Friday, January 20, 2012


It was rebuilding time for the Stars in 1887. Off the diamond, the directors had reorganized with W.D. Miller elected the new club president. The management had just finished a long court battle with fan, John A. Cole who had fallen from the Star Park grandstand and held the club liable for his injuries. Directors were determined to bring new life to the team. The Stars then signed seven new players from the dissolved Southern League. Though the move looked like a solid one soon the Southerner's formed "cliques" and voiced their opinions on the directors on who to sign as manager. Management wanted Charles "Pep" Hackett but the "clique" insisted they would only play if James H. Gifford was hired. The directors finely under pressure announced Gifford as the new field boss. Without mincing matters, it may be stated that petty jealousy among the players was disastrous.  They lost so many games  that should have been won without much effort. Drunkenness itself lost enough games as to win the pennant, The addition of black players added more discord. Manager Gifford was unable to control the team and was fired, he was replaced by George Simmons. Pitcher Crothers was released for bad attitude. Lunch also for his drunkenness and disrespect towards club officials. While Jacoby's departure caused such a floury that he was reinstated.

Between the lines that Stars posted a 61-40 record finishing third behind Buffalo and the league champion Toronto. Wilkes- Barre and Jersey City were the leagues new additions. One of the most unsatisfying things about 1887 was that the pennant went to a club so little deserving of it. The Toronto club was just a little above average but took advantage of the collapse of both Buffalo and Syracuse.

The pitching staff was made up  of Douglas "Dove" Crothers (7-7), Ed "Silent" Dundon (20-19-8), Cornelius "Conny" Murphy (19-8) and Syracuse's first black professional player Robert Higgins (22-8). Not much is written about the Stars opening the season with a black catcher named Dick Johnson, who played under the name of Dick Male. Male's ability proved unsatisfactory and was released after just two games. He later signed with Zanesville of the Ohio State League.

Discrimination was common in the league in 1887. But there were several teams fielding black players. Buffalo's spectacular infielder Frank Grant and Newark pitcher George Stovey along with Bob Higgins were but a few to grave league teams that year. A year later racial factions would attempt to drive all blacks out of the league. But the southern ball players on the Stars didn't help matters much.

The Newark Daily Journal reports "Members of the Syracuse team made no secret of their boycott against Higgins. They succeeded in running Male off the club and will do the same with Higgins".

Bob Higgins pitched his first game at Star Park on May 31 defeating Oswego 11-4. Following his June 4th victory against Binghamton (who pitched the negro- Renfroe) 10-4 before 1,500 fans. Manager Simmons instructed all players to report the next morning to P.S. Ryder Photo Studio to have a 1887 team photo taken. Henry Simon and Doug Crothers told manager Simmons they would not be photographed with Higgins (because of his color) though  Bob Higgins did experienced several disconcerting accidents in his initial season with the Stars he did resign for 1888. With all the going on the Stars still posted good numbers - Ollie Beard (.356), Tom Lynch (.369). Harry Jacoby (.371), Lefty Marr (.356), Harry Simon (.365), Dick Buckley (.313) great averages as batters could no longer order high or low pitches. However the number of strikes increased from three to four, and walks counted as a base hit. This bad rule was dropped in 1888 and strikes returned to three.

 The majority of clubs suffered financial loses, during the season Utica, Binghamton and Oswego were compelled to disband. Buffalo & Toronto came out money ahead, while Hamilton, Rochester and Jersey City lost heavily. Syracuse sank it's surplus dollars into a luxury exhibition tour performed bad from opening day but did succeed in paying it's expenses.

During winter meetings Toronto, the league dissolved itself and reorganized as the International Association. The League had passed a ban to eliminate black players in July 1887, but could not enforce the action. This year they tried to put an end to the I.L's haven four negro players. Buffalo and Syracuse, quickly tried to retain its key players Frank Grant & Robert Higgins, that led the fight to eliminate the color barrier. The Star directors were very forceful in its leadership in this cause. A press report read: "The Star management received a letter of thanks in behalf of the negro citizens of Syracuse for their efforts in behalf of the colored players".

Star management hired Charles M. Hackett as their new field boss. Mr Hackett and the directors quickly assembled what was to be the championship club of 1888. The mainstay of the 1887 pitching staff Bob Higgins, Silent Dundon and Conny Murphy were joined by Frank Gilmore and Bill Bishop. The infield of "Max" McQuery, Ollie Beard, Joe Battin and Bill Higgins proved a steady bunch. The outfield was patrolled by Charles "Lefty" Marr, William "Rasty" Wright and "Fred " Bones" Ely all experienced men. The catching was spilt between "Tip" Shellhasse and Moses Fleetwood Walker.

Moses Fleetwood Walker a negro catcher would be reunited with Manager Hackett for a third time. Mr, Hackett described Walker as a speedster although his 30 thief's were far behind the team leader "Lefty" Marr. In a 1960's Post Standard article writer Bill Clark describes "Moses was a well educated man having graduated from Oberlin College where he preformed his catching duties just prior to Ban Johnson's time there". After his playing days. Walker wrote a book "Our Home Colony" on negro life in the United States.

The major news publication in Syracuse made no mention of either Walker or Higgins race. Moses Fleetwood Walker played 76 games with 49 hits, that included five doubles, two triples and two home runs. His batting average was just .175. The light hitting Walker batted ninth in the Star order.

This great Stars team rolled up 81 victories in 112 games to a cakewalk of the Association crown 6 1/2 games ahead of Toronto. Conny Murphy led the way with 34 wins, but only  fired 47 wild pitches- both all-time International League records, to go along with a league leading 1.27 earned run average. Along with Murphy, Bob Higgins and "Silent: Dundon managed 17 and 13 wins respectively. Across the country newspapers reports honored this great pitching staff. The New York Sun writes, "Syracuse has a strong trio of pitchers in Dundon, Murphy and Higgins....Dundon (nicknamed Dummy) writes on paper he would not drink during the season as he knows that Manager Hackett would release him at once if he found him drunk".

1888 was a great year, the Stars led the league from opening day to September 1, then regained the lead on September 12 as "Lefty" Marr's two run homer defeated Toronto 8-3. The next day the Stars trailed 2-1 into the seventh innings in what the Post Standard called "The most eventful and exciting inning ever played in Syracuse". 3,00 fans sat in the grandstand at Star Park a Joe Battin walked. Marr's triple sent Battin home. Ollie Beard rushed to the coach's box and bawled out "We've got one run the most, make another to clinch the game. They won't get any more". Each of the next five hitters caught the spirit and hit the  first pitch safety. Fans stood up in their seats, flourished their handkerchiefs, waived umbrellas and kept up the mighty shouts for many minutes. The game was prolonged 25 minutes by the numerous kicks by there Canadian opponents. The Stars used this game as a spring board to their first league championship. They finished in this order-Syracuse, Toronto, Hamilton, Rochester, London, Buffalo, Try and Albany.

The team looked sharp in their new uniforms. Gray color with blueish tint, shorts laced with a cord of maroon. Uniform tops had a handkerchief pocket on the left breast. hats were gray with a maroon "S", Stockings were maroon with white stripes.

 Following the 1888 seasons end Cap Anson again led his White Stockings into Syracuse on September 27. This time there were problems even before the game started. Seems that Anson refused to step on the same field as a negro player. Anson's policy was known and accepted by the Stars team and was not even mentioned in any Syracuse newspaper. Therefore Moses  Fleetwood walker was not allowed to play in the contest

The great season was over, the Star came home from Rochester to a hero's welcome. They were met by the Star Base Ball Association and a brass band. After three cheers, the champions of 1888 were escorted in carriages through the main street to a banquet at the Globe Hotel. People were requested ti illuminate along the line and the streets were lined with people and red lights. That evening President O'Neil announced that the Star directors had decided to continue baseball in 1889 and that all fines imposed by the association would be remitted. A key announcement as was that the team was behing $6,000 and the stockholders had to go down in their pockets for $2,000 to $2,500.

Although not winning the pennant in 1889, the Stars did finish second (64-44) to league leader Detroit. Manager John C. Chapman had a fine club led by Clarence "Cupid" Childs, Rusty Wright, Mox McQueery, Joe Battin and "Doc" Oberlander. Great pitching by Conny Murphy (28-18) and John Keefe (25-15) keep the club competitive in a league consisting of (in order of finish) Detroit, Syracuse, Rochester, Toledo, London, Buffalo and Hamilton. Mike Dorgan was with the Stars for part of the season and so was Tim O'Rourke who had been secured from the Texas League. Manager Chapman stated "Even though Detroit was the pennant winner the Stars has a much better team". "Scheduling had given Detroit 123 straight home games to end the 1889 season, and they probably would have finished third or fourth instead of first". Chapman challenged Detroit to a series of five or seven games, winner take all the game receipts and games to be played on neutral grounds- Buffalo, Rochester or Toronto. Detroit manager did not answer Chapman's challenge.  Note- "Cupid" Childs and "Conny "  Murphy would be inducted into the Syracuse Baseball Wall of Fame.

W.S Miller the team's president surrendered the office to George K. Frazer by years end. While Moses Fleetwood Walker ended his playing carrer that year hitting .216 in 50 games. Walker continued to reside in Syracuse and was listed in 1891 in  the Syracuse City Directory as being employed by the railroad mail service. In April of that year Moses in a drunken state walked through the Seventh Ward when he was accosted by a number of drunken tough guys. The men irritated him, called him bad names and finally one of the drunken toughs Patrick "Curley" Murray struck Walker. Walker drew a knife and stabbed his attacker. Murray a former Auburn prisoner would die of his wounds. Moses ran and was captured by police and place in a Syracuse jail. To his surprise in an adjoining cell was Mike Doragn who had been locked up as a result  of another fight.

Walker's case ended in a verdict of self defense. When the verdict was announced the court house was thronged with spectators, who received it with a tremendous roar of cheers, while Justice Kennedy in vain attempted to suppress  Moses Fleetwood Walker was the hero of the hour.

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