Wendell Smith had never felt such grief and disappointment.

He had big league dreams and ambitions. That’s why when auto magnate Henry Ford asked Smith’s father, John, what his son wanted to be when he grew up, the eldest Smith quickly replied that he wanted to be a baseball player. professional. And Smith believed his talent might compel a Major League Baseball team or scout who saw him to do the unthinkable then and take a chance on him. Or, at least, pause and reconsider not adding it because of the unspoken “gentlemen’s agreement” that had kept black Americans out of Major League Baseball since 1887.

Hall of Famer and documented racist The Chicago White Stockings’ Adrian “Cap” Anson was a driving force behind the International League owners’ vote, 6-4, to no longer approve contracts for black players. Then, to add further insult, Anson coerced the Newark Little Giants from facing black pitcher George Stovey and catcher Moses Fleetwood Walker in the teams’ exhibition game on July 15, 1887.

From the San Francisco Examiner, July 14, 1887: “Anson says that when he entered into the contract to play the Newarks, he was unaware of the admixture of champions New Jersey, and he will refuse to play them unless they present a white team min. He says he objects to his men competing with “people of color” and that he will waive damages rather than do so.

Smith was determined to force the issue, at least. Despite Ford