Rube Foster



Kansas City's Paseo YMCA, where the Negro National League was formed.


"Rube once bet the Kansas City Monarchs that he could beat them without hitting the ball out of the infield. They just kept bunting, and they beat 'em 3-2!"
--Negro Leaguer Saul Davis
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Negro Leaguer of the Month
June, 2005

Andrew "Rube" Foster

Born: September 17, 1879 in Calvert, TX
Died: December 9, 1930 in Kankakee, IL
Ht:6'-3", Wt: 220
Batted right and threw right
Position: pitcher
Years: 1902-1920
Teams: Waco Yellow Jackets, Chicago Union Giants, Cuban X-Giants, Philadelphia Giants, Chicago Leland Giants, Chicago American Giants

One of the greatest baseball minds in history, Rube Foster was not only the star pitcher of his day, but was the father of the Negro National League.

Born in Calvert, Texas in 1879, Andrew Foster grew big and strong in the blazing sun of central Texas, and began pitching for pay with the Waco Yellow Jackets before the turn of the century. Foster was huge for his era, standing almost six foot-three inches, and he filled out to over 200 pounds.

Foster's size provided him with a great fastball, but he was equally feared for his outstanding screwball.

In 1902, Foster signed with the Chicago Union Giants, and won more than 50 games during the season, including a victory over future Hall of Famer Rube Waddell. The nickname "Rube" was then bestowed upon Foster, and it was the name he went by for the remainder of his life.

From 1902 through 1910, Foster may have been the top pitcher in the world as he averaged almost 50 wins per season against teams ranging from semipro to Major League.

The 1910 Philadelphia Giants on which Foster played, may have been one of the greatest black teams in history, boasting early stars such as John Henry Lloyd, Pete Hill, Homerun Johnson, Bruce Petway, Frank Wickware and Danny McClellan. Foster went 13-2 on the mound, and the team won 128 of 134 games (.955 win %).

In 1911, Foster ventured back to Chicago and started the Chicago American Giants with their home field at "Old White Sox Park" at 39th & Wentworth--the field the White Sox left to play at Comiskey Park.

Foster continued to pitch, but he became more interested in managing, and became one of the most successful and innovative managers of his day. Foster's American Giants teams were some of the most entertaining in history, with each game full of base-stealing, hit-and-running, and bunting, bunting and more bunting! All of the American Giants were expected to be precise bunters and fast runners, and one player described watching an American Giants game as being, "like watching a track meet."

From 1911 through 1922, the American Giants won every championship available except for 1916 when the Indianapolis ABCs temporarily broke the Giants' string.

In 1920, Foster and several other Negro League team owners got together at Kansas City's Paseo "Colored" YMCA, and organized the original Negro National League. The league consisted of the Chicago American Giants, St. Louis Giants, Kansas City Monarchs, Chicago Giants, Indianapolis ABCs, Detroit Stars, Cuban Stars and Dayton Marcos. The business side of baseball was very different in the Twenties than today, where the amount of money needed to make drastic changes in the sport is astronomical. The formation of the league would amount to the average small business loan in today's economy, but for the time the formation of the league was a large investment.

Foster's dream was that, if the Negro National League was successful, eventually entire black teams would be allowed into the Major Leagues. Foster, as president of the league (as well as continuing to manage the American Giants) took 5% of the gate for league games, and ruled the way he saw fit. If one team was weak he might send money or players from another team to keep the competition keen. Foster also laid down rules for managers and players, insisting that all behave professionally on and off the field for he knew that the slightest indiscretion would hurt the league's reputation and its chance of integrating the Majors.

In 1923, the Eastern Colored League was formed featuring teams from the East such as the Atlantic City Bacharachs, Brooklyn Royal Giants, Philadelphia Hilldales, New York Lincolns and Baltimore Black Sox. The two leagues competed for players and often didn't get along.

In 1924, though, Foster proposed a Negro League World Series pitting the champion of each league and the fans love it! In '24 the Monarchs beat the Hilldales in the first Negro League World Series, and in '25 the Hilldales beat the Monarchs. During the 1926 season Foster began acting erratically and eventually suffered a nervous breakdown, after which he entered a mental hospital from which he would never leave. American Giants' third baseman Dave Malarcher took over managing duties from Foster, and led the team to the Negro National League pennant and World Series championship over Atlantic City. It seems quite a shame that Foster wasn't on the bench to see the team he built win it all.

On December 9th, 1930, Foster died at the age of 51. Foster was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1981, and his half-brother, Willie Foster, was inducted 15 years later, making them the only brothers in Negro League history to be inducted.


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