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White, Solomonfree

(12 June 1868– August 1955)
  • David Bernstein

White, Solomon (12 June 1868– August 1955), Negro League baseball player and manager and chronicler of early "blackball" years,, Negro League baseball player and manager and chronicler of early “blackball” years, also known as “Sol,” was born in Bellaire, Ohio, an industrial town across the Ohio river from Wheeling, West Virginia. Nothing is known of his parentage or early life. In 1883 White began his baseball career with a three-year stint with his hometown Bellaire Globes, an amateur white team barnstorming the Ohio Valley. In 1886 White moved to the Wheeling Green Stockings of the Ohio State League and, after an abortive seven-game 1887 season with the Pittsburgh Keystones of the National Colored League, he returned to the integrated Wheeling club, reportedly batting .370 for the remaining 52 games, including 84 hits and 54 runs. Meanwhile, segregationist practices solidified in major league baseball, represented by Chicago star Adrian “Cap” Anson’s July 1881 refusal to play against a team with a black player. In response, African-American players filled the rosters of integrated minor league teams and organized their own circuits and ball clubs.

In 1889 White began the year with Trenton in the integrated Middle States League. After 31 games and a .333 batting average, he joined the black New York Gorhams earning $10 per week. In 1890 White’s Cuban Giants became the York (Pennsylvania) Monarchs moving as a team into the Eastern Interstate League, an integrated circuit. As the Monarchs’ second baseman, his signature position, the right-handed White—at 5′ 9″ and 170 pounds—batted .356, fifth best in the league, with 84 hits and 78 runs. White’s 1891 season was split between the Cuban Giants, soon bankrupt, and the New York Big Gorhams, representing Ansonia in the Connecticut State League, which folded by midsummer. The Big Gorhams became a touring team recording 100 wins and 4 defeats versus weak amateur and semiprofessional teams. At some point in the year White left to join the Harrisburg Giants, apparently taking other teammates with him and leading sportswriters to dub Harrisburg the “Polka-Dots.” From 1892 to 1894 White labored for J. B. Bright’s Cuban Giants, the Pittsburgh Keystones, the Black Boston Monarchs, and a Hotel Champlain team in upstate New York, where he also waited tables. In 1895 White played 10 games for Fort Wayne, Indiana, in the integrated Western Tri-State League, being paid $80 while batting .385 with 20 hits and 15 runs. When the league disbanded in June, White joined the Adrian (Michigan) Page Fence Giants, owned by a barbed-wire company, hitting .404 with 21 safeties and 15 runs in just 12 games. At the end of the season White entered Ohio’s Wilberforce University as a theological student and began a four-year pattern of summer ball and winter school. In 1897 White moved to the Cuban X-Giants for three years. White returned in 1900 to the Page Fence team, which had now become the Columbia Giants of Chicago. In 1901 the Cuban X-Giants welcomed White back as second baseman and captain.

In 1902 White began his longest and most successful tenure in baseball as player-manager of the Philadelphia Giants. Recruited by owner H. Walter Schlicter, sports editor of the Philadelphia Item, White played shortstop and second base while guiding the Giants to a record of 81 wins and 43 losses. After claiming the “blackball” championship, White’s Giants lost two postseason exhibition games to the American League Champion Philadelphia Athletics. In 1903, with salaries ranging from $60 to $90 per month, the Philadelphia Giants and the Cuban X-Giants joined the white Independent League. Before the 1904 season White’s squad acquired pitching stars Rube Foster and Danny McClellan, left fielder Preston “Pete” Hill, and catcher George “Chappie” Johnson, becoming one of the great “blackball” teams of all time, even moving south to win Cuba’s winter league title. The Philadelphia squad reached its peak in 1905, with a record of 134 wins and 21 losses, and in 1906 at 108–31, both times claiming the “blackball” championship.

White’s greatest contribution to Negro League baseball and the sport in general was as author of Sol White’s Official Base Ball Guide published in 1907. Providing information about the origins and evolution of Negro League baseball, White’s unique chronicle profiles special contests, star players, managers, the Cubans, and the “Colored” game. While noting the difficulties faced by the “Colored player,” White was optimistic that one day black players would walk “hand in hand with the opposite race in the greatest of all American games—baseball.”

In 1910 White organized his own Brooklyn Royal Giants in the International League of Colored Baseball Clubs. The circuit did not last more than a few weeks, and manager White moved in 1911 to the New York Lincoln Giants, which folded by 4 July. Following one more ill-fated season in 1912 as manager of the Boston Giants, White’s baseball career ended except for a few isolated responsibilities: secretary, Columbus, Ohio, club in the National Negro League (1920); manager, Fear’s Giants of Cleveland, a black minor league squad (1922); manager, Cleveland Browns, Negro National League (1924); and manager, Newark Browns, Eastern Colored League (1926). White’s remaining years are not well known. Apparently he lived in Harlem, where he died, and wrote a column of observation for the Amsterdam News and the New York Age.

Bibliography

Sol White’s Official Base Ball Guide (1907) has been reprinted by Camden House (1984). The most complete modern profile of White is in John B. Holway, Blackball Stars, Negro League Pioneers (1988). Also consult Robert Petersen, Only the Ball Was White (1970), James A. Riley, The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues (1994), and Jerry Malloy, “Solomon ‘Sol’ White,” in 19th Century Stars, ed. Robert L. Tiemann and Mark Rucker (1989), p. 136.