Moses Fleetwood Walker
Moses Fleetwood Walker’s promising baseball one of the unknown careers of the great African American players. Prior to the Negro Leagues who began to play in the early twentieth century. Walker was a gifted defensive catcher and offensive player, but his career would be cut short by the radical racism. He was well educated,
Moses Fleetwood Walker was born in Mt. Pleasant, Ohio in 1857 on the day of 7 in the month of October in Mt. Pleasant, His parents were biracial His mother name was Caroline who worked as a mid wife his father Moses was an expert Cooper and jack of all trades. This part of Mt. Pleasant was locate in eastern Ohio it had a large Quaker population. In the pre civil war era. The town was important stop on the Underground Railroad for escaped slaves. During his childhood his family moved from there to the city of Steubenville. There his father began medicine. He and his siblings were educated in the black schools until the city schools became integrated. He and his brother Weldy attended Steubenville High School. During that time his father became a minister and became one of the most respected and wealthiest black professionals in the state. He then enrolled in Oberlin College.
in 1878 following the footsteps of his father. After a year in the preparatory classes. His freshman year he excelled in all academics and was deeply in love and a passion for the baseball field. His point of fully engaging in the sport came in 1880 when he as a catcher in senior year belted a home run that cleared the heretofore unreachable Cabinet Hall hundreds of feet away. The talk of the entire college. He instantly became a celebrity there. In the spring of 1881 he entered the baseball squat it first intercollegiate ever and the only one of its kind. He was then recruited to attend the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He accepted the offer as did Arthur Packard a pitcher son of civil war general and Congressman Jasper Packard along with him also enrolled was his brother and his girlfriend Bella Taylor who was at the time with child. They were both married the year following his new enrollment. His major while at the university was Law. While also there he became the school top diamond star. And good enough to pick up extra income in the summer of 1881, playing for the White Sewing Machine team. One of the region’s best squads, the Cleveland club served as an incubator for several future major leaguers He was immediately fixed in as the team’s regular catcher he traveled with the White Sewing Machine team to Louisville, and checked into the St. Cloud Hotel. The account of what transpired was captured vividly in the next day’s Louisville Courier-Journal. “The Cleveland Club brought with them a catcher for their nine a young quadroon named Walker. The first trouble they experienced from Kentucky prejudice was at the St. Cloud Hotel yesterday morning at breakfast, when Walker was refused accommodations. When the club appeared on the field for practice before the game, the managers and one of the players of the Eclipse Club objected to Walker playing on account of his color. In vain, the Cleveland’s protested that he was their regular catcher, and that his withdrawal would weaken the nine.
“The prejudice of the Eclipse was either too strong, or they feared Walker, who has earned the reputation of being the best amateur catcher in the Union. He has played against the League clubs, and in many games with other white clubs, without protest. The Louisville managers decided that he could not play, and the Cleveland’s were compelled to substitute west.
“During the first inning, West was ‘burned out’ by the terrific pitching of Jones, and when the Eclipse went to bat in the second inning, after one or two efforts, West said he could not face the balls with his hands so badly bruised, and refused to fill the position The very large crowd of people present, who saw that the Cleveland’s were a strong nine laboring under disadvantage, at once set up a cry in good nature for ‘the nigger’. Vice President Carroll, of the Eclipse, walked down in the field and called on Walker to come and play. The quadroon was disinclined to do so, after the general ill-treatment he had received; but as the game seemed to be in danger of coming to an end, he consented, and started in the catcher’s stand. As he passed before the grand stand, he was greeted with cheers, and from the crowd rose cries of ‘Walker, Walker!’ He still hesitated, but finally threw off his coat and vest and stepped out to catch a ball or two and feel the bases He made several brilliant throws and fine catches while the game waited. Then Johnnie Reccius and Fritz Pfeffer, of the Eclipse nine, walked off the field and went to the club house, while others objected to the playing of the quadroon.
“The crowd was so pleased with his practice, however, that it cheered him again and again and insisted that he play. The objection of the Eclipse players, however, was too much and Walker was compelled to retire. When it was seen that he was not to play, the crowd cheered heartily and very properly hissed the Eclipse club, and jeered their misplays for several innings, while the visitors, for whom White consented to catch, obviously under disadvantages, were cheered to the echo.
“Jones, the pitcher, was not supported adequately, and if Walker had caught, it is probable the Eclipse would have been defeated. It was a very small part of business, particularly when Walker was brought out as a substitute for a disabled man and invited to play by the Vice President of the Eclipse, who acted very properly in the matter. The following year, Fleet was contacted by William Voltz, a former sportswriter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer who had been hired to manage the Toledo Blue Stockings of the Northwestern League. He helped the team win the league championship, and pocketed around $2,000 in the process—a princely sum for any man in 1883, regardless of race.
In an exhibition game that summer, Fleet had his first run-in with Cap Anson, the National League’s most influential player. After arriving in Toldeo with his Chicago team, Anson announced that he would not play with Fleet in the lineup. The Blue Stockings manager had originally planned to rest his catcher. But when served with this boorish ultimatum, he decided to start Fleet in right field—daring Anson to walk away from his split of the gate receipts. The game was held as scheduled, with the White Stockings winning 7-6.
That loss aside, Toledo’s success on and off the field in 1883—specifically the battery of Fleet and hurler Hank O’Day—convinced the club to join the fledgling American Association for the 1884 season. Known as baseball’s “beer and whiskey” league, the two-year-old AA was one of three major leagues operating in ’84. Along with the Union Association, it posed a direct challenge to the older National League.
Despite an unprecedented need for top-flight talent in professional baseball, Fleet was the only dark-skinned competitor in the majors when the year began. He made his debut on May 1, 1884—in Louisville, ironically enough. Two days later, Fleet got his first major-league hit, a single, in that same city. Later in the season, he was joined by Weldy, who became history’s second black major leaguer.
Against the world’s top baseball competition, Fleet more than measured up. A crackerjack bare-handed catcher who possessed a shotgun arm, he proved a dependable singles hitter, and displayed speed and élan on the base paths. His batting average in 1884 was .263, a full 23 points above the league mark. Another gauge of Fleet’s ability was the quality of his backup, Deacon McGuire, who went on to catch more than 1,600 games in a record-setting 26-year major-league career.
The Blue Stockings finished in eighth place at 46-58 in the ‘84 campaign. The team’s best players were second baseman Sam Barkley, pitcher Tony Mullane, and Fleet.
Mullane revealed years later that he disliked taking signals from his black catcher. In turn, Fleet caught most of the year without knowing the speed, location or spin of the hurler’s deliveries. The result was an appalling number of passed balls, and an assortment of injuries, including a broken rib. On many days, Fleet hurt too much to play, and on others he could only take an outfield position. At the end of the year he was released by Toledo, and accepted a job in the post office.
Unbeknownst to Fleet, the powers that be in the American Association had agreed with their National League counterparts to observe the N.L.’s unwritten rule banning blacks from its rosters. When the Union Association slipped into oblivion, the overall talent pool available to the leagues increased, which lessened the need to explore manpower alternatives. Where Fleet Walker would have gone as a ballplayer will never be known. But where he went as a blacklisted ballplayer and tortured soul we do know. In 1885, Fleet hooked up with Cleveland of the Western League. The team folded in June, and he headed east looking for work. There he hooked up with Waterbury, a member of the Eastern League, and played for theclub through 1886.
The following year, Fleet joined Newark of the International League, a relatively open circuit for black players. There, with ace pitcher George Stovey, he formed the first black battery in organized baseball. Stovey, the first great black pitcher in American baseball annals, reeled off a 34-14 record. Fleet batted a respectable .263 and swiped 36 bases. The pair was particularly impressive in an exhibition victory over the vaunted New York Giant. Stovey held the major leaguers to a meager two runs, and Fleet nailed player-manager John Ward trying to steal second. After the game, Ward inquired as to the availability of the Newark stars. But as word spread of the inquiry, Cap Anson railed against the suggestion of letting blacks back into the N.L., and apparently had enough high-level support to foil Ward’s plan. When the White Stockings played Newark in an exhibition, Fleet and Stovey watched from the bench as Anson led his club to victory. Newark later folded, and Fleet spent 1888 and 1889—his last seasons in organized baseball—with the Syracuse Stars of the International League. A final slap in the face was delivered that year by the ubiquitous Anson, whose refusal to take the field against black ballplayers was now accepted by club owners hoping to pull in money with exhibition games against Chicago. When the White Stocking swung north for a game against the Stars, Fleet found himself riding pine again
Nearly two decades later, in 1908, an embittered Fleet Walker published a book entitled Our Home Colony, which called for black emigration back to Africa as the only alternative to racial prejudice. His publishing career also included a newspaper, The Equator.
Towards the end of his life. He truly battled alcoholism, and and was tried and acquitted on charges of second-degree murder following an attack by a convicted alcohol, burglar, whom he had killed with a knife in self-defense. He died on May 11, 1924, in Cleveland at age 67.