Black Baseball

Untapped Cities has a great article on Black baseball teams, stadiums, and history: https://untappedcities.com/2021/02/18/black-baseball-sites-nyc/

The image (above) of The Lincoln Giants is not only a powerful photograph of athletic confidence and poise, it also shows a team that played here, in Harlem.

In New York, the Lincoln Giants (1911-30), became a barnstorming juggernaut, going 108-12 their first season. They featured pitching legend Smokey Joe Williams and shortstop John Henry (Pop) Lloyd, who Babe Ruth believed was the greatest player who ever lived. Alas, there was no house that Pop built; the Lincoln Giants mostly played home games at Olympic Field in Harlem between 1911 and 1919.

The location of their playing ground is where Riverton Houses now lies:

Olympic Field opened in 1904 in the middle of Harlem at East 136th and Fifth Ave. Enthusiastic crowds in the thousands, often significantly white, watched the Lincoln Giants take on challengers there, from semi-pro teams to major-leaguers. They developed a fierce rivalry with the Brooklyn Eagle Giants for the “Colored Championship of Greater New York.”  When the field was razed for a parking garage in 1920, the grandstands were relocated to the Catholic Protectory Oval, the Lincoln Giants’ new home.

Stephen Robertson, in his wonderful baseball blog https://drstephenrobertson.com/digitalharlemblog/maps/baseball-1920s-harlem/ writes:

In 1911, Harlem gained its own black professional baseball team, the Lincoln Giants. The white brothers, Edward and Jess McMahon, established the team, obtaining a lease on Olympic Field, at 136th Street and 5th Avenue, where the team played home games on Sundays, the only day off for most black workers. Initially managed by Sol White, a well-known former player, the team included five of the best black players in the nation, recruited away from teams in Chicago and Philadelphia. This formidable combination propelled the Lincoln Giants to a dominant record in their first three years.  Many of those wins came against teams of whites, including teams, or all-star teams, from the segregated major leagues.  Those interracial contests drew the largest crowds, including significant numbers of whites; in fact, on several occasions, as many as 10,000 fans packed into Olympic Field, spilling onto the playing area. Whites also attended games between black teams, often making up as many as a third of the spectators. Despite the absence of segregated seating, there are no reports of friction in the mixed crowds; most of the conflict at games centered on the umpires, who were almost invariably white, even in games involving black teams.

In 1914, the McMahons’ financial difficulties forced them to sell the Lincoln Giants and the rights to Olympic Field to two other white men, James Keenan and Charles Harvey.  Many of the players, however, remained contracted to the McMahons, who for three years operated another team, the Lincoln Stars, based at the Lenox Oval, on 145th Street. When that team folded, the McMahons abandoned baseball, but not Harlem: in the 1920s they took control of the Commonwealth Casino, on East 135th Street, where they staged boxing, including interracial bouts, and, from 1922-24, operated a black professional basketball team, the Commonwealth Big  5.

While the Lincoln Giants had regained their position as Harlem’s team, they played in the neighborhood for only three more years. In 1919, developers transformed Olympic Field into a parking garage, forcing Keenan and Harvey to relocate home games to the Catholic Protectory Oval, at East Tremont Avenue and Unionport Road in the Bronx, taking with them the grandstand and bleachers from their former home.  Surrounded by the gothic structures of the orphanage, and shaded by trees, the field was beautiful but very small. To get there, fans from Harlem had to take a long journey by subway to 177th Street and and then take a street car. The Lincoln Giants would play there until 1930.

Detect Coming to East Harlem

At 69 East 125th Street in Harlem, Greystone leased 3,500 square feet to Detect, a COVID-19 data collection center. The retail space was previously occupied by the Mike Bloomberg presidential campaign and has also served as a seasonal Ricky’s Halloween pop-up store. Detect is a molecular diagnostics company that provides take-home, rapid COVID-19 tests.