1914 Hubbard Giants with Jimmy Claxton
Here is a snappy offering by friend Brian Campf, prompted by his discovery of a new baseball image of one of my favorite players, Jimmy Claxton, who passed for Native American briefly with the Oakland Oaks of the Pacific Coast League in 1916. He thus became the first black in Organized Baseball since Bill Galloway appeared in five games in the Canadian League 1899, and the last until Jackie Robinson signed with Montreal on October 23, 1945. Once his race was suspected , Claxton was shuffled off the roster, but a few days before, he had happened to be present when the Zee-Nut Candy photographers came to the park to secure images for their trading card series. Claxton’s card in the 1916 set is a highly desirable item. One of these rare cards was sold at auction by Sotheby’s for $7,200 in June 2005. Brian offers many interesting images at http://www.sportingoregon.com [cut and paste the link]. I encourage you to take a look at his site. By the way, an outstanding biography of Claxton, by Tom Hawthorn, may be read profitably here: http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/43c05f0c [cut and paste the link]. For now, though let’s focus on the freshly found image below, and Brian’s writeup.
Southpaw pitcher Jimmy Claxton was both the first African American to play in Organized Baseball in the 20th century–he pitched two games for the Pacific Coast League’s Oakland Oaks in 1916–and the first black player to appear on an American baseball card. He sits in the front row, far right of this postcard (below) of the 1914 Hubbard Giants baseball team from Portland, Oregon.
Composed solely of African Americans, the Portland Giants played from 1910 to 1915. In 1914 alone they used the name Hubbard Giants after Lew Hubbard, who managed the team. The postcard can be dated to 1914 because of their Hubbard Giants jerseys and the use of that team name on the postcard. Claxton played for the Giants during both 1914 and 1915 before signing with the Sellwood club (also located in Portland).
The caption of a Hubbard Giants team photo in the Oregon Daily Journal (different from the photo on the postcard shown here) lists a 1914 roster of P. Smith, Goins, Harper, Williams, H. Smith, St. Clair, Hubbard (manager), Lewis, Brown, Harris, Couver (captain), Claxton, Henry, and Vernon. The Oregonian‘s 1914 coverage adds another name, pitcher Elliston.
The St. Helens Mist adds one more player, Hooker, and in the only box score of the team I have seen lists the players from a June 28, 1914 game numbered by position: (1) Henry, p; (2) H. Smith, c; (3) Vernon, 1b; (4) Harper, 2b; (5) Williams, 3b; (6) Conver [Couver], ss; (7) Harris, lf; (8) Hubbard, cf; (9) Hooker, rf.
My best guess after comparing the Oregon Daily Journal photo with the postcard is that the players in the postcard are as follows, left to right. Top row: P. Smith, Goins, St. Clair, Lewis, Vernon, Harper, Couver. Bottom row: Williams, Harris, H. Smith, Hubbard, Unknown, Brown, Claxton.
The Hubbard Giants numbered their 1914 uniforms with the dice game craps in mind, the Oregonian reported on April 2, 1914. The previous day they had bought 12 new uniforms with eight inch square numbers on the back of each jersey. Nobody wanted to wear number 12 for fear of bad luck, so one uniform bore the number 13. Pitchers wore 7 and catchers 11, referring to successful rolls in craps.
1. Oregonian, June 14, 1914; May 16, June 14, June 20, July 26, 1915.
2. Oregon Daily Journal, May 31, 1914.
3. Oregonian, May 31, June 14, June 28, September 6, 1914; March 9 1915.
4. St. Helens Mist, July 3, 1914.