The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum will be considering several former Negro League players to be included for election to the Class of 2022. (The election will take place on December 5, 2021).
Seven Negro Leagues and pre-Negro Leagues legends will be considered - Today we focus on - Bud Fowler.
Bud Fowler is often acknowledged as the first Black professional baseball player, having pitched and played second base for teams in more than a dozen leagues throughout his career. After spending part of his youth in Cooperstown, Fowler grew up to excel on the diamond and later helped form the successful Page Fence Giants barnstorming team.
Bud Fowler was a man of firsts:
- The first African-American professional player in 1878.
- The first to play on integrated teams.
- The first African-American to captain an integrated club.
- The first African-American to form their own team - the Page Fence Giants.
- The first to organize a black barnstorming club.
Fowler was a star player, known as a versatile, quick and smooth-fielding second baseman, he was also a pitcher and catcher.
He played with numerous clubs over two decades from the late 1870s, playing for for more clubs, and in more games in the minors than any other black player before the 1950s, hitting .308 in more than 2,000 at bats in organized baseball.
Born John W. Jackson Jr. on March 16, 1858 in Fort Plain, NY, but raised in Cooperstown, he would play for several amateur teams before rising to prominence in 1878 at age twenty. By this time he had changed his name to Bud Fowler, and while the reasons are unclear, it is speculated that it was because his family objected to to him playing baseball for a living.
In 1878 Fowler was playing for the Lynn Live Oaks who became members of the International Association, who were associated with the Negro National League, thus making Fowler the first African-American to integrate a team in minor league history and the first African-American to play professional baseball.
Fowler had been primarily a pitcher and catcher since turning pro, but after developing a sore arm from overwork he transitioned to a second baseman in 1884 marked his transition to the infield.
When in 1884, Fleetwood and Welday Walker would join the league, they along with Fowler would become the last African-American players until 1947 when Jackie Robinson would join the Brooklyn Dodgers.
John Jackson/Fowler, died on February 26, 1913. In 1987, the Society for American Baseball Research purchased a headstone and placed it on his unmarked grave. It reads, “John W. Jackson: `Bud Fowler,’ Black Baseball Pioneer.”