Homestead Grays

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Homestead Grays
(1900 – c.1950)
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
HomesteadGrays CapLogo.svg
Cap insignia
League affiliation(s)
Name(s)
  • Homestead Grays
  • Washington Homestead Grays
  • Washington Grays
Ballpark(s)
Titles
League titles1931 • 1937 • 1938 • 1939
1940 • 1941 • 1942 • 1943
1944 • 1945 • 1948
Negro World Series titles1943 • 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 remained 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.[1] 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.[2]

Franchise history[edit]

The Grays grew out of an earlier industrial team. In 1900, a group of African-American players had joined together to form the Germantown 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[edit]

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[edit]

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.

Art Rooney[edit]

Pittsburgh Steelers founder and owner Art Rooney related in a 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."[3]

Post-Negro league play[edit]

Following the collapse of the Negro National League after the 1948 season, the Grays struggled to continue as an independent club, and ultimately disbanded in May 1951.[4]

Home fields[edit]

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 D.C.'s Griffith Stadium, the home park of the Washington Senators. During these games, they were alternatively known as the Washington Grays or Washington Homestead Grays.

Baseball Hall of Fame inductees[edit]

1931 Homestead Grays

These Homestead Grays alumni have been inducted to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum:

Legacy[edit]

On July 11, 2002, the Homestead High-Level Bridge which connects Pittsburgh to Homestead over the Monongahela River at Homestead was renamed the Homestead Grays Bridge in honor of the team.[5]

Washington Nationals[edit]

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.[6]

The Nationals′ home field, Nationals Park, includes numerous references to the Grays:

  • The "Ring of Honor" on the facade behind home plate lists the names of Cool Papa Bell, Ray Brown, Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard, Cum Posey, Jud Wilson, and players from the Nationals, Expos, original Washington Senators of 1901-1960, and expansion Washington Senators of 1961-1971. The Ring honors players who are members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and had played "significant years" for at least one of the teams or "anyone who has made a significant contribution to the game of baseball in Washington, D.C." All six Grays players were among the original 18 inductees to the Ring of Honor when it was unveiled on August 10, 2010.
  • The multi-sport Washington Hall of Stars display in the outfield features Josh Gibson and Buck Leonard.
  • A statue of Josh Gibson (along with ones of original Senator Walter Johnson and second-run Senator Frank Howard) stands near the center field gate.

MLB throwback jerseys[edit]

The Pittsburgh Pirates and Washington Nationals have worn Homestead Grays throwback uniforms in official Major League Baseball games several different times:

Pirates
Nationals
Both

References[edit]

  1. ^ Snyder 2003, pp. 87–88.
  2. ^ Snyder 2003, p. 155.
  3. ^ Donovan, Dan (August 28, 1988). "Works of Art". Pittsburgh Press. p. D3.
  4. ^ "Grays out of baseball". Youngstown Vindicator. Ohio. INS. May 23, 1951. p. 29.
  5. ^ Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Homestead Span Honors Baseball Team", July 12, 2002
  6. ^ USA Today, "In Washington, it'll be 'Let's go Nats'", November 22, 2004. Accessed April 17, 2008.
  7. ^ MLB.com, "Brewers Honor Negro Leagues", June 2, 2006
  8. ^ MLB.com, "Nats, Mets Recognize Negro Leagues", August 11, 2006
  9. ^ 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

External links[edit]

  • 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