George Walter Ball
(The Black Diamond)
- Bats Right, Throws Right
Walter Ball was a top Negro League pitcher in the first decade of the 20th Century. He was noted for his spitball. Off the field, he dressed to the nines, wearing tailored suits. Records are sparse for him given the era in which he played.
Ball debuted in 1893 with the Young Cyclones of St. Paul, Minnesota. In 1899, he pitched for Grand Forks, ND in the Red River Valley League, winning 25 games in 28 appearances. He pitched for Lakota and York in North Dakota in 1901. In 1902, he moved to St. Cloud, MN and helped them win the eastern Minnesota title.
In 1903, Ball joined his first black team, having previously played on integrated nines. He was with the Chicago Union Giants that year, then moved to the Brooklyn Royal Giants in 1904. In 1905, he was with Chicago once more. He also made history in 1905 when he beat the Brooklyn Superbas 7-2, the first time a black team had ever topped a white MLB team.
Ball spent 1906 with the Quaker Giants and Leland Giants. He began 1907 as player-manager of the St. Paul Colored Gophers before returning to the Leland Giants. He made his Cuban Winter League debut in 1908, going 0-1 for Club Fé as one of the first African-Americans to play in Cuba. In 1908, he was with the Minnesota Keystones before yet another return trip to the Leland Giants.
Ball returned to Cuba for the winter of 1908-1909 and went 7-7 for Club Fé, which was 5-25 when other pitchers took the decision. He also hit .263 and slugged .303 as a regular outfielder when not pitching. In the summer of 1909, he pitched for Leland. He lost a 4-1 decision to Three-Finger Brown and the 1909 Cubs in a cross-town match-up.
Ball was with the Chicago Giants and hit .359 before injuring his knee; yhe was 0-1 against other top black teams. In 1910-1911, Ball was with Club Fé for the third time. He hit .211 and posted a 2-8 ledger but the team's other pitchers went 0-15 for the cellar dwellers. He also spent part of the winter in the California Winter League, hitting .233 as a right fielder but not pitching.
Ball was 1-1 for the 1911 Chicago American Giants. In 1912, the veteran was 4-1 for the St. Louis Giants and 0-1 for Chicago. He moved to the Mohawk Giants in 1913 and went 0-1 against other top black teams at age 35.
The right-hander switched to the New York Lincoln Giants in 1914 before returning to the Chicago American Giants for 1915. In 1917, Ball went to the Chicago Giants and went 0-1; he spent his next four years with the club as they fell to second-tier status.
- The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues by James Riley
- The Complete Book of Baseball's Negro Leagues by John Holway
- Black Baseball's National Showcase by Larry Lester
- The California Winter League by William McNeil
- Cuban Baseball: A Statistical History by Jorge Figueredo