Adding to the History, by Chance
Last February, 2016 my book, They Played for the Love of the Game, Untold Stories of Black Baseball in Minnesota was officially released, published by Minnesota Historical Society Press. Of course this was an exciting time for me.
Shortly after the release on February 22nd, I received an email from a gentleman named Kent Lungstrom. Kent found my contact information in a book review published by the Minneapolis Tribune. Kent shared that he had a photo of the 1908 Minneapolis Keystone Tigers and would like to talk with me about the photo! As you can imagine... I couldn't wait.
I met with Kent a short time later over coffee, west of Minneapolis. When he showed me the photo, I almost spit out my coffee that I was drinking (glad I didn’t). WOW! The photo was unbelievable.
After talking for awhile, he shared that he would like to sell or donate the photo to someone, and although I'm not a collector, I knew that two organizations may be interested - the Minnesota Historical Society and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, MO.
Over the next month we would talk several times and he decided he would like to investigate if the Minnesota Historical Society would be interested, as he wanted the photo to stay in our state of Minnesota.
Considering that the the Minnesota Historical Society Press is the publisher of my book, we are like family. I set up a meeting the last week of April with Jennifer Huebscher to see if there was an interest in purchasing the Keystone Tigers photo, and I could tell by her expression at first glance that she was impressed with the photo.
Along the way I had also included Todd Peterson, author of the book Early Black Baseball in Minnesota, which features the St. Paul Colored Gophers and the Minneapolis Keystone Tigers. The photo included the names of players around the matting of the photo, but Todd also shared the names and another piece of information that wouldn’t be included in looking at the photo by itself.
The photo was taken between mid-April 1908 (when Walter Ball joined the club) and early June 1908 (when he left it).
Back row: Fred "Pop" Roberts (2B) Dick "Noisy" Wallace (C/RF) Eugene "Cherry" Barton (LF) Charles Jessup (P) "Topeka" Jack Johnson (1B/2B) Bobby Marshall (RF/1B/P) George Hopkins(CF) Bill Binga (3B).
Middle Row: Walter Ball (P) Edward "Kidd Mitchell (Owner) Mamie Mitchell (Wife) Eddie Davis (Secretary) Andrew Campbell (C).
Front Row: Graham (P) Arthur Irwin (SS). I do not know the dog's name - Todd
Well, after conversations and some thoughts, the photo was officially added to the collections at the Minnesota Historical Society on February 9, 2017.
I was honored to be there with Kent and his father to meet with Jennifer and finalize the exchange. The photo captures an important piece of history, and I know that MHS will take great care of it. It will be available to people to view (online collections) or purchase a copy if they’d like.
More about the Tigers
The Tigers were an inspiration of Kidd Mitchell, owner of the Keystone Hotel at 1313 Washington Ave.
In 1908, like his rival in St. Paul Phil Reid, owner of the St. Paul Colored Gophers, Kidd wanted a team that would be “faster, better, and stronger then the Gophers.”
This lead to a great rivalry for several years, however, in 1908 the Gophers would beat the Tigers in two out of three games, and then would have a single win in 1909 with several other games cancelled.
But, as you can see by the win-loss records the team below, the Keystone Tigers were a very good professional baseball team of the early 20th century, playing all-comers and traveling to many, many locations to play the best teams.
The Tigers were in existence under Kidd Mitchell from 1908 – 1911; following is their win-loss record by year.
1908 88-19-2 (accounted for: 66-21-1) .755
1909 76 wins out of 90 games. (accounted for 46-28-1) .620
1910 (accounted for 18-11) .620
1911 (accounted for 31-28-3) .524
Resource: Early Black Baseball in Minnesota, The St. Paul Gophers, Minneapolis Keystones and Other Barnstorming Teams of the Deadball Era, Todd Peterson.