Rube Foster covered the entire spectrum of baseball and excelled at each phase of his participation. As a raw-talent rookie pitcher soon after the turn of the century, the big 6’4″ Texan is credited with 51 victories in 1902, including a win over the great “Rube” Waddell, the game in which he received his nickname.
A smart pitcher who supplemented his normal repertoire of pitches with a highly effective screwball, the big right-hander’s presence on a team usually was the determining factor in the championship. In 1903, pitching for the Cuban X-Giants, he won four games in the play-off victory over the Philadelphia Giants. The next year, after jumping to the Philly team, Rube won two games in the three-game play-off victory over his former teammates.
Rube’s keen mind and ability to handle men naturally lent itself to achieving the next sequential step in his expanding perimeter of involvement. He became playing manager of the Leland Giants in 1907 and immediately this aggregation became the best team in black baseball.
In 1910 Rube assembled a team he considered to be the greatest baseball talent ever assembled. A dynasty was born that year, and the Chicago American Giants remained a dominant force until Foster’s departure from baseball.
With the Giants, he molded players to fit his “racehorse” style of play. Good pitching, sound defense and an offense geared to the running game became the trademarks of his teams. All of his players were required to master the bunt and hit-and-run, so that the scrappy American Giants could always push across some runs and avoid prolonged team slumps. Only the 1916 Indianopolis ABC’s were able to break his monoploly in the West as the American Giants won all other recorded championships from 1910 through 1922.
After finally establishing the black baseball team, Rube also organized the first black baseball league, the Negro National League, and oversaw it’s develpment, assuring that it be maintained as a first-class entity.
Rube wore three hats, as a player, a manager and an executive. And they all set well on his head. However, it was for his contributions to baseball as a manger that he is best remembered. A stern disciplinarian, shrewed handler of men, developer of new talent,and ingenious innovator of baseball strategy, he instilled his philosophy and style of play in his players so that even after his mental health forced him to leave the game, his team and his league continued to flourish until after his death in 1930.
Black baseball’s greatest manager, the man most responsible for black baseball’s continued existence, and a man almost bigger than life itself, Rube Foster was voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1981.
Chicago Union Giants, Cuban X-Giants, Philadelphia Giants, Leland Giants, Chicago American Giants