Clarence Williams of the Cuban Giants went 3 for 4 with two runs scored in an exhibition game between the Original Baltimore Orioles, and the best and first professional Negro Leagues team, the Cuban Giants.
On this day the Cuban Colored Giants beat the original Baltimore Orioles in an exhibition game on Long Island in New York. I picked this game of all games because so little is known about this team. And they were really, really good. Sporting Life reported;
The Baltimore Club played at West Farms, L.I. last Sunday the 9th with the Cuban Giants and fell victim to the prowess of the colored men.
The game was a blowout with the Cuban Giants winning 12-2. As the box score shows, it was a slug fest for the Cuban Giants. Every Cuban Giant knocked out at least one hit, with Clarence Williams and Arthur Thomas leading the way with three hits.
Arthur Thomas caught the game, and was a mountain of a man, being 6’-4”. He was born on December 10, 1864 in Washington, DC and died on August 12, 1895, having lived too short of a life; almost 30 years. Seamheads.com has no information on him, nor does baseball-reference.com have data on his batting or throwing position. There is a listing of him playing for the Baltimore Lord Baltimores of the National Colored Baseball League in 1887, but not as a member of the 1887 Cuban Giants. His incomplete batting average was a very healthy .452, going 14-31 with a double and triple. His image and name are shown 4th from right back row on the historic photograph of the 1887-1888 Colored Champions. Nevertheless, Arthur Thomas played for the Cuban Giants going 3 or 4 on October 9, 1887.
The other ballplayer to get three hits was the team’s first baseman, Clarence Williams. The Captain of the club was George Williams, but there is little documentation to ascertain if George and Clarence were brothers. They could have been since both have Philadelphia baseball connections. George Williams was recruited to join the original squad in 1885 and could have asked the club to call up Clarence. Clarence joined the club mid-season in 1885. One issue would be his age, in 1885, he was only 17.
Clarence was born in Harrisburg, PA on January 27, 1868, and was a noted baseball player by his teenage years, playing on a local Harrisburg club in 1882. He batted and threw right handed. There is a great discrepancy in the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum database and the box score from this game. The NLBM website notes Clarence Williams played four positions: catcher, short stop, third baseman, and outfielder, but not first base. Clarence later joined Sol White’s Philadelphia Giants in 1902. Baseball-reference.com has him playing for the Cuban Giants as a 21 year old in 1889, so if the box score listed C. Williams played in 1887, he would have been just 19 years old. His nickname was Wax.
In comparing the box score to team photo to the Team Roster in Baseball-reference.com there many common names on all three images. Yet the missing players show that there is little information on this important and very successful team.
The Baltimore Orioles are the first rendition of that named team and are members of the American Association from 1882 to 1891, and then full members of the 12 team National League. This is the same famous club of John McGraw, Wilbert Robinson and Wee Willie Keeler of the Orioles dynasties of 1894 to 1896.
Lots of questions arise with these exhibition games such as who played from the club? Was it their top starting nine, or new players brought in for a look? Did the Orioles send in their best team? The Orioles of 1887 finished a respectable 3rd place in the AA, 18 GB with a 77-58 -6 record for a respectful .570 W-L %. We have to assume that the Orioles effort was there and they were playing this game to win as well.
Confirmation of the game lies in the schedule, the Orioles were in New York in that time-frame, and they were the last games of the season. They played the Mets on the 8th and again on the 10th with the 9th as an off day. Thus it’s feasible and a likely possibility for the team to take the train out to Long Island and play an exhibition game on Sunday, even though paid admission games were “illegal” in New York until before World War I.
By Comparing the Orioles line up from the 8th and 10th, the regular season games with the Mets, to the 9th we can see if they fielded their first team, or brought out the rookies for a look. Like so many modern Mets teams, the 1887 version of the original Mets was just as bad. On the 8th they were beaten easily and on the 10th to close out the season, were badly beaten again. Sporting Life notes that on the 8th, the game was played in Brooklyn and the Mets pitcher, Lynch, “…was hit unmercifully….” The final score was 10-0 Baltimore (7 innings, due to darkness). On the 10th the game was at St. George’s on Staten Island, Sporting Life reported that the Mets were,
“…whitewashed by the Baltimores in a very easy manner… Fagan, the phenomenon, pitched for the Mets, and the Baltimore players had no trouble in hitting him. The Baltimores base-running was remarkable while that of the Mets was very weak.”
Below is a summary of the lineups for these three games. The stats are for the game on the 10th first, and then on the 9th. The Orioles did two substitutions, Phenomenal Smith the pitcher was in right field. One unknown player, Carter, was the pitcher. In baseball reference.com, no pitcher from the 19th century was named Carter. Carter could be a pseudo name or just a fake name to protect the pitcher’s dignity. Or he could have been someone from the local area, but due to the number of hits given up, he was pitching fodder for the Cuban Giants.
The O’s outfielder Mike Griffin played in 136 games, and hit .301/.375/.427, did not make the trip up to New York, as he was not listed in any of the games.
The Cuban Giants did face the first team, except for Pitcher Matt Kilroy, who was the O’s ace. If the assumption is that one always plays to win, then the Cuban Giants easily defeated the O’s. The box score notes that O’s outfielder Joe Sommer did hit a triple in this game. During the regular season, he hit only 5. If the O’s traveled to this game for just playing an exhibition, then they succeeded losing 2-12.
|Oct. 8 vs. Mets
|Oct. 9 vs. Cuban Giants
|Oct. 10 vs. Mets
|Stats for 1887
|Kilroy, P (46-19 589 IP)
|Smith, RF (Pitcher)
|(25-30, 491 IP)
|No record for him in Baseball-reference.