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Ed Bolden

  • Series: Diamond Heads '15
  • City: Darby
  • Team: Hilldale Athletic Club
  • League: Independent

Edward Bolden (1881-1950) was one of the most successful entrepreneurs in black baseball in the early 20th century. Though it sounds dissonant to the contemporary ear, Bolden proudly declared himself a “race man” and boldly promoted his club as one owned and operated by other race men. This was in opposition to overtures and intimidations of white impresarios seeking to horn in on the growing popularity of negro ball in the 1920s. Bolden was always a keen recruiter of talent and his reputation for black-ownership attracted some of the best to his teams including Louis Santop, Smoky Joe Williams and Dick Lundy. Ed cut his showman's teeth with the Hilldale Club of Darby PA, bringing solid management and a zeal for rectitude on and off the field. He banned alcohol and demanded decorum from his players. He even enforced discipline among the fans and brought in security when needed. Conflicts with Rube Foster over accusations of poaching by Bolden, coupled with high operating costs especially for travel, led Bolden to leave the Negro National League for the Eastern Colored League in 1922. The two superstars of black league management faced off in the first Colored World Series in 1924 with Foster's KC Monarchs triumphant. Bolden's squad got revenge the following year.

  • Black teams always ran on a shoestring and as the economy worsened in the late '20s and plunged in the Depression, Bolden left the game temporarily.
  • He returned to lead clubs through the war years and the cusp of integrated ball he earnestly desired to see. He was the last of the breed of early black ownership upon his death in 1950

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