The team was formed in 1912 by Cumberland Posey, and remained in continuous operation for 38 seasons. The team was originally based in Homestead, Pennsylvania, adjacent to Pittsburgh. By the 1920s, with increasing popularity in the Pittsburgh region, the team retained the name "Homestead" but crossed the Monongahela River to play all home games in Pittsburgh, at the Pittsburgh Pirates' home Forbes Field and the Pittsburgh Crawfords' home Greenlee Field.
From 1940 until 1942, the Grays played half of their home games in Washington, D.C., while remaining in Pittsburgh for all other home stands. As attendance at their games in the nation's capital grew, by 1943, the Grays were playing more than two-thirds of their home games in Washington.
(1900 – c.1950)
|League titles||1931 • 1937 • 1938 • 1939|
1940 • 1941 • 1942 • 1943
1944 • 1945 • 1948
|Negro World Series titles||1943 • 1944 • 1948|
The Grays grew out of an earlier industrial team. In 1900, a group of African-American players had joined together to form the Germantown Blue Ribbons, an industrial league team. For ten years, the Blue Ribbons fielded a team every season and played some of the best sandlot teams in the area. In 1910, the managers of the team retired. The players reorganized the team and named themselves the Murdock Grays. In 1912, they became the Homestead Grays, the name they retained for the remainder of the franchise's history.
The Grays did join the American Negro League in 1929, but that league lasted only one season. The team operated independently again until 1932, when Posey organized the ill-fated East-West League; that league also collapsed before completing its first and only season.
Posey entered his Grays in the Negro National League in 1935. With the near-collapse of the Pittsburgh Crawfords, Josh Gibson returned to the Grays in 1937, combining with slugger Buck Leonard to power the Grays to nine consecutive (and a total of ten) Negro National League Championships and three Negro League World Series titles. Vic Harris managed the Grays during their years in league play, between 1935 and 1948, and piloted Homestead to eight pennants. He guided his team to six consecutive pennants from 1937 through 1942; in 1945 and 1948, and led the 1948 team to the Negro League World Series championship. The 1943 and 1944 NLWS titles came under Candy Jim Taylor.
Pittsburgh Steelers founder and owner Art Rooney related in a 1981 interview that he "from time to time" had "helped financially support the Negro League team, the Homestead Grays, and . . . was a better baseball fan than football fan."
Following the collapse of the Negro National League after the 1948 season, the Grays struggled to continue as an independent club, and ultimately disbanded in May 1951.
From the late 1930s through the 1940s, the Grays played their home games at Pittsburgh's Forbes Field, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates. However, during this same period the club adopted the Washington, D.C. area as its "home away from home" and scheduled many of its "home" games at D.C.'s Griffith Stadium, the home park of the Washington Senators. During these games, they were alternatively known as the Washington Grays or Washington Homestead Grays.
These Homestead Grays alumni have been inducted to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum:
When the Montreal Expos moved to Washington, "Grays" was one of the three finalists (along with "Senators" and the eventual winner "Nationals") for the relocated team's new name, reflecting Washington's baseball history.
The Nationals′ home field, Nationals Park, includes numerous references to the Grays:
William Hendrick Foster (June 12, 1904 – September 16, 1978) was an American left-handed pitcher in baseball's Negro leagues in the 1920s and 1930s, and had a career record of 143-69. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1996. Foster was the much-younger half-brother of Rube Foster, a Negro league player, pioneer, and fellow Hall of Famer.Buck Leonard
Walter Fenner "Buck" Leonard (September 8, 1907 – November 27, 1997) was an American first baseman in Negro league baseball and in the Mexican League. After growing up in North Carolina, he played for the Homestead Grays between 1934 and 1950, batting fourth behind Josh Gibson for many years. The Grays teams of the 1930s and 1940s were considered some of the best teams in Negro league history.
Leonard never played in Major League Baseball (MLB); he declined a 1952 offer of an MLB contract because he felt he was too old. Late in life, Leonard worked as a physical education instructor and was the vice-president of a minor league baseball team. He and Gibson were elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972. In 1999, he was ranked number 47 on the 100 Greatest Baseball Players list by The Sporting News.Cleveland Buckeyes
The Cleveland Buckeyes were a Negro league baseball team that played from 1942 to 1950 in the Negro American League. The Buckeyes played in two Negro World Series, defeating the Washington Homestead Grays in 1945, and losing to the New York Cubans in 1947. They were based in Cincinnati for their first season and Louisville for their second-to-last season.Cumberland Posey
Cumberland Willis Posey, Jr. (June 20, 1890 – March 28, 1946) was an American baseball player, manager, and team owner in the Negro leagues, as well as a professional basketball player and team owner.Cyclone Joe Williams
Joseph Williams (April 6, 1886 – February 25, 1951), nicknamed "Cyclone Joe" or "Smokey Joe", was an American right-handed pitcher in the Negro leagues. He is widely recognized as one of the game's greatest pitchers, even though he never played a game in the major leagues. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1999.East–West League
The East–West League was an American Negro baseball league that operated during the period when professional baseball in the United States was segregated. Cum Posey organized the league in 1932, but it did not last the full year and folded in June of that year. It was the first Negro league to include teams from both the Eastern and Midwestern United States.
Although the league lasted less than one season, it featured one of the strongest teams in the history of Negro league baseball, the Detroit Wolves. The league provided a foundation for the development of the second Negro National League, which would become the premier league for African American baseball players.Fogel Field
Fogel Field was a baseball stadium, located in Hot Springs, Arkansas. The site was also known as Fordyce Field and Holder Field. Fogel Field was built in 1912 as a spring training site for Major League Baseball teams. The field was named for Horace Fogel, President of the Philadelphia Phillies. Fogel Field hosted the Phillies (1912) and the Pittsburgh Pirates (1921–1923, 1926). The Kansas City Monarchs (1928), Homestead Grays (1930–1931) and Pittsburgh Crawfords (1932-1935) of Negro League Baseball also used Fogel Field as their spring training.
Several minor league teams from the American Association used Fogel Field as well: Indianapolis Indians (1926–1927), Milwaukee Brewers (1927–1931) and St. Paul Saints (1934–1935) . The Montreal Royals of the International League (1932) trained at Fogel Field.Homestead Grays Bridge
The Homestead Grays Bridge, also known as the (Homestead) High Level Bridge, was built in 1936 and spans the Monongahela River between Homestead Borough and the southernmost tip of Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill neighborhood. It is notable as the first bridge to incorporate the Wichert Truss, which uses a quadrilateral shape over each support, into its design. This made the truss statically determinate, so that forces in the structural members could be calculated.Josh Gibson
Joshua Gibson (c. December 21, 1911 – January 20, 1947) was an American Negro league baseball catcher. Baseball historians consider Gibson to be among the very best power hitters and catchers in the history of any league, including Major League Baseball (MLB). In 1972, he became the second Negro league player to be inducted in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.Gibson played for the Homestead Grays from 1930 to 1931, moved to the Pittsburgh Crawfords from 1932 to 1936, and returned to the Grays from 1937 to 1939 and 1942 to 1946. In 1937, he played for Ciudad Trujillo in Trujillo's Dominican League and from 1940 to 1941, he played in the Mexican League for Rojos del Águila de Veracruz. Gibson served as the first manager of the Santurce Crabbers, one of the most historic franchises of the Puerto Rico Baseball League.
Gibson was known as the "black Babe Ruth". In fact, some fans at the time who saw both Ruth and Gibson play called Ruth "the white Josh Gibson". Gibson never played in the major leagues because of the unwritten "gentleman's agreement" that prevented non-white players from participating. He stood 6-foot-1 (185 cm) and weighed 210 pounds (95 kg) at the peak of his career.Josh Gibson Field
Josh Gibson Field is a baseball venue located in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The field was known as Ammon Field or sometimes Ammons Field until 2008, when it was renamed for Baseball Hall of Fame player Josh Gibson.
Gibson began his career at Ammon Field in 1929 while playing with the Pittsburgh Crawfords, and continued playing there, as the Crawfords and Homestead Grays regularly played at Ammon. Known as the "black Babe Ruth," Gibson was a leading home run hitter until his death from a stroke in 1947 at age 35. In 1972, he became the second Negro Leagues player inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Originally a youth semi-pro team, the Crawfords eventually played at Ammon Field, earned a strong reputation and attracted games with many white teams. W.O.W., the defending champions of the white Greater Pittsburgh Semipro Tournament, played the Crawfords at Ammon on June 15, 1930. Although usually covering on the fully professional Homestead Grays, the Pittsburgh Courier reported the 9–8 Crawfords victory.
Grays owner and manager Cum Posey recognized the Crawfords competition with his own team and sought to undermine their appeal.
In 1929, he persuaded Crawfords manager Hooks Tinker to take on his older brother Seward "See" Posey as a part-time assistant and booker. While admission to the Crawfords amateur games were free by law, at one tournament in 1930, See Posey closed all but one gate to the park and required fans to make contribution, with two police officers stationed at the gate. After the game, he brought Tinker a burlap bag with $2000 in small bills. The Posey brothers were also able to lure Gibson to play with the Grays.
Displaced by a low-cost housing project, Ammon Field was moved in the 1940s a block west from its original location. It was ultimately configured as two smaller fields suitable for youth leagues. In 1996, a historical marker commemorating Josh Gibson's career was erected at the newer park site, 2217 Bedford Avenue. It reads: "Hailed as Negro Leagues' greatest slugger, he hit some 800 home runs in a baseball career that began here at Ammons [sic] Field in 1929. Played for Homestead Grays and Pittsburgh Crawfords, 1930-46. Elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, '72."
The original name of the park honored Edith Darlington Ammon, a pioneer in establishing playgrounds in the city.Jud Wilson
Ernest Judson Wilson (February 28, 1894 – June 24, 1963), nicknamed "Boojum", was an American third baseman, first baseman, and manager in Negro league baseball. He played for the Baltimore Black Sox, the Homestead Grays, and the Philadelphia Stars between 1922 and 1945. Wilson was known for possessing a unique physique, a quick temper, and outstanding hitting skills. One of the Negro leagues' most powerful hitters, his career batting average of .351 ranks him among the top five players.
Wilson was posthumously elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006, one of 17 black Negro league or pre-Negro league players inducted that year.Judy Johnson
William Julius "Judy" Johnson (October 26, 1899 – June 15, 1989) was an American professional third baseman and manager whose career in Negro league baseball spanned 17 seasons, from 1921 to 1937. Slight of build, Johnson never developed as a power threat but achieved his greatest success as a contact hitter and an intuitive defenseman. Johnson is regarded as one of the greatest third basemen of the Negro leagues. In 1975, he was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame after being nominated by the Negro Leagues Committee.
From 1921 to 1929, Johnson was a member of the Hilldale Daisies ball club and became an on-the-field leader respected for his professional disposition. His consistent swing and fielding prowess helped the Daisies win three straight pennants in the Eastern Colored League and the 1925 Colored World Series. After serving as a player manager for the Homestead Grays followed by the Daisies in the early 1930s, Johnson signed with the Pittsburgh Crawfords; as a part of the vaunted Crawford line-up of 1935, Johnson contributed to a team widely considered the greatest in Negro league history. He retired in 1937 after a short second stint with the Grays.
Following his retirement from baseball as a player, Johnson became a scout for Major League Baseball teams. He was hired as an assistant coach by the Philadelphia Athletics in 1954, becoming one of the first African Americans signed to a coaching position on a major league ball club. In his later years, Johnson served on the Negro Leagues Committee and stepped down in 1975 to accept his hall of fame nomination. He suffered a stroke in 1988 and died a year later.List of Negro league baseball players (S–Z)
This list consists of players who have appeared in Negro league baseball.
List of Negro league baseball players (A–D)
List of Negro league baseball players (E–L)
List of Negro league baseball players (M–R)
List of Negro league baseball players (S–Z)
Player inducted as a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and MuseumMartín Dihigo
Martín Magdaleno Dihigo Llanos (May 25, 1906 – May 20, 1971) was a Cuban player in baseball's Negro leagues and Latin American leagues who excelled at several positions, primarily as a pitcher and second baseman. He was born in the sugarmill (town of Cidra) Jesús María in Matanzas Province, Cuba.Negro American League
The Negro American League was one of the several Negro leagues created during the time organized American baseball was segregated. The league was established in 1937, and disbanded after its 1962 season.Negro National League (1933–1948)
The second Negro National League was one of the several Negro leagues created during the time organized baseball was segregated.Negro World Series
The Negro World Series was a post-season baseball tournament that was held from 1924 to 1927 and from 1942 to 1948 between the champions of the Negro leagues, matching the mid-western winners against their east-coast counterparts. The series was also known as the Colored World Series, especially during the 1920s, and as the Negro League World Series, in more recent books, though contemporary black newspapers usually called it simply, the "World Series", without any modification.Ray Brown (Negro leagues pitcher)
Raymond Brown (February 23, 1908 – February 8, 1965) was an American right-handed pitcher in Negro league baseball, almost exclusively for the Homestead Grays. Brown was most notable for many pitching accomplishments. While he was considered a very good pinch hitter and a solid bat, his arm earned him high praise. In February 2006, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.Willie Wells
Willie James Wells (August 10, 1906 – January 22, 1989), nicknamed "The Devil," was an American baseball player. He was a shortstop who played from 1924-48 for various teams in the Negro leagues and in Latin America.
Wells was a fast baserunner who hit for both power and average. He was at his finest with his glove, committing almost no errors and having the speed to run down anything that came in his direction. He is widely considered the best black shortstop of his day. He also taught Jackie Robinson how to turn a double play.Wells was also notable as being the first player to use a batting helmet, after being hit and getting a concussion while playing with the Newark Eagles. (His first helmet was a construction helmet.)
He is a member of the baseball halls of fame in the United States, Cuba and Mexico.
Homestead Grays 1943 Negro World Series Champions
Homestead Grays 1944 Negro World Series Champions
Homestead Grays 1948 Negro World Series Champions