- Series: Pioneer Portraits II: 1875-1899
- City: Findlay
- Team: Sluggers
- League: Independent
John W. Fowler (nee Jackson) (1858-1913) was the first black pro ballplayer. He got his start with the Lynn, MA Live Oaks, besting Tommy Bond’s NL champs in an exhibition game on April 24, 1878. He played for minor league clubs in New England and Canada until his life changed dramatically in 1887. For two decades the stain of Jim Crow had spread northward and arrived in Binghamton NY, whose white players decided they couldn’t any longer abide their black mates. The “Gentlemen’s Agreement” took hold, leaving few integrated leagues for Fowler. Undeterred, Bud found teams in the west. By 1892 Sporting Life asserted the Nebraska League was “the only league in the country which permits the employment of colored players.” Still undeterred, Fowler and Findlay, OH teammate Home Run Johnson determined to found their own franchise which became the Page Fence Giants of Adrian MI, pioneering barnstorming and showmanship.
- “Those who know say there is no better second baseman in the country” said Sporting Life. Yet, Fowler died in poverty, excluded from the white game until Cooperstown, his hometown, named the street to Doubleday Field for him on the centenary of his passing
- Fowler played a greater number of seasons and games in professional baseball than any African-American until 1956, when Jackie Robinson played his 11th professional and final (10th) season for the Brooklyn Dodgers