Rube Foster, Pitcher/Manager
Andrew “Rube” Foster (September 17, 1879 – December 9, 1930) was considered to be one of the best African-American pitchers of the first decade of the 20th century, He was able to found the Chicago American Giants, and organized the Negro National League. For his contributions to the sport, he has been called the “Father of Black Baseball.”
Born in Calvert, Texas, he began with the independent Waco Yellow Jackets, and earned a solid reputation with everyone who watched him pitch, black or white. In 1902, he was signed by Frank Leland’s Chicago Union Giants. He faltered, but later got picked up by the Otsego (NY) Independents. In 1905, he pitched for eight wins and four loses, with 82 strikeouts. He also played with the 1903 Cuban X-Giants, and won four of the seven world series games against Sol White’s Philadelphia Giants.
In 1907, he was recruited by the Chicago Leland Giants, and named as player/coach. Foster led the team to an impressive 110-10 record, with 48 straight, and the Chicago City League pennant.
In 1911, Foster partnered with John Schorling, the son-in-law of Chicago White Sox owner Charles Comiskey, to use their old stadium at 39th Street after they moved the team to the new baseball stadium (later known as Comiskey Park). Foster renamed the team the Chicago American Giants, and they won the next four western black ball championships. By 1915, Foster had begun to give up pitching to focus on managing the team and pitched his last game in 1917.
In 1920, Foster met with the owners of six other midwestern teams to form a professional circuit, which eventually became known as the Negro National League, the longest running successful league of the Negro baseball era. He was successful in recruiting great players from other teams, and his American Giants won the new leagues first three pennants.
Unfortunately, in the spring of 1926, he was nearly asphyxiated by a gas leak in their hotel room in Indianapolis, and he was changed, becoming increasingly paranoid. He was committed to an asylum midway through the 1926 season, and without his leadership, the dreams of the Negro National League began to vanish. Foster died in 1930 as a result of his prior injury, and the league followed soon after, dying in 1931. It is sad to wonder what heights the Negro National League might have reached under his vision, had the gas leak never occurred.
He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1981 as its first black baseball pioneer, and in 2009 was featured by the U. S. Postal Service in a set of stamps honoring Negro Leagues baseball.