A Dozen Things You Should Know About George Stovey

George Stovey about 1890 (best picture I could find)

1. He was born George Washington Stovey in 1866 in New York (or maybe Philadelphia) to an unknown father and a woman of “mixed race” which in 1860s American made both he and his mother black. There is some question whether his name was Stovey or Stover.

2. He grew up playing in integrated semi-pro leagues around Williamsport, Pennsylvania where he became a premier left-handed pitcher.

3.In 1886 he joined the Cuban Giants, one of the first significant black barnstorming teams.

4. In June of the same year he joined Jersey City of the Eastern League, a professional minor league. He became the league’s first black player.

5. The next year he pitched for Newark with Moses Fleetwood Walker as his battery mate. Fleet Walker was the first black player to join a Major League team (in 1884).

6. During the 1887 season the Eastern League, the International League, and other minor leagues voted to ban the signing of further black players to their leagues. Stovey, Walker, and a handful of other black players were allowed to finish the season with their teams.

7. For the next several seasons he played off and on with the Cuban Giants in the Mid-States League (which was still integrated). He jumped from team to team almost yearly, a common activity for a ballplayer, especially a black ballplayer, in the era.

8. He finished his career in 1897 with the X-Giants and retired to umpire.

9. He became, during the 1897 season, the second black man to umpire a game between two white teams (Jacob Francis was first). He umped off and on into his 50s.

10. Retired, he did a lot of things including help create youth league teams, run moonshine during Prohibition (which got him in trouble with the police), and work in the local sawmill.

11. He died of a heart attack in 1936.

12. By general agreement he is considered the finest black pitcher of the 19th Century, but statistics on his career are almost impossible to find. His stats for 1886, the only year for which they are at all complete (according to Baseball Reference), give him a record of 22-20 with an ERA of 1.44, 69 walks, 246 strikeouts, and a WHIP of 1.004. Various sources give him 60 to 100 total wins, but apparently only the 1886 season is verifiable.


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