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Old 06-27-2015, 12:44 AM
Posts: n/a

This has become a minor obsession, or personal annoyance... When did Claxton play for the Nebraska Indians? My best guess: August 23, 1931 - October 1, 1931, or after May to the end of the season 1932.

He was known as a “vagabond”, but Claxton seldom travelled great distances, or across the country. In July of 1931 he joined a team of Chicago-based barnstormers, the Gilkerson’s Union Giants halfway through their tour in Washington. The Union Giants played semi-pro and amateur all-star aggregates on an almost daily basis from April to October. The Giants also sponsored a basketball team that competed in the winter of 1931-32 versus teams such as the Harlem Globetrotters. They were “billed as the fastest colored baseball team in the United States”. (7-2-31, Yakima Daily Republic)

The team headed west in the spring and remained on the road until late August. Sold to Gilkerson in 1917, the Union Giants also rarely travelled to the West Coast, "Wisconsin, Iowa, and the Dakotas being the stamping ground of this stellar outfit prior to this invasion.” (7-12-31, The Tacoma Daily Ledger) Through the Pacific Northwest, the Rockies, and Great Plains they battered opposition along the railroad, and lost only a handful of games. They had a “winners-takes-all” (7-8-31, The Tacoma Daily Ledger) policy which led to heated competition for gate receipts and stacked amateur opposition.

The 1931 Union Giants roster was a very impressive, sober group of even-tempered gentlemen for the most part. The exception was pitcher Cristobal Torriente’s very public struggle with alcoholism. The team’s elder statesman, 54 year old catcher “Pops” Coleman stated, “Ballplayers can’t party at night and expect to be able to hit the ball or think fast on the diamond.” (Pops Coleman quote from internet)

Claxton reunited with 1923 Queen City All-Stars teammates Owen “Bazz” Smaulding, and Bob “Foot” Saunders. New teammates included outfielders Walter “Steel Arm” Davis (1891-1941) and Hurley McNair (1888-1948), 2006 Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Cristobal Torriente (1893-1938), former Kansas City Monarch “Dink” Mothell (1897-1980), Charles Akers comedian shortstop, regular catchers included the ageless Clarence “Pops” Coleman (1877-?), Ted “Double Duty” Radcliffe (1902-2005), and a very young Richard “Subby” Byas (1910-1985). In his prime Byas was a very popular catcher, he actually beat the legendary Josh Gibson in fan votes for the 1936 Negro League All-Star team. A host of other versatile black ballplayers were acquired as travel and finances permitted.

The next week Claxton pitched seven innings of relief after Smaulding faltered versus the Centralia Tigers. “Gilkersons Union Giants, colored boys from Chicago spoiled Centralia’s Southwest Washington league team to five runs at Noble Field yesterday evening and then defeated them, 9 to 5. Spaulding started on the mound for the Giants, but retired in favor of Claxton, a southpaw after the Tigers collected their five runs in the second inning on six hits and an error, Claxton allowed only five hits in the remaining seven innings.” (July 16, 1931, Centralia Daily Chronicle)

As the team travelled east from the Northwest, Claxton pitched the Union Giants to victories over the Centralia Tigers (7-16-31, Centralia Daily Chronicle), Ogden-Weber All-Stars in Utah (7-31-31, Ogden Standard Examiner), and Wymore, Nebraska, “Claxton, a curve ball hurler, checked the Wymoreans to two hits” (8-23-31, Beatrice Daily Sun) in a 9 to 0 shutout victory with 12 strikeouts. In between starts he played rightfield (8-4-31, Salt Lake Tribune). Though he had at least 3 wins and no losses, Claxton struggled at the plate; 3 for 20 by available records.

The Gilkerson Union Giants entered the 11th Annual Southwestern Iowa Baseball Tournament (8-29-31, Atlantic News Telegraph). The single elimination tournament was for $1,500, a huge sum of money during the Depression. The Union Giants defeated their first opponent Rosendale, Missouri (8-29-31, Atlantic News Telegraph), but lost in the second round to the Sioux Falls Canaries led by Swede Risberg, infamous Chicago White Sox shortstop who participated in rigged1919 World Series.

In the tournament, the Cuban House of David led by Luis Tiant, went on to defeat the Council Bluffs Dwarfies for the championship and prize money (9-27-31, Lincoln Star). After the tournament, the Gilkerson Union Giants, Cuban House of David, and Cuban Red Sox faced each other in a series of games in Lincoln, Nebraska at Landis Field and at Corwith, Iowa. Claxton had played for the Cuban House of David when the John Donaldson led team passed through Washington in the summer of 1929. Tiant and Claxton were briefly teammates in 1932 when the Cuban House of David moved North after spring training in April and changed their name to the Cuban Stars. They must have had a decent friendship, as 30 years later when Luis Tiant Jr. was a minor league pitcher with Portland he visited Claxton and his family in Tacoma, May of 1964 (5-17-64, Tacoma News Tribune).

Any help would be appreciated from board members.... Thank you all

Last edited by pariah1107; 06-27-2015 at 02:31 AM.
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