Saturday, June 19, 2021

Salemites Saw Negro League Star and Hall of Famer Bullet Rogan in 1921 at Long-gone Oxford Park

Back in 1921 Salemites got to see future Baseball Hall of Fame member Bullet Rogan as a member of a spring training barnstorming team, the New York Colored Giants.

Preview, April 14th, 1921

Game story, April 16th, 1921

Rogan played for the Kansas City Monarchs primarily. It appears this Giants team was organized for barnstorming and training during the spring before the season proper started, at which time the players would disperse to their regular teams. In a preview of a game in Portland the day after the Salem game, the Oregonian suggested they were substantially Monarchs:

These Colored Giants are great cards. In Currey and Rogan the club has a couple of pitchers who could hold their own with almost any big league outfit, and they have some mighty good players in several other positions. They are traveling under the name of the Colored Giants, though most of the members of the club belong to the Kansas City team of a colored league of 12 clubs which opens its season in another week or so.

They were also playing down to a lower level of competition. The Canadian team, also traveling, says up front, "we don't expect to win." In Eugene, Albany, and Portland, and presumably elsewhere, the Colored Giants played teams composed of local amateurs. The professional minor league Salem Senators date from 1940, and this Senators team of 1921 is an unaffiliated club team that appears to be semi-pro at best. Earlier, the Giants were training in southern California and played several games against the Portland Beavers of the Pacific Coast League, who were also training in southern California. The PCL had AA teams, which at the time was the highest level of the minor leagues. Since there were no major league teams on the west coast, it offered a high level of play.

For the Giants here, other than games against the Beavers it's almost certainly true the scores would be more lopsided if they had been playing hard all the time. Segregation limited the pool of worthy opponents - and diluted the talent of the white major leagues.

There was also an element of clowning, even minstrelsy. "Antics of the colored players are said to draw laughs from the stands continuously." We might think of the Harlem Globetrotters as a more modern expression of this approach to sports.

Still, the Salem papers said Rogan "is said to be one of the greatest players in the world," his excellence already established in 1921. His stats with the Monarchs start in 1920, his age 26 season, full maturity and the start of peak years for a baseball player. Earlier he played against the Beavers in 1916 during a spring training in Hawaii, when he was still on active duty in the 25th Infantry.

April 10th, 1920

The ballpark was only a year old. "Biddie" Bishop and the Salem Senators had organized it in the spring of 1920 on a lot at Oxford and 12th Street.

February 23rd, 1920

Site of Oxford Park, 1926 Sanborn fire map

Today the site has homes and a mid-century grocery store redeveloped as a shopping center with Fitts Seafood and Santiam Wine.

Same view today

As we have seen in flood years, the flatness combined with nearness of Clark Creek and Pringle Creek makes drainage a problem here, and the field was often muddy. It was also oriented looking west, and the late afternoon and evening sun would be a problem for fans in the grandstand and for batters. The Senators shifted to other ballparks after a few years, and Waters Field was built in 1940. (And a little on the fire that burned down Waters Field.)

Oxford Park did not have a long life. Three houses on the Sanborn clip from 1926 have outlived it to today, even, houses on the southeast corner of Berry and Lewis, the southwest corner of Oxford and 12th, and one house in (originally the corner house) on the southeast corner of Lewis and 12th.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Fivethirtyeight has a piece on Bullet Rogan's two-way excellence today -