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George Stovey

George Washington Stovey

Career: 1886-1896
Positions: p, of
Teams: Cuban Giants (1886, 1888-1891, 1893) minor leagues (1886-1887), New York Gorhams (1891), Cuban X-Giants, (1896), Brooklyn Colored Giants (1896)
Bats: Left
Throws: Left

This phenomenal left-handed pitcher was a light-complexioned Canadian and was the best black pitcher of his era. Manager Govern of the Trenton-based Cuban Giants secured Stovey to pitch for his team in 1886. On June 21, in his only game for the Cuban Giants, he lost a 4-3 decision to Bridgeport, despite good pitching on his part. He struck out 11, walked 3, and yielded only 4 hits, and the winning run reached base after the catcher dropped the third strike, and scored after a stolen base and 2 errors. During the game he demonstrated "an effective delivery" and catchers had to "adjust to his movements." He was also good at holding runners close to the base, intimidating the runners with his good pickoff move.

Soon afterward, Stovey was "kidnapped" from the Cuban Giants by the Jersey City team and became the first black professional player in New Jersey. Although they had him signed to a contract, Trenton was pressured to refrain from contesting the change when the Eastern League threatened to prohibit future exhibition games in Trenton if they did not acquiesce. Later in the summer, Stovey defeated his former mates twice, 8-4 (with 11 strikeouts) and 4-2. By season's end he had won 30 games with Jersey City and held the opposition to a .167 batting average, prompting New York Giants' owner Walter Appleton to display an interest in signing him to pitch against Cap Anson's Chicago White Stockings.

But Anson's racial feelings were well known, and the new season found Stovey playing with Newark in the same league, but with the name changed to the International League. At Newark he and Fleet Walker formed the first black battery on an integrated team. On July 16, 1887, the Chicago White Stockings were scheduled to play an exhibition game against Newark, but Cap Anson refused to play if the two black players were allowed on the field, and they were withheld from competition. The same day the International League directors met in secret and decided not to approve future contracts for black players.

Afterward, Stovey continued with the Newark team, fashioning a 34-15 work sheet for the season while also playing in the outfield and batting .255, but he was released at the end of September. He returned to the Cuban Giants and continued to play for another nine years, sometimes with the Cuban Giants against black teams and sometimes in predominantly white leagues, where he registered a lifetime record of 60-40 with a 2.17 ERA for his six seasons in organized baseball.

Among the leagues that the Cuban Giants represented were Trenton, New Jersey, in the Middle States League in 1889; York, Pennsylvania, in the Eastern Interstate League in 1890; and Ansonia in the Connecticut State League in 1891. The New York Gorhams played in the Middle States League, and Stovey also played with Worchester in the Northeastern League and Troy in the New York State League.

Source: James A. Riley, The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues, New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc., 1994.