Charlie Grant

Charlie Grant fielding a ground ball.

Charles Grant (1879–July 1932)[1] was an African American second baseman in negro league baseball. Grant nearly crossed the baseball color line decades before Jackie Robinson when Major League Baseball manager John McGraw attempted to pass him off as a Native American named "Tokohama".

Contents

Background

Grant was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, the son of an African American horse trainer.[1][2] A good fielder, Grant was of "medium height" and weighed approximately 160 pounds and hit right-handed.[1][3]

When star second baseman Sol White left the Page Fence Giants after just one season, Charlie Grant replaced him in 1896.[4] Grant and Page Fence defeated White's new team, the Cuban X-Giants, ten games to five to win a 1896 championship series played in various southern Michigan towns.[5] Page Fence disbanded in 1899 and Grant moved to the Columbia Giants of Chicago.[6]

Tokohama

After spending 1900 with Columbia, Grant was working as a bellhop at the Eastland Hotel in Hot Springs, Arkansas in March 1901. John McGraw and the new American League's Baltimore Orioles began training that season in Hot Springs and staying at the Eastland. McGraw saw Grant playing baseball with his co-workers around the hotel and recognized that Grant had a level of talent suitable for the major leagues.[7] McGraw decided to disguise the light-skinned, straight-haired Grant as a Cherokee and gave him the name Charlie Tokohama, anecdotally after noticing a creek named "Tokohama" on a map in the hotel.[1][6][7]

McGraw's scheme began unravelling when the team travelled to Chicago, where Grant had played for the previous few years. To celebrate Grant's return, his African American friends staged a conspicuous ceremony, including a flower bouquet.[8] Chicago White Sox President Charles Comiskey soon objected to "Tokohama" and affirmed that he was actually Grant.[9] Grant maintained his disguise, claiming that his father was white and that his mother was Cherokee and living in Lawrence, Kansas.[10] McGraw initially persisted but later claimed that "Tokohama" was inexperienced, especially on defense, and left him off his Opening Day roster. Grant returned to the Columbia Giants and never played in the major leagues.[2]

Later career and accidental death

Grant played for the Cuban X-Giants in 1903.[1] After Sol White's Philadelphia Giants were defeated in the 1903 "colored championship", White overhauled the team including hiring Charlie Grant to replace Frank Grant (no relation).[4][11] In 1905, Charlie Grant, White, shortstop Grant Johnson and third baseman Bill Monroe were considered one of the best infields in Negro League history.[12] Grant and the Giants won the championship in 1906. He later played for the Lincoln Giants, Quaker Giants, New York Black Sox and Cincinnati Stars, last playing in 1916.[1]

In July 1932, Grant was killed in an unusual accident. While seated in front of a Cincinnati apartment building where he worked as a janitor, a passing automobile hit him after its tire exploded.[1] Grant was buried in Spring Grove Cemetery and his grave is a short distance from fellow second baseman, Baseball Hall of Fame member Miller Huggins.[2]

Notes

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Riley, p. 330.
  2. ^ a b c Peterson, p. 56.
  3. ^ Peterson, p. 54 gives a description of Grant (as "Tokohama") from Sporting Life.
  4. ^ a b White, Malloy, p. xxxv.
  5. ^ White, p. 37, Malloy, p. xxxv.
  6. ^ a b Bak, p. 49.
  7. ^ a b Peterson, p. 54.
  8. ^ White, p. 78.
  9. ^ Peterson, p. 55.
  10. ^ Peterson, pp. 55–56.
  11. ^ White, Malloy, p. xl.
  12. ^ White, Malloy, p. xxxviii.

References

  • Riley, James A. (1994). "Grant, Charles (Charlie, Chief Tokahoma)". The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues. Carroll & Graf. pp. 330. ISBN 0-7867-0959-6. 
  • (Riley.) Charlie Grant, Personal profiles at Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. – identical to Riley (confirmed 2010-04-13)

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