The Chatham All-Stars
The ground-breaking team you never heard of
Baseball's Best Kept Secret
With the merger of the National League and American league in the early 1900s, the popularity of baseball as a sport in North American grew massively. Major League Basbell became America's past time with the World Series becoming one of the greatest shows on earth - with the help players like Babe Ruth of course. Amid all of this was rise of Jim Crow post-abolishment where instituational racism was widely practiced across North America - yes that includes Canada, specifically in sports and especially in baseball.
As Black players were banned from participating in pro leagues like the MLB, African-Americans were in a league of thier own - literally! It was called the Negro Leagues which became widely popular in the US with players like Satchel Paige, Joshua Gibson, and the great Jackie Robinson who would break the color barrier in 1947 in the Major Leagues.
Across the pond in Canada, Black baseball players were experiencing similar forms of discrimination and were banned from participating in professional and amateur sports leagues. In the community of Chatham located in South Western Ontario, a group of friends decided to take their love of baseball to a next level and form their own team, called the Chatham Colored All-Stars and as the saying goes, the rest was HISTORY!
The team would play regularly at Stirling Park hosting their own exhibition style games which was known as barnstorming. This was a known practice in the early 1900s where performers would travel to different cities to entertain the local crowds. The All-Stars were noticed by a local business man, Archie Stirling, who was impressed with their level of play. So much so, he petitioned the team to become part of the Ontario Baseball Amateur Association (OBAA), giving them the opportunity to compete against other white teams across the city and neighbouring towns.
The Chatham All-Stars quickly became the hometown favourite and their popularity grew due to the local newspaper reporters who enjoyed watching them play. They became like the Harlem Globetrotters of baseball at the time and being the only Black team in the league, they became known for their stylish and gritty style of play. Not only were they dedicated to the sport of baseball, they were dedicated to representing the values of the larger Black Chatham community which embodied hard work, dedication and respect.
In 1934 during their second year in the OBAA, they won the provincial championship and became the first All Black team to win. In the championship game, they absolutely dusted the Penetang Shipbuilders 13-7, to establish themselves as a dominant group of baseball players who knew how to play ball.
With their popularity and winning mentality, showed the larger Baseball community that there is room for more Black people in sports outside of the single players chosen to break the color barrier. Not only that, the players represented a deeper connection to the Black communities and its goal to properly integrate into the larger society. For example, The Harding family had 4 brothers who played on the team who made history in other ways. Players like Wilfred "Boomer' Harding who was known for commanding respect on and off the field became the first Black playe rto play in the International Hockey League. Not only that, he became the first Black Postman in Chatham after serving in the war!
Another notable player was Earl "Flat" Chase from Buxton, Ontario who was a power hitter who set records for home runs across Southern Ontario. The full 1934 roster deserves credit:
Earl "Flat" Chase (Windsor):
Andy Harding (Chatham): outfielder
Len Harding (Chatham): centre-fielder;
agasta Harding (Buxton):
Wilfred "Boomer" Harding (Chatham):
Ferguson Jenkins Sr. (Windsor):
Gouy Ladd (Chatham): outfielder
Cliff Olbey (Chatham): outfielder
Hyle Robbins (Buxton): outfielder
Stanton Robbins (Buxton): left-handed pitcher
Wellington "Willie" Shaugnosh (Walpole Island): pitcher
Don Tabron (Detroit): shortshop
Ross Talbot (Chatham): first-baseman
King Terrell (Chatham): third-baseman
Don Washington (Detroit): catcher
This team was ground-breaking and instrumental to the integration of sports in baseball and in North America. The Chatham All-Stars were playing against white teams and travel to teh US fo exhibition games well before Jackie Robinson made history in the MLB. Yet, this part of our colelctive Canadian and Baseball history has only just started to be uncovered. The reason it is so imporant is the generational legacy that remains at the forefront of the Chatham/Buxton/Windors and neighouring Detroit communties and their stories MUST BE SHARED!
Fortunately, more of their history is being preserved and uncovered by the familes of the original players, organizations like North Buxton Black Hihstorical Museum, and authors like Heidi Jacobs who recently published a book titled 1934: The Chatham Colored All-Stars Barrier Breaking Year!
More recently, The All Stars are petitioning to be in the baseball hall of fame, are featured in MLB the Show game and OLG has partnered with the Chatham Community to showcase their story:
Our brand is become more focused on these types of stories so that we can provide a modern representation to preserve the Black historical contributions to sports in Canada and across the globe. We did this with our Africville Seasides & Truro Victorias Hockey Jersey, and now we have our commemorative Chatham All-Stars reversible jerseys because their story desrves much more credit to our collective Canadian history and sports culture. View our collection here and learn more about the Chatham Colored All Stars below!
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