Southern League of Colored Base Ballists

The Southern League of Colored Base Ballists was the first organized Negro baseball league. The league's only year of operation was 1886. Ten teams competed in the league which stretched from Jacksonville, Florida to Memphis, Tennessee with several other southern teams mentioned as possible members in newspaper articles from the period. The leagues appears to have collapsed in early July.

Southern League of Colored Base Ballists
No. of teams10
CountryUnited States


The first mention of the league was in March of 1886 when the following ad ran in several major Southern newspapers: “A call has been issued for the captains of all colored base ball clubs of Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, Alabama, and Tennessee that have a fair record and desire to enter the Southern League of Colored Base Ballists to send name and address to The Manager of the Southern League of Coloered Base Ballists, Lock Box 298, Jacksonville, Florida.”[1][2] T.T. Harden was the manager of the league,[3] which had a board of twelve directors.[4] An informational circular obtained by The News and Courier said that the board of directors represented “… a capital of nearly $100,000.”[4] Clubs that wanted to join the league were required to submit a five dollar fee to cover the cost of advertising, postage, and telegraph cost.[4] They were also required to pay $1.50 for a subscription to The Southern Leader, a black newspaper based in Jacksonville, Florida.[4][5] The Southern Leader was to be “the official organ of the league”.[4]

The league held a meeting on May 22 attended by twenty-two delegates in Jacksonville.[6] The purpose of the meeting was to create a league schedule. The delegates left the meeting announcing the league's opening day would be May 31 in St. Augustine, Florida.[6][7] The schedules weren’t out till the first week of June though as the Charleston News and Courier published the Fulton’s schedule on June 6[8] and the Times-Picayune published the New Orleans Unions on June 7.[9]

One of the first games of the season was in New Orleans on June 16, 1886. The Unions of New Orleans played the Memphis Eclipse. Memphis won the game 3 to 1.[10] The New Orleans Times-Picayune newspaper reported that after watching the game, “…colored clubs will furnish good sport, and the teams can play ball… The Eclipse boys all field well and threw the ball like the best professionals.”[11] Approximately 500 people attended the game. The winning pitcher for Memphis was William Renfroe.[12]

In August the Memphis Appeal newspaper reported that the Eurekas and the Eclipse ball clubs of Memphis were “champion colored clubs.” There is no evidence though that the league lasted long enough to declare a champion.[10]

Notable PlayersEdit

  • William Renfroe, a pitcher for the Memphis Eclipses, would pitch for the Binghamton Bingos of the International League in 1887.[13] After being released by the Bingos he returned to Memphis and managed the Eclipses. Later Renfroe would pitch for several different black baseball teams in the Chicago area.[14]
  • Robert "Bob" Higgins was a pitcher for the Memphis Eurekas.[14] Higgins would pitch for the Syracuse Stars of the International League in 1887 and 1888.[15] His record in 1887 was 20 wins to 7 losses with a batting average of .294 in 41 games.[15] In 1888 Higgins and fellow teammate Moses Fleetwood Walker were the Star's all black battery.[14][16]



  2. ^ "Gossip of the Game". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. 1 April 1886. p. 5.
  3. ^ "The Colored League". The Times-Democrat. 26 April 1886. p. 2.
  4. ^ a b c d e "A Colored Base Ball League". The News and Courier. 8 April 1886. p. 8.
  5. ^ Beatty, B. (1980). John Willis Menard: A Progressive Black in Post-Civil War Florida. The Florida Historical Quarterly, 59(2), 123-143. Retrieved from
  6. ^ a b "A Colored League". The Atlanta Constitution. 23 May 1886. p. 12.
  7. ^ "Double Plays". The Boston Globe. 25 May 1886. p. 2.
  8. ^ "The Colored Games". News and Courier. 6 June 1886.
  9. ^ "A Southern Colored League". Times-Picayune. 7 June 1886. p. 2.
  10. ^ a b McBee, Kurt (August 2001). They Also Played the Game: A Historical Examination of the Memphis Red Sox Baseball Organization, 1922-1959 (PhD Dissertation). The University of Memphis.
  11. ^ Ribowsky, Mark (1995). A Complete History of the Negro Leagues, 1884 to 1955. New York, New York: Birch Lane Press. pp. 20–21. ISBN 1-55972-283-5.
  12. ^ "Games Played Yesterday". The Times-Democrat. 17 June 1886. p. 2.
  13. ^ Dixon, Phil. (1992). The Negro Baseball Leagues book : a photographic history. Amereon Ltd. ISBN 0848804252. OCLC 436300864.
  14. ^ a b c Brunson, James E. (James Edward), 1954-. Black baseball, 1858-1900 : a comprehensive record of the teams, players, managers, owners and umpires. Jefferson, North Carolina. ISBN 9780786494170. OCLC 1060179344.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  15. ^ a b Heaphy, Leslie A., author. (2013). The Negro Leagues, 1869-1960. McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. ISBN 9781476603056. OCLC 963364404.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  16. ^ "Fleet Walker | Society for American Baseball Research". Retrieved 2019-07-09.

External linksEdit