Rube Foster

Position: Pitcher; Executive
Teams: Chicago Union Giants; Cuban Giants; Cuban X-Giants; Philadelphia Giants; Chicago Leland Giants; Chicago American Giants, 1902-1926

Andrew Foster (1878-1930) ran away from home, like many teenage boys, to become a baseball player. Only this was the 1890s, and Foster was an African American. The few cracks in organized ball that the occasional black player had slipped through were closed by then, and it was a hard life for black ballplayers. Foster did his best to make it better, earning the title, “Father of Black Baseball.”

Rube Foster was a baseball pioneer and organizer.
Rube Foster was a baseball
pioneer and organizer.

An outstanding pitcher in the first decade of the 20th century, Foster was a big man with a big fastball. He joined the Cuban X-Giants in 1902, and after an initial defeat, won 44 games in a row. He pitched and prevailed in four of the five black World Series games against the Philadelphia Giants. That year he also beat Rube Waddell, of the pennant-winning Athletics, appropriating his nickname in the contest.

Foster drew raves from black and white players alike. The Chicago Inter-Ocean wrote: “Rube Foster is a pitcher with the tricks of a Radbourne, with the speed of a Rusie, and with the coolness and deliberation of a Cy Young.”

In 1909, Foster was pitching for the Leland Giants in Chicago when he wrested control of the team from owner Frank Leland. Rube led the renamed American Giants to prominence as the top black team in the country.

As a manager he was John McGraw’s counterpart, using every one-run strategy of the bunt and the hit-and-run, and even his own unique bunt-and-run, to give every edge to his speedy team. His team packed the old White Sox park, giving the AL Sox in Comiskey Park and the crosstown Cubs a run for their attendance money.

In 1919, Foster put together the Negro National League, an eight-team league with seven black owners. It took a substantial, sustained effort, and much of his own money. Rube often worked 15-hour days with no pay. He even had to send his own players to bolster the other teams in the league at times. Foster had a dream, and he drummed it into the heads of the players of his times. He wanted them to play at a high level of excellence, so that when integration finally came about, black players would be ready.

The effort finally got to Foster. In 1926, he was taken to an asylum after a spate of erratic behavior. He died in 1930, his funeral drawing an immense crowd. The dream came true, however, and the players were ready. Foster was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 1981.

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