Friday, December 29, 2017

The Chicago Leland Giants Negro Base Ball Team. (1901-1909)

The Leland Giants, originally the Chicago Union Giants, were a Negro league baseball team that competed independently during the first decade of the 20th century. The team was formed via a merger of the Chicago Unions and the Chicago Columbia Giants in 1901 and then split in 1910 to form the Chicago Giants (1910-1921) and what would become known as the Chicago American Giants. The team was named after the owner and manager Frank Leland, who was the President of the "Leland Giants Base Ball and Amusement Association."

During the half-century that baseball was segregated by race, black Americans created their own major leagues. These Negro Leagues showcased black competence and grace at a time when Negroes were denied other opportunities. No team better conveyed black baseball's history than the Chicago American Giants, who, for four decades, were central to black Chicago, especially as the Great Migration swelled its ranks. Chicago, in turn, was the center of black baseball during the 1920s and home to its most important annual event, the East–West all-star game, in the 1930s and '40s.

The Leland Giants was managed by Andrew “Rube” Foster in 1909. In 1910, Foster and Leland split, and Foster won the rights to the Leland Giants name; Leland's new team was called the Chicago Giants, who began play in 1911.
Rube Foster of the Chicago Leland Giants Base Ball Team (1909).
Perhaps the best black team of the 1920s, the Giants sometimes outplayed and outdrew the White Sox and the Cubs. Relying on speed, defense, and pitching and billed as “The Greatest Aggregation of Colored Baseball Players in the World,” the Giants prospered on and off the field. In addition to battling white semi-pro, major league, and Negro League teams, the Giants barnstormed their way across the country and even played in Cuba. After Leland's death on November 14, 1914, the team came under the control of longtime player Charles "Joe" Green.

In 1920, Foster founded the first stable black league, the Negro National League (NNL). They played as a traveling team without a home field and finished in last place in both 1920 and 1921. Their best player was a young catcher/shortstop named John Beckwith, who was purchased by Rube Foster for his Chicago American Giants after the 1921 season.

The American Giants won five pennants in that league, along with another pennant in the 1932 Negro Southern League and a second-half championship in Gus Greenlee's Negro National League in 1934. From 1920 through 1940, the American Giants played their home games at Shorling Park, a park that dates back to the 1880s and served as White Sox Park throughout the 1910s. From 1950, the American Giants called Comiskey Park home until the team ended in 1956.
The 1905 Chicago Union Giants, L to R: Alex Irwin, Willis Jones, Fred Roberts, Haywood Rose, William Washington, Harry Hyde, Clarence Lytle, George Hopkins, Topeka Jack Johnson, George Taylor.
The 1907 Chicago Union Giants. Standing L to R: Will Horn, Topeka Jack Johnson. Seated, middle row, L to R: Albert Toney, Joe Green, Jimmy Smith, George Hopkins, Ginney Robinson, unknown. Seated, front row, L to R: unknown, Sam Strothers.
The 1909 Leland Giants. Standing L to R: Pete Hill, Andrew Payne, George Wright, Walter Ball, Charles Dougherty, Bill Gatewood, Rube Foster. Seated L to R: Danger Talbert, Harry Moore, Frank Leland, Bobby Winston, Sam Strothers, Nate Harris.
1916 Chicago American Giants
Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D. 


  1. I had a personal connection to the Negro League in the form of Ted "Double Duty" Radcliffe. In the early 90's, I met him at Herm's Palace. He would come in around lunch and anyone in the dining room could sit around a he would talk about his baseball games and travels. We became friends and was with great sadness that he passed away early on in the very same year his beloved White Sox won the World series. He was a treasure to know and listen to.

  2. The 1909 Leland Giants had some pretty nice looking uniforms. Some of the uniforms of the various Negro League teams are on display at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, MO. Great post Neil, wonderful pictures once again.


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