On the Diamond: African American Baseball in Springfield
Baseball in Springfield was segregated either by law or by custom until the 1950s. Information about the early African American teams is largely unavailable. The Hyde Park All Stars, sometimes known as the “Stars” took on all comers. They were an African American, semi-professional, barnstorming baseball team. They traveled to other cities and played teams of all races for a percentage of the gate or a flat fee. Initially, the only place they were normally allowed to play in Springfield was Silver Springs Park, the park designated for African Americans during segregation. Later they played at Memorial Park. While many of the players were excellent and on a par with major league players, the full integration of professional baseball came too late for them. Tom Greenwade the famous major league baseball scout, best known for scouting Jackie Robinson, is supposed to have said that the players on the Hyde Park All Stars were Major League caliber.
One player for the Hyde Park All Stars made it big in the Negro Leagues: Herman “Doc” Horn. Horn began playing with the Stars when he was just 15, in 1942. He went on to play professionally with the Kansas City Monarchs from 1949-1954. He also played in the Mexican League in 1953. The Mexican League became the first totally integrated professional baseball league when they integrated in 1946. U.S. Major League players were blacklisted by Major League Baseball when they went to play in the Mexican League, but Negro League players were not. There are discrepancies regarding what years the Hyde Park All Stars played. Some sources list the years for the team as 1945-1952 but if Doc Horn began playing for the team at 15 as other sources attest the team had to have formed by 1942 and possibly before that.
Other African American baseball teams in the Springfield area were the Braves and the Webster Oilers. While there was not a Negro League affiliate team in the area, some teams did barnstorm through Springfield. The Kansas City Monarchs played in Springfield several times a year, against whichever Springfield team was prominent at the time. The San Francisco Sea Lions, an African American team that had formerly been part of the West Coast Baseball League played the Hyde Park All Stars in Springfield on a barnstorming tour and lost. The West Coast Baseball League was one of a number of Negro Leagues. The San Francisco Sea Lions had the first female player, Toni Stone, known to play on a professional men’s baseball team. She played in the game against the Stars.
The most prominent of the Negro Leagues were arguably the Negro National League, the Negro American League and the Eastern Colored League. The Kansas City Monarchs were part of the Negro National League and later the Negro American League.
At least some of the early games against the Monarchs were played at White City Park. White City Park was the home of the Springfield Cardinals. The all white Cardinals team was a minor league affiliate for the St. Louis Cardinals. White City Park was bought by the Assemblies of God after the suspension of Minor League Baseball during World War II. The park was demolished to build their headquarters.
The first integrated baseball team in Springfield was the Patton Dairy team. The team was integrated in the mid-1950s.
Written by Joan Hampton-Porter, museum curator, 2022.
Further information about Herman “Doc” Horn: https://digitalarchive.thelibrary.org/digital/collection/lincolnschool/id/17/
The History Museum on the Square carries several books on baseball history, such as:
Baseball in Springfield by Rusty D. Aton
Twice a Week Heroes by Danny Miles
A Sports Fan’s Guide to Route 66 by Ron Clements
Meet the Philadelphia Dolly Vardens by Dr. Sabrina A. Brinson