The Tenth Inning
 The Tenth Inning Blog
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Black History Month: Game 4 of 1948 Negro League World Series played in New Orleans

In 1948 the Homestead Grays and Birmingham Black Barons opposed each other in what turned out to be the last Negro League World Series. After the first three games of the Series were played in Kansas City (September 26) and Birmingham (September 29 and 30), Game 4 was unexpectedly played in New Orleans.

With the Grays leading the Series, 2-1, the fourth game was scheduled to be played in Birmingham, too. However, the Birmingham Barons, a minor-league team in the Southern Association, was in the midst of their own postseason playoff and took precedence over the Black Barons for the use of Rickwood Field, which was the usual home field of the Barons.

Negro League teams were used to playing in ballparks other than their own. They often moved around to different cities to showcase their talents. So, the shift to New Orleans wasn’t all that odd for the times. The Black Barons’ team officials and a large number of their fans trekked to New Orleans to support their team.

Piper Davis and Artie Wilson were the offensive stars for the Black Barons. 17-year-old Willie Mays, a native of Birmingham who was still in high school, played 13 games for them. He was instrumental, both offensively and defensively, in the Black Barons’ win in Game 3. Luke Easter, Buck Leonard, Sam Bankhead, and Bob Thurman led the Grays to a 42-23 record during the regular season.

Game 4 was played on October 3 in New Orleans’ Pelican Stadium. Negro League teams based in New Orleans over the years often played their home games in the stadium when the minor-league Pelicans played out of town.

Wilmer Fields was Homestead’s starting pitcher, while Bill Greason took the mound for the Black Barons.

It turned out to be blowout game for the Grays, who won, 14-1. They took an early lead with four runs in the second inning and five in the fourth. Grays’ outfielder Luke Easter, a future major-leaguer with the Cleveland Indians, hit a grand slam to account for four runs in the fourth frame. The Grays piled on more runs with three in the fifth inning and two more in the eighth.

Altogether, the Grays pounded four pitchers for 19 hits. Fields held the Black Barons to seven hits and one run, in the fourth inning.

The World Series returned to Birmingham for Game 5 on October 5. With the game tied, 6-6, in the top of the ninth, the Grays scored four tallies to win the game and the Series.

New Orleans newspapers didn’t cover Game 4 played in the city. Black-owned newspapers around the country carried an account of the game several days later.

Jackie Robinson’s breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball in 1947 with the Brooklyn Dodgers marked the beginning of the end of the Negro Leagues. Black players sought every opportunity to follow in Robinson’s footsteps for a roster spot in Organized Baseball. The major-league teams were slow to integrate, so many of the Black players began to populate minor-league rosters in 1948.

After the 1948 season, the Negro National League disbanded, ending the need for a World Series. The Negro American League continued to play through 1950 before disbanding.

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