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William Edward White

First Base
  • Series: Pioneer Portraits II: 1875-1899
  • City: Providence
  • Team: Grays (NL)
  • League: National League

William Edward White (1860-1937) has been declared by the researchers at SABR to be the most likely “first black player” in major league baseball. White, the son of a Georgia merchant and his slave, played on the Brown University team and, on June 21, 1879, substituted for an injured Joe Start at first base for the Providence Grays. White’s stint in the big leagues for this National League squad lasted only that summer solstice. With his Brown teammates cheering from the stands, White went 1-for-4, stole two bases, scored a run and recorded 12 putouts without an error, drawing rave reviews from the local papers and contributing to a 5-3 win for the title-bound Grays and a 19 year old pitcher named John Montgomery Ward. Despite the Providence Journal reporting that White would continue to play first base for the team's next series against Boston, he was replaced by regular right fielder and Hall of Famer Jim O’Rourke, who continued to man the position until Start returned. White then stepped back into society where he passed for Caucasian. This is borne out by census records showing he claimed Rhode Island birth and being of white race.

  • It has been suggested that White had always passed as white, thereby escaping suspicion in the baseball world and dodging "the virulent racism prevalent in the late 19th century." This may explain in part why the true identity of the first black ballplayer in major league baseball history went largely unknown for about 125 years.
  • It is likely that White is the only former slave to play major league baseball.
  • White’s death resulted from a fall on Chicago’s ice. His death certificate shows him to be Caucasian, affirming this mixed-race man spent a lifetime seeking to avoid the stigma of being black in Jim Crow America.

Auction History

Old Hoss Radbourn

  • Series: Pioneer Portraits II: 1875-1899
  • City: Providence
  • Team: Grays (NL)
  • League: National League
  • Hall: National Baseball Hall of Fame

Charles Gardner Radbourn (1854-1897). An elite pitcher for 5 teams over 12 seasons, Radbourn owns the single-season Wins record with either 59 or 60 (sources vary) in 1884 – the year in which he became baseball’s 2nd triple Crown winner with 441 Ks & a 1.38 ERA. In 1884, Radbourn started 40 of his team’s last 43 games and won 36 of them. In the 1884 World Series, Radbourn started and won all three games, giving up only 3 runs. Including the postseason, Old Hoss won 62-63 games in 1884 and threw over 700 innings.

  • NL Triple Crown: 1884
  • NL Wins champ: 1883, 1884
  • 309 career Wins
  • Pitched no-hitter: 1883
  • Elected to Hall of Fame: 1939

Auction History

Jack Farrell

Second Base
  • Series: Pioneer Portraits II: 1875-1899
  • City: Providence
  • Team: Grays (NL)
  • League: National League

John A. “Moose” Farrell (1857-1914) played 2nd base for 5 teams over 11 seasons. Served as player/mgr for the ’81 Providence Grays, achieving a 24-27 record before turning over the reins to Tom York. Always a reliable fielder, Farrell led or neared the lead in many defensive categories throughout his career.

  • Averaged a modest .243 lifetime but hit .300+ twice (rookie season ’79 & ’83)
  • Finished his career with the Orioles of the American Association in ’88 & ‘89

Auction History

Jimmy Collins

Third Base
  • Series: Pilgrims
  • City: Providence
  • Team: Grays (NL)
  • League: Eastern League
  • Hall: National Baseball Hall of Fame

James Joseph Collins (1870-1943) was the best in the NL at 3B when he jumped to the new AL in 1901. Collins led the Boston Americans to the 1st World Series championship in ’03, downing Pittsburgh in best-of-nine. Thanks to John McGraw’s stubborn refusal to play the next year’s AL winner, Boston was denied another opportunity despite its 1st place finish.

  • The dust-up between leagues resulted in rules beginning in 1905 making the Series the permanent premier event in Major League Baseball
  • Upon his induction into the HOF Collins became the first regular third-baseman so honored
  • Elected to Hall of Fame: 1945

Auction History


T201 Mecca Canvas: Ernest (Johnny) Lush