The Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame is thrilled to announce the confirmation of baseball great Andrew "Rube" Foster as our first member of the 2021 class. He will be inducted posthumously at our October 28th ceremony with a very special guest to be announced at a later date accepting on his behalf.
Often called the Father of The Negro Leagues and the first black baseball executive, Rube Foster was born in Calvert, Texas in 1879. The son of a preacher, he began his professional baseball career as a pitcher for the African American Independent Waco Yellow Jackets in 1897. After making a name for himself among white and black baseball fans as a premier player, he was eventually signed by Frank Leland's Chicago Union Giants as a player/manager in 1907 where the team finished with 110-10 record and won the Chicago City League Pennant. 1n 1910 the brash and confident Foster was able to wrestle legal control of the team from its founder, Frank Leland and then proceeded to put together a team he later considered his finest. He signed John Henry Lloyd away from the Philadelphia Giants, second baseman Grant Johnson, catcher Bruce Petway, and pitchers Frank Wickware and Pat Dougherty. Lloyd sparked the Lelands to a 123–6 record (with Foster himself contributing a 13–2 record on the mound).
The following season, Foster established a partnership with John Schorling, the son-in-law of Chicago White Sox owner Charlie Comiskey. The White Sox had just moved into Comiskey Park, and Schorling arranged for Foster's team to use the vacated South Side Park, at 39th and Wentworth. The Leland Giants then became known as the Chicago American Giants and they went on to claim the Western Black Baseball Championship for the next four years. In the years following, discrepancies began to emerge with other black clubs over the legitimacy of Championships and cross league play between other clubs. These discrepancies helped pave the way for the foundation of a National Negro League with Foster leading the charge in 1920 with the help of team rival C.I. Taylor of the Indianapolis ABC's club. Foster, Taylor and the owners of six other midwestern clubs met in the spring to form a professional baseball circuit for African-American teams. Foster, as president, controlled league operations, while remaining owner and manager of the American Giants. With the formation of the new league, a stable schedule and reasonably solvent opponents, Foster was able to improve receipts at the gate for the Chicago American Giants. It is reported that when opposing clubs lost money, Foster was also known to help them meet payroll, sometimes out of his own pocket. The American Giants won the National Negro League's first three pennants, before being overtaken by the Kansas City Monarchs in 1923.
In 1925 Foster was on the receiving end of a gas leak during a stay in Indianapolis that almost killed him. In the year following he began to show signs of mental illness as a result of the accident and was eventually institutionalized after relinquishing control of the team and league. The American Giants and the NNL lived on and the Giants won the pennant and World Series in both 1926 and 1927—but the league clearly suffered in the absence of Foster's leadership. Foster died in 1930, never having recovered from his illness, and a year later, the league he had founded sadly fell apart.
Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame President Charles Carey said, "Ryan Nilsson of The Chicago SunTimes wrote an excellent piece on Rube Foster last July during the lock down of the pandemic. After reading the piece and the discovery of all his achievements it was clear that he was a must for our next Hall of Fame class."
In 1981, Foster was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. He was the first representative of the Negro leagues elected as a pioneer or executive. The induction of Rube Foster to The Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame will happen Thursday night October 28th. Please follow us on twitter for more announcements and updates to the 2021 Hall of Fame class.