Notable Alumni: Josh Gibson, James “Cool Papa” Bell, Judy Johnson, Buck Leonard, Martín Dihigo, “Smokey” Joe Williams, Vic Harris, Jerry Benjamin, Howard Easterling, Luke Easter and Sam Bankhead
One of the Negro Leagues’ preeminent clubs, the Homestead Grays won nine straight league titles from 1937-48 and three Negro World Series championships in that span. Initially based in Pittsburgh and later splitting time between the Steel City and Washington D.C., the Grays had a known winning percentage of .638 during their overall run.
An independent club for much of their early history, the Grays grew into a powerhouse under the direction of Cumberland Posey, who played for the team before transitioning into a role as its field and business manager, and later its principal owner. Posey, who was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006, had a knack for finding and signing elite talent -- including legendary slugger Josh Gibson, who is often compared to Babe Ruth -- and the business sense to turn the club into a profitable outfit that was able to withstand the Great Depression.
The Grays found a home in the Negro National League in 1935 and went on to dominante the league into the ’40s, becoming a big draw at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh and Griffith Stadium in Washington D.C.
The team the Grays fielded in 1931 is considered by some baseball historians to be the greatest of all time, as it featured five future Hall of Famers -- Gibson, Oscar Charleston and Jud Wilson in the lineup, and Smokey Joe Williams and Willie Foster in the rotation -- in addition to stars such as Vic Harris, George Scales and Ted Radcliffe, with Posey leading the way as the team’s manager.
The Grays didn’t have an official league that year, as the American Negro League had folded after one season in 1929, so they scheduled anyone and everyone, and crushed many of their opponents. Official records weren’t kept at that time, but after researching every available box score from the 1931 season, baseball historian Phil S. Dixon estimated that the Grays went 143-29-2 (.828 W%).