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The Philadelphia Stars

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That same year, Negro League baseball saw the second coming of the Negro National League, This time under the leadership of Gus Greenlee, the Negro National League would remain a force in baseball until its eventual dissolution in 1948.

Greenlee wanted Bolden's team to be a part of his newly formed Negro National League but Bolden, based upon his past experiences with leagues, was reluctant to incorporate his team. Bolden felt his team could continue to have financial success as an independent squad but by 1934 he was ready to reconsider. The Stars, who had moved their home field to Penmar Park at 44th and Parkside, struck a deal with Greenlee, who felt that the NNL would benefit from having a Philadelphia based team. The Stars instantly found what would be their greatest league success as they, as the second half champions, defeated the first half champion Chicago American Giants to win the league championship series.

The Stars continued to play in the NNL until 1948 when the league disbanded due to its best players moving to play in the newly integrated Major League Baseball. Though the NNL was no more, the Stars continued to play until 1952, this time as a member of the Negro American League which had absorbed the remaining NNL teams.

Activity

You should have already begun to construct a timeline and narrative on Ed Bolden and his impact on the game of baseball in Philadelphia and beyond.

  1. Expand on the timeline and narrative by sharing what you learned about his role with the Philadelphia Stars.
  2. In what league(s) did the Philadelphia Stars play?
  3. Why do you believe the integration of Major League Baseball eventually led to the Philadelphia Stars disbanding in 1952?

Philadelphia Stars Players

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Philadelphia was a hub for Negro League Baseball and the Philadelphia Stars players themselves added to the rich history. In 2015, the Phillies released They Said We Couldn't Play: An Oral History of the Philadelphia Stars that honors the Stars legacy in the city while giving those living during the time of filming the opportunity to share their story. Gene Benson, Bill Cash, Mahlon Duckett, Stanley Glenn, Harold Gould and Wilmer Harris all contributed to the narrative.

William "Bill" Cash (1919-2011)

Bill Cash was born in Georgia in 1919 and moved to Philadelphia in 1924. Cash was a catcher for the Philadelphia Stars from 1943-1950. He played in Major League Baseball's Minor Leagues for two seasons. In 2008 when MLB held a special draft for Negro League players, Cash was not eligible due to his time in the minors. The Phillies made him an honorary member of the team soon afterwards.

Eugene "Gene" Benson (1913-1999)

Gene Benson was born in Pittsburgh, PA in 1913. A strong centerfielder, Benson played for the Philadelphia Stars in 1937 and after spending the 1938 season playing for the Homestead Grays in his hometown of Pittsburgh, he returned to the Stars where he played until 1948.

In 1998 Benson was invited out to the Marian Anderson Recreation Center's Anderson Yards to throw out the ceremonial first pitch of the season. His Stars number "16" was placed on the outfield wall in his honor. Today the Marion Anderson Recreation Center, located at 17th and Fitzwater, is the indoor facility for the Phillies Major League Baseball Urban Youth Academy Ryan Howard Training Center.

Mahlon Duckett (1922-2015)

Mahlon Duckett was born in Philadelphia in 1922. He attended Overbrook High School and while he had tremendous baseball talent, he did not play in high school instead opting to run track. The Philadelphia Stars drafted a 17-year old Duckett in 1940. Due to his age he had to receive permission from his parents to play for the Stars. While they were reluctant at first they did allow him to join the Stars. He played second base for the team until 1949 and was named Negro National League Rookie of the Year in 1940.

In 1994 Duckett was one of several Negro League players honored by then Vice President Al Gore at the White House. Duckett was selected by his hometown Phillies when MLB had a Special Negro League draft in 2008.

Stanley Glenn (1926-2011)

Stanley Glenn was born in Virginia in 1926 and moved to Southwest Philadelphia in first grade. He attended Bartram High School where he played baseball. During his senior year he caught the attention of the Yankees who had heard about a catcher in Philadelphia crushing home runs. The Yankees sent coach Art Fletcher to evaluate Glenn but when Fletcher learned Glenn was African-American he turned around and went home.

After high school Glenn joined the Philadelphia Stars and played for them until 1950. He then went to play in the minors for parts of four seasons. When MLB held their Special Negro League draft he was ineligible due to his time in the minors. However, the Phillies made Glenn an honorary team member.

Glenn, along with teammate Mahlon Duckett and other Negro League players, was honored in 1994 at the White House by then Vice President Al Gore.

Harold Gould (1924-2012)

Harold Gould was born in 1924 in Gouldtown, New Jersey. The town was settled by his ancestor Benjamin Gould in about 1700. Though Philadelphia was about 40 minutes away, Gould had never travelled there and did not know much about the Philadelphia Stars when they came calling for his pitching skills. He joined the team in 1946 and pitched for them through the 1948 season.

Gould went on to play in Canada, an experience he describes as wonderful, for the Farnham Pirates in the Quebec Provincial League. In 2008 the Toronto Blue Jays drafted Gould in the MLB Special Negro League draft.

Wilmer Harris (1924-2004)

Wilmer Harris was born in Philadelphia where he grew up playing baseball and basketball. He attended Central High School. He was a pitcher who began playing with the Stars in 1945 and in his first game he opposed Satchel Paige, who many argue is one of the best pitchers to ever play the game, and threw seven scoreless innings. He played with the Stars until the team folded in 1952.

Many more greats donned the Stars uniform. Here is just a sampling of some of those players.

Clarence "Fats" Jenkins (1898-1968)

Fats Jenkins only played with the Philadelphia Stars for the 1940 season. He was a speedy outfielder and good contact hitter. In addition to a 20-plus year baseball career, he played point guard for the New York Renaissance basketball team.

Stuart "Slim" Jones (1913-1938)

Slim Jones was a pitcher for the Philadelphia Stars from 1934-1938. He was a hard throwing lefty who, in his first season with the Stars, posted a 32-4 record and was instrumental in the Stars winning the 1934 Negro League Championship.

Raleigh "Biz" Mackey (1897-1965)

Biz Mackey was a catcher for the Philadelphia Stars from 1933-1935. He had the series winning hit for the Stars in the 1934 National League Championship Game against the Chicago American Giants.

Ernest "Jud" Wilson (1894-1963)

Jud Wilson played third base for the Philadelphia Stars from 1933-1939. He was one of the best hitters around, ending his career with a .345 batting average, but his defensive talent was lacking.

Activity
  1. What impact did each Star player discussed have on the history of the Stars? List any significant moments you find.
  2. This is just a small snapshot of Stars players and some played the same position. What position would you like to learn about as it relates to the Stars? How would you conduct research to learn about the man who played your selected position?
  3. Many of the players were born or grew up in Philadelphia. What legacy do you feel each left on the history of baseball in Philadelphia?

Philadelphia Stars Home Fields

Passon Field

The Philadelphia Stars called Passon Field located at 48th and Spruce in Philadelphia their home from 1933-1935. The field boasted lights, a grandstand and seating for 4,000. Today the lot is home to West Philadelphia High School's baseball and football teams.

Penmar Park/44th & Parkside Park

By the start of the 1936 season, the Philadelphia Stars had relocated to 44th and Parkside's Penmar Park. Built in 1903 by the Pennsylvania Railroad YMCA as home to their football club, the field was originally named the P.R.R. YMCA Athletic Field and was used by the community for a wide array of sport activities. The baseball field would not be built until the 1920s and lights were not added until 1933. By this time many were calling the field the 44th & Parkside Park. Seating capacity ranged between 5-6,000 but it was not unusual for attendance to hit 10,000 fans.

The field had its drawbacks. The leftfield fence backed up to the main roundhouse (the building that locomotives were serviced) of the Pennsylvania Railroad. This caused many game interruptions because the soot from the trains would drift into the field and players would be unable to see anything.

There were also complaints that the fields were not well mowed and players had to navigate high grass that could, at times, impact play.

Today 44th and Parkside is home to the Negro League Memorial Park and Mural.

Shibe Park

The Philadelphia Stars began playing games at Shibe Park (later renamed Connie Mack Stadium) in 1943.

Shibe Park was located at the corner of 21st and Lehigh and was commissioned by the owner of the American League Philadelphia Athletics, Benjamin Franklin Shibe. The doors opened on April 12, 1909 and would be the home to not just the Philadelphia Athletics but also the National League Philadelphia Phillies who rented the Park for home games beginning with the 1938 season. After the Athletics were sold and moved to Kansas City at the conclusion of the 1954 season, the Phillies maintained ownership and played in what was then known as Connie Mack Stadium until 1970.

During its tenure, Shibe Park, was a part of Negro League baseball in Philadelphia. In 1919 Shibe hosted its first Negro League game.

By 1943, the Philadelphia Stars were offered the opportunity to play home games at Shibe Park on Monday nights. Monday evenings were the only time available as the Phillies and Athletics did not typically play home games on that day. The Stars were a big draw as fans showed up in droves to support their team.

Activity
  1. The Philadelphia Stars primarily played in three home ballparks. Make a list of the benefits and negatives of each location.
  2. Why do you think the Stars were allowed to play in Shibe Park?