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Rube Foster

Rube Foster with OtsegoQ: Andrew 'Rube' Foster is featured in an animation video produced by Kendall College of Art and Design, Digital Art and Design students. Here is the expanded script for the animation. 

A: Rube Foster also known as the father of the organized “Negro Leagues” was a star player, an innovator, and an astute businessman. Although Foster played with and against some of the best baseball players of all time, he never really got the chance to show what he could do in the white Major leagues.

Andrew “Rube”Foster was born in 1879 in Calvert, Texas, a small town about 60 miles south of Waco, Texas. His playing career began as a teenager pitching for the Waco Yellow Jackets and later with teams in Fort Worth.

By 1902, Foster had connected with the famed Frank Leland and the Chicago Union Giants which boasted incredible rosters year after year of African American baseball greats. Foster struggled early on with playing in the big-time leagues and was eventually released.  However, Foster quickly bounced back and joined an integrated semi-pro team in Otsego, Michigan. It was in Otsego where the “Big Texan” Foster earned the reputation of being a skilled and gifted showman with an unforgettable screwball. Foster’s Otsego team also played a number of games against the Big Rapids Colored Giants in 1902, a team made up of star Black players who defected from Chicago teams and relocated to Big Rapids, Michigan.

The rest of Foster’s playing career consisted of playing with, and many times managing, teams such as Cuban X Giants (1903), Philadelphia Giants (1904-1906), Leland Giants (1907-1910), and Foster formed the Chicago American Giants (1911-1926).

In 1911, the businessman came out of Foster as he worked out an agreement with John Schorling, son-in-law of Charles Comiskey, to lease the old White Sox field, South Side Park. The Chicago American Giants dominated the independent negro baseball leagues under Foster’s leadership. It was at that time that Foster had the idea to form the organized baseball league. Foster pitched the idea to the other club owners and the Negro National League was born in 1920. Foster served as president and treasurer of the league while still being the owner, manager, and sometimes player of the Chicago American Giants. The entire league flourished under the leadership of Foster as players’ salaries, notoriety, team owner’s revenue, and attendance grew to unprecedented levels.

Foster at 1924 Colored World SeriesThe league was an overwhelming success until 1926 when Foster stepped down due to health issues possibly attributed to a gas leak in his home. Without the leadership of Foster, the league struggled. Foster died in December of 1930 and the league folded in 1931. However, the League would respawn in the mid-1930s and continue until the 1960s producing greats such as Jackie Robinson, Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard, Cool Papa Bell, Willie Mays, and Henry Aaron.

Foster did not live to see Major League Baseball integrated, as it would take another 16 years after his death until Jackie Robinson broke the color line of Major League Baseball in 1946. However, Foster did create a successful league ran by African Americans, a league that produced some of the greatest ball players of all time and one that provided high level competition for Black players who were not allowed to play in white leagues. The sporting editor of the Detroit Free Press noted that many Black players would certainly have been in the Major leagues had it not been for their color:

“Several of them would be in the big league, were it not for their color, notably among these is ‘Rube’ Foster, who is considered among the best pitchers in the world, barring nobody. He has worked against the leading batters of both leagues and they have found his offerings as vivid a proposition as anything in the hurling line ever cut loose.” (Half-Century Magazine, the Sporting News 1919).

In 1981, Foster was elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, becoming the first player from the “Negro” leagues to be elected into the hall and in 2009, the US Postal Service produced a stamp honoring Negro league baseball and featured Foster on one of the stamps.

It was said of Rube Foster by a white column writer in 1907 that “he (Foster) has all the speed of a Rusie (Amos Rusie), the tricks of a Radbourne (Charles Radbourne), and the heady coolness and deliberation of a Cy Young. What does this make of him? Why, the greatest baseball pitcher in the country; that is what the best ball players of the white persuasion that have gone against him say. But his color has kept him out of the big leagues…a pitcher who otherwise would be a priceless boon.” (The Inter Ocean 1907)

Franklin Hughes
Jim Crow Museum 2020

Additional Resources

Rube Foster Hall of Fame

Rube Foster Society for American Baseball Research

Texas Almanac

Rube Foster Agate Type

The Inter Ocean (Chicago, Illinois) 1907 Well, Well, Man Rube Foster Certainty Eats Emalive

Rube Foster Britannica

Early Pioneers of Negro Leagues

NLB E-museum Andrew “Rube” Foster

My Black History: Rube Foster

Half Century Magazine 1919

The Genius: Foster made Negro League Baseball successful. (very good article to provide larger societal context)

Video links about Foster

A look at Negro League legend Rube Foster

Black Excellist Andrew “Rube” Foster.

MLB Network Rube Foster story

Bigger that Baseball

The father of Negro Leagues Rube Foster