheduled many of its "home" games at Washington's Griffith Stadium, the home park of the then-Washington Senators. During these games, they were alternatively known as the Washington Grays or Washington Homestead Grays.
Hall of Fame inductees
These Homestead Grays players have been inducted to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum:
- Cool Papa Bell, OF, 1932, 1943–46
- Ray Brown, P, 1937–45
- Oscar Charleston, OF, 1930–31
- Martín Dihigo, P, 1927–28
- Bill Foster, P, 1931
- Josh Gibson, C, 1930–31, 1937–46
- Judy Johnson, 3B, 1930, 1937
- Buck Leonard, 1B, 1934–50
- Cum Posey, Founder-Owner, 1912–46
- Willie Wells, SS, 1932
- Smokey Joe Williams, P, 1925–32
- Jud Wilson, 3B, 1929–31, 1941–46
When the Montreal Expos moved to Washington, "Grays" was one of the three finalists (along with "Senators" and the eventual winner "Nationals") for the relocated team's new name, reflecting Washington's baseball history.
The facade of Nationals Park behind home plate lists the last names of Cool Papa Bell, Ray Brown, Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard, Cum Posey, and Jud Wilson, along with Hall of Fame players from the Montreal Expos and the original Washington Senators.
The Washington Hall of Stars display at Nationals Park in Washington features Josh Gibson and Buck Leonard.
MLB throwback jerseys
- On May 20, 2006, in Cleveland, the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cleveland Indians honored the Negro league teams by wearing the uniforms of the Grays and the Cleveland Buckeyes, respectively, during an inter-league game. The Pirates won the game 9-6.
- On June 2, 2006, in Milwaukee, the Washington Nationals and the Milwaukee Brewers also honored the Negro league teams by wearing the uniforms of the Grays and Milwaukee Bears, respectively, during the first annual Negro Leagues Tribute Night in Milwaukee. The Nationals won the game 10-4.
- On August 11, 2006, in Washington, the New York Mets and Washington Nationals also honored the Negro league teams by wearing the uniforms of the New York Cubans and the Grays, respectively, during a National League game. The Nationals won the game 2-1.
- The next night, in Pittsburgh, the St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates wore uniforms of the St. Louis Stars and Grays, respectively. The Pirates won the game 3-2.
- The Nationals and Cardinals held a similar event on August 3, 2007 honoring the Grays and Stars.
- On May 3, 2008, in Washington, the Washington Nationals and Pittsburgh Pirates honored the Negro League team by wearing the uniforms of the Grays. The Nationals won the game 9-8. (The PA announcer referred to the teams as the Grays.)
- On June 26, 2009, in Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Pirates played the Kansas City Royals in interleague play. The Pittsburgh Pirates wore uniforms of the Homestead Grays, while the Royals wore the uniforms of the Kansas City Monarchs. The Pirates won the game, 5-3.
- On July 23, 2011, in Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Pirates played the St. Louis Cardinals. The Pittsburgh Pirates wore uniforms of the Homestead Grays. The St. Louis Cardinals wore uniforms of the St. Louis Stars.
- On June 9, 2012, in Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Pirates played the Kansas City Royals. The Pirates wore uniforms of the Homstead Grays while Kansas City wore uniforms of the Kansas City Monarchs. The Pirates won the game, 5-3
- On July 28, 2012, in Milwaukee, the Nationals defeated the Milwaukee Brewers, 4–1, with Washington wearing Grays uniforms and Milwaukee wearing those of the Milwaukee Bears.
- On June 1, 2013 both the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Washington Nationals wore Grays uniforms. In Pittsburgh, the Pirates played the Cincinnati Reds, who wore uniforms of the Cincinnati Tigers; and in Atlanta, the Nationals played the Atlanta Braves, who wore uniforms of the Atlanta Black Crackers.
- On August 24, 2013 the Washington Nationals wore the Grays uniform in a game played in Kansas City. The Kansas City Royals wore uniforms of the Kansas City Monarchs. The Nationals defeated the Royals 7-2.
- Snyder 2003, pp. 87–88.
- Snyder 2003, p. 155.
- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Homestead Span Honors Baseball Team", July 12, 2002
- USA Today, "In Washington, it'll be 'Let's go Nats'", November 22, 2004. Accessed April 17, 2008.
- MLB.com, "Brewers Honor Negro Leagues", June 2, 2006
- MLB.com, "Nats, Mets Recognize Negro Leagues", August 11, 2006
- Washington Post, Nationals vs. Brewers: Jordan Zimmermann throws a gem in his first MLB game in home state.
- Snyder, Brad (2003), Beyond the Shadow of the Senators: The Untold Story of the Homestead Grays and the Integration of Baseball, Chicago: Contemporary Books, ISBN 0071408207
- Beyond the Shadow of the Senators — the website is a companion to the book of the same name, a comprehensive history of the Grays, written by Brad Snyder. The site contains information on the individuals featured in the book and the first chapter of the book.
- GraysFan.org — Latest attempt to name the Washington Major League Baseball Team after the Grays