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Black Baseball in Minnesota: The Pipestone Black Sox

In the following article historian Bruce A. Glasrud follows the exploits of an all black baseball team in the southwestern Minnesota town of Pipestone in the 1920s which at the time had virtually no black residents.  Nonetheless the team competed with other white, all-black, and racially integrated teams as far away as South Dakota and Iowa.

During the 1920s and 1930s, the heyday of Jim Crow society, one of the remarkable victories of racist white supremacy emerged in the segregation of athletics on the national, state, and local levels. In baseball, for example, despite no southern teams in major league baseball, black players were excluded so that African Americans, led by Texan Rube Foster, established their own Negro Leagues. For both small and large towns in the Midwest, this segregation made for interesting combinations. Sometimes, an essentially all-white team would have one or two (or even four or five) black ball players, who were frequently paid in semi-professional baseball, and sometimes all-black teams were located in small towns as well as large cities. One such small town all-black team established itself in Pipestone, Minnesota in 1926. The Pipestone Black Sox, an all black baseball team, played its first game on May 16, 1926.

Pipestone, an historic community located in southwestern Minnesota, normally had few black residents. As did many other small towns in the upper Midwest, it had an ardent craving for baseball, and especially for winning baseball. Often that necessitated hiring black ballplayers to come to Pipestone (this situation lasted into the 1950s, when the current author watched black players such as “Thumper” Jackson make Pipestone baseball of championship caliber). During the 1925 baseball season, an integrated team, the Pipestone Independents, emerged. At least four black ballplayers joined up with white ballplayers, and on a few occasions with a Native American pitcher, George BlueBird; the Independents ended a fairly respectable season with a record of 14 wins, 11 losses, and