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May 31, 2009

The Pride of Baltimore

Before the Orioles and Jackie Robinson joined the majors, the Baltimore Elite Giants, with their passel of future stars, were among the elite of the Negro League.

Tom Flynn

The Baltimore Elite Giants, or Elites (pronounced EE-lights), were a long-time fixture on the Negro League landscape, yet for decades they remained in the shadow of their better-known neighbors, the Homestead Grays. The Grays at different times called both Pittsburgh and Washington, DC, home, but regardless of their location, they were usually in first place. With a few notable exceptions, the Elites were left outside looking in.

Yet the Elites' experience truly represented the changes in the game. They were southern transplants from a Jim Crow South, originating first in Nashville. Owner Tom Wilson built his own namesake ballpark in Nashville in the early 1920s, one of the first African-American-owned parks in the country. It effectively broke the stranglehold that white booking agents had on the venues that the Elites could play in. Many Negro League teams' entire histories were plagued by the conflicting interests of booking agents scheduling their games in shared facilities.

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Article by Tom Flynn

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