|Samuel "Sammie" Ransom|
|Negro league baseball debut|
|1907, for the St. Paul Colored Gophers|
|1907, for the St. Paul Colored Gophers|
Samuel L. "Sammie" Ransom (1883–1970) was an African American high school, college, and professional athlete for several sports. He played professional football, baseball, and later coached college football. Some researchers believe he is the first African American to play college basketball.
Ransom was born in Illinois and attended Hyde Park Preparatory Academy from 1899 to 1902. In football, he played halfback. In baseball, he played catcher, he was a forward on the basketball team, and worked on field events for the track team.
During his time at Hyde Park, the basketball team went to the championship. The football team went to county, state and even an "intersectional preparatory school game" with Brooklyn Polytechnic, beating them 105 to 0.
The track team went to the Penn Relays. And according to a close teammate, he also worked as a bell boy in the Del Prado Hotel after classes and sports practice.
The teammate, Walter Eckersall, also said Ransom got good grades and used the time between calls as a bell boy to study. Eckersall went on to Quarterback for the University of Chicago and became a sportswriter for the Chicago Tribune.
Amos Alonzo Stagg of the University of Chicago football team tried to recruit Ransom along with Quarterback Walter Eckersall. Ransom declined and instead attended Beloit College in Beloit, Wisconsin playing four sports there. He graduated in 1908. He led the 1904–1905 Beloit team to a 9-4 record.
Between his Junior and Senior year at Beloit, he was a second baseman for the St. Paul Colored Gophers. He moved to Minnesota again after graduation in 1908. During the years in Minnesota, when not playing professional sports, Ransom also worked for a business men's club in St. Paul called the "Minnesota Club."
Ransom enlisted and joined the 8th Illinois Regiment of the National Guard in July 1917. When he left St. Paul, the Minnesota Club where he worked threw a large party, and the patrons raised $550 and he was presented a soldier's silver wrist watch with an inscription, "From John Jackson and Sherman Finch to S.L. Ransom." The newspaper also noted that since Ransom "neither drinks, smokes, nor chews and in (reality) has no bad habits, the money will not be wasted in riotous living."
Ransom's regiment was stationed along the Mexico border, and was eventually sent to France during World War I, and the unit was rebranded the 370th Infantry. Ransom moved to the rank of First Lieutenant by the end of the War.
One newspaper in 1973 wrote that Ransom trained men in athletics during the War and also played with the 33rd Army Division baseball and track championships. During his time in France, he was wounded in February 1919 and earned a Purple Heart. He remained in the National Guard, and eventually became a Major.
Ransom returned to St. Paul and a large welcoming ceremony in March 1919. The ceremony included songs sung by the crowd, a poem, a dance with Moore's Jazz orchestra, and a Grand March led by Lieutenant Ransom and "Miss Mayme Goins." He returned to his job as Superintendent of Service at the Minnesota Club.
Honors and awards
Ransom died in 1970 at the age of 87 in St. Paul, Minnesota. Three years after his death, Beloit College inducted him into the Beloit College Athletic Hall of Honor on October 19, 1973. The newspaper report at the time said he was a retired postal employee, but his postal service has not yet been verified.
- "St. Paul Gophers Base Ball Club" The Appeal, St. Paul, Minnesota, August 31, 1907, Page 3, Columns 3 to 5
- "Sam Ransom Fearless in War or Sport" by Walter Eckersall - Anaconda Standard, Anaconda, Montana, Sunday, July 21, 1918, Page 2, Columns 1 to 3
- "Negro Hurt in Class Rush" Kalamazoo Gazette, Kalamazoo, Michigan, Sunday, September 23, 1906, Page 1, Column 3
- "Samuel L. Ransom" St. Paul Appeal, St. Paul, Minnesota, Saturday, July 21, 1917, Page 3, Column 4
- "Ransom Reception" St. Paul Appeal, St. Paul, Minnesota, March 8, Page 3, Columns 3 to 5
- "Beloit College to Induct three into Athletic Hall of Honor" Morning Star, Rockford, Illinois, Tuesday Morning, September 18, 1973, Section B, Page B1, Columns 1-8
- "Overseas Casualties - Late List" The Rockford Republic, Tuesday, February 25, 1919, Page 12, Column 3