In honor of Black History Month, the Toledo History Museum hosted a forum of local baseball historians discussing Fleet Walker and Negro Leagues Baseball on Monday, February 26th from 6:00 to 8:00 pm in the McMaster Center at the Toledo Lucas County Main Library.
Before a “gentleman’s agreement” among League owners upheld Jim Crow segregation in the national pastime until 1947, Moses Fleetwood Walker is credited with being one of the first black men to play in Major League Baseball (MLB). A native of Mount Pleasant, Ohio, and a star athlete at Oberlin College as well as the University of Michigan, Walker played for semi-professional and minor league baseball clubs before joining the Toledo Blue Stockings for their 1884 season—the year they joined the major league American Association (AA). The Blue Stockings finished 8th with a 46-58 record in 1884. The team returned to the minors the next year and disbanded after the 1885 season.
Walker played in the minor leagues until 1889, and was the last African-American to participate on the major league level before Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color line in 1947. After his baseball career, he became a successful businessman, newspaper editor, inventor and advocate of Black nationalism.
During the period of segregation in baseball, African American stars like Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, and Buck O'Neil earned a living playing for Negro League teams like the Kansas City Monarchs, Homestead Grays, and the Newark Eagles.
“We wanted to host an event that connected Black history and Toledo,” said Eric Wagner, Chairman of the Toledo History Museum’s Programming Committee. “Fleet Walker’s story is engaging and it has a local connection. The history of the Negro Leagues is a bonus. Our forum included baseball historians to discuss Walker and this divisive era in baseball.” The forum was offered free and open to the public. Forum guests included local baseball historian, John Husman; Detroit baseball historian, Gary Gillette; Rosilyn Stearnes-Brown, the daughter of "Turkey" Stearnes, one of the greatest players in Negro Leagues history, and Ron Teasley, a 91-year-old former Negro Leagues player for the New York Cubans.