Notable Alumni: Rube Foster, John Henry “Pop” Lloyd, Dan McClellan, Bobby Winston, Harry Buckner and Grant “Home Run” Johnson
Though not a member of organized Negro League baseball, the independent Cuban X Giants were one of the largest figures of early black baseball in America. Predating the Negro Leagues, the Cuban X Giants were comprised of defecting members of the Cuban Giants (the first African-American professional baseball team), and they became a dominating force at the turn of the century. Led by a young pitcher named Rube Foster, the Cuban X Giants won the Colored World Championship in 1903, defeating the Philadelphia Giants, five games to two. Foster pitched in four of those victories, and he would later become more widely known for his executive contributions to the sport, eventually earning the moniker, “Father of Black Baseball.”
Like Foster, the Cuban X Giants made substantial contributions to this cause, growing the reach and legitimacy of black baseball in America through different means. In the winter of 1903, the club became the first African-American professional baseball team to play in Cuba, and two years later it became the first black baseball team to defeat a Major League team. While they ended up splitting a two-game series against the Brooklyn Dodgers, the Cuban X Giants sent a message by outscoring their MLB counterparts, 8-3. Sadly, that message would have to be carried by others, as the team folded not long after in 1907.
Over the course of their history, the Cuban X Giants seemed to find themselves in just that, history. Spurred on by their first excursion to Cuba, the team became a founding member of the National Association of Colored Baseball Clubs of the United States and Cuba, established in 1906. These games on foreign soil would eventually establish a wider trend for the Negro Leagues as a whole. Players such as Jackie Robinson and Satchel Paige would play in leagues all across the Caribbean, from Puerto Rico to Venezuela, and Cuban players who were first exposed to the Negro Leagues in these games would eventually form their own Negro League team, the New York Cubans.
While the Cuban X Giants never participated in the Negro Leagues themselves, the fingerprints they left on the game are clearly visible.