Baltimore Sports History: Negro League Baseball

February 8th, 2024 by The Professor

In our new series Baltimore Sports History, WLOY Sports Director Andrew Ciofalo, host of After The Whistle will explore some of the great lost history in our Charm City.  People know about the O’s and the Ravens but maybe not so much the Elite Giants or famous players that passed through our teams.  In celebration of Black History Month, we are covering some of the too little known history of Black sports in Baltimore.  Check in every week for more. 

Baseball has a rich history in Baltimore, dating all the way back to the 1870s. Today we see the Orioles as the big team in town, but this wasn’t always the case. Before the birds landed in 1954, the only professional baseball Baltimore had was Negro League Baseball. Between 1900 and 1950, no white professional baseball team had seen more than 2 full seasons of baseball (and that’s being generous.)

The first Negro League team that played in Baltimore were the Baltimore Black Sox. The team was organized and created in 1916 but had to wait until 1923 to be competitive enough to join a league. The Black Sox were one of six charter members of the Eastern Colored League. In their first season, they finished last with a record of 19-33. From 1924 to the leagues last season in 1928, the Black Sox finished second and third once but was never able to win the league. When the Eastern Colored League was forced to fold in the middle of the 1928 season, the Black Sox joined the American Negro League for its first and only season in 1929 and won the league. Joining the East-West League in 1932, the Black Sox were in first place when this league also collapsed. The club moved to the Negro National League before folding after the 1934 season, that saw them end with a 3-8-2 record.

After only a 4-year absence of baseball, Baltimore got a new Negro League Baseball team, The Elite Giants. The team originated from Nashville and stayed there for 4 years before moving towns to Columbus and Washington D.C. for short stints before settling in Baltimore. The Giants would be a part of the Negro National League for 10 years, winning a championship in 1939, and only coming close again falling in the championship of 1948. The league folded at the conclusion of the 1948 season and the team joined the American Negro League. The Elite Giants won their new leagues’ championship in the 1949 season. However, the franchise was sold after financial struggles and moved back to Nashville in 1950.

To learn more, Visit the Hubert V. Simmons Museum of Negro Leagues Baseball Inc. in Owings Mills, Maryland.

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