Atlanta Black Crackers
(1919–1939)
Atlanta, Georgia
Team logo
League affiliation(s)
Name(s)
  • Atlanta Cubs (1919, 1926)
  • Atlanta Grey Sox (1929)
  • Indianapolis ABCs (1939)
Ballpark(s)

The Atlanta Black Crackers (originally known as the Atlanta Cubs and later briefly the Indianapolis ABCs) were a professional Negro league baseball team which played during the early-to-mid-20th century. They were primarily a minor Negro league team; however in the brief period they played as a major Negro league team, they won the second half of the 1938 split-season but lost the play-off for the Pennant.

Beginnings

The Atlanta Black Crackers were founded as the Atlanta Cubs as a semiprofessional team of black college students. They began to play independently in 1919 and changed their name to the Black Crackers because fans had already begun to call them by that name.[1][2] They were named after the local white league team, the Atlanta Crackers, of the Class A Southern Association. It was not unusual for white and Negro league teams to have similar names, but in this case "Cracker" happened to be a colloquial and pejorative nickname for rural southern Whites.

League play

Negro Southern League

The Black Crackers joined the minor league Negro Southern League (NSL) in March 1920. Their uniforms, bats, baseballs, and other supplies were donated by their white Southern Association counterpart, the Atlanta Crackers.[2] They were slated to play the 1921 season in the newly formed Negro Southeastern League under the Cubs moniker, however no records have been found of the league playing a season;[3] they instead continued competing as the Black Sox in the NSL.

From 1922 through 1925, the Black Crackers played an independent barnstorming schedule and did not participate in any league play. After taking a two year hiatus, the NSL re-grouped for the 1926 season and Atlanta was included in the league schedule for 1926 and 1927. When the NSL again went on hiatus in 1928, the Black Crackers returned to barnstorming. In 1929, Atlanta returned to the NSL, this time known as the Grey Sox, however after the season they returned to barnstorming.

By 1932, the Great Depression had decimated the profits of most Negro league teams and only a few organized Negro leagues survived. Atlanta had trouble profiting on their own causing them to go back to playing a league schedule. The NSL was considered the highest quality surviving league and it therefore became the de facto major league for the 1932 season and was the only organized league to complete their full schedule. After the season, the Black Crackers once again played on their own for another two seasons.

W. B. Baker brought Atlanta back to the NSL in 1935 and 1936, but the NSL collapsed for the last time after the 1936 season. Some of its member teams folded as well, but the Black Crackers were invited into the newly organized Negro American League.

The Atlanta Black Crackers left the NSL having a few solid years, but never finishing above the middle of the pack and finishing last in 1926 and 1927.

Negro American League

After W. B. Baker died suddenly, new owner John H. Harden took over in 1937 barnstorming in the north. Harden put together a talented roster and the team started winning quickly.

In 1938 the Black Crackers were invited to play in a year-old major league, the Negro American League. They went on to have a very strong year, finishing in first place for the second half of the season, but scheduling problems and umpire controversies caused their Pennant series with the first-half champion Memphis Red Sox to be canceled.[2]

Unable to draw sufficient crowds in Atlanta, Harden took the team to Indianapolis following the 1938 season, and played as the fourth team to use the name "Indianapolis ABCs". At the conclusion of the 1939 season, the team disbanded due to low attendance.

Home fields

The team played their home games at Ponce de Leon Park, along with the white Atlanta Crackers. However, the Black Crackers were not allowed to play at Ponce de Leon Park when the Crackers had a home game. The Black Crackers were then forced to play at either Morehouse College or Morris Brown College.[4]

MLB throwback jerseys

On June 28, 1997, the Atlanta Braves wore 1938 Black Crackers home uniforms and the visiting Philadelphia Phillies wore 1938 Philadelphia Stars road uniforms.[5] The teams wore these same uniforms again for their matchup on May 14, 2011.[6] On April 27, 2013, the Braves sported Black Crackers throwbacks in a game against the Detroit Tigers. On May 3, 2014, the Braves wore the Black Crackers jerseys in a game against the San Francisco Giants. On June 20, 2015, the Braves again wore the Black Crackers uniform in a game against the New York Mets, who wore the uniform of the Brooklyn Royal Giants to honor the Negro League. On May 15, 2016, the Braves wore Black Crackers away jerseys while playing against the Kansas City Royals, who wore Kansas City Monarchs jerseys. All game-worn gear from this game was auctioned off as a fundraiser for the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.[7]

References

  1. ^ The Crackers: Early Days of Atlanta Baseball (Athens, GA: Hill Street Press, 2003) by Tim Darnell http://hillstreetpress.com/Crackers.html Archived 2008-05-17 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ a b c "The Atlanta Black Crackers | Society for American Baseball Research". sabr.org. Retrieved 2018-03-30.
  3. ^ "Negro Southeastern League (1921)" (pdf). Center for Negro League Baseball Research. Retrieved December 15, 2019.
  4. ^ "Atlanta Black Crackers". New Georgia Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2018-03-30.
  5. ^ Zack, Bill (1997-06-29). "Braves pound Phillies 9-1". Augusta Chronicle. Archived from the original on September 4, 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-14.
  6. ^ "Braves beat Phillies 5-3". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 14 May 2011. Archived from the original on 4 May 2014. Retrieved 25 June 2012.
  7. ^ http://kansascity.royals.mlb.com/kc/ticketing/negro_leagues.jsp. Accessed 15 May 2016.