The First True Black Professional Baseball Player
Everyone has heard of Jackie Robinson, the first black baseball player to play in the MLB, but not many have heard about Moses Walker.
Moses Walker was an American baseball player, author, and businessman. Walker was born in October 1856 and was educated in black schools until schools in his area were integrated. Moses was born in Ohio and spent much of his childhood there until he went on to school and to play baseball.
“Walker was playing at a time when the Civil War was not in the distant past,” said James A. Riley, a baseball historian and the author of several books on the Negro Leagues. “Many of the fans would yell things out of the stands when he’d go into the game. They’d call him names.”
In 1878, Moses enrolled in Oberlin College, where he played on the first baseball team for the school in 1881. He later transferred to the University of Michigan and played college baseball for the Wolverines in 1882.
Walker was a star catcher for both college teams. In 1883, Walker signed with a minor league team called the Toledo Blue Stockings. He played several seasons with the Toledo Team.
In 1884, Toledo joined the American Association, which was a major league. During his major league career, Walker had a .263 batting average.
Cap Anson from the Chicago Cubs refused to play with Walker. Anson was a very liked man, a would be a Fame of Hall player. Unfortunately, Anson was also a believer in blacks not being in the major leagues, in the future he would be a major player in segregating baseball.
Because Cap Anson was a more liked person and had a position, he was favored more than Moses. Soon it would result in Moses leaving.
In 1885, Walker returned to the minor leagues and played on several teams over the next few years. He never played in a “colored” league.
The Negro leagues is what the African Americans made, to be able to play baseball. Once the Jim Crowe laws ended and eventually black players slowly entered the Major leagues, overcoming discrimination and racism.
Some 60 years later, Jackie Robinson debuted as the “first black man” to play major league baseball. Overall Robinson was a better player than Walker: his batting average was .311 and he hit 137 home runs.
Meanwhile, Walker had a batting average of .263 with no home runs on record.
Maybe the reason why history has cleared the slate with Walker is because Jackie Robinson was a better player and had to face the baseball color line rule in order to get into the league.
They played in different eras of the sport. However, they both faced the same challenges, hardships, and discriminations.
Both Robinson and Walker had to go up against racism and segregation throughout their childhood and careers. Both men overcame these challenges to become great men and baseball players.