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Tue, 10.30.1883

Samuel L. Ranson, All-Sport Athlete born

Samuel Ransom

*The birth of Samuel Ransom is celebrated on this date in 1883. He was a Black high school, college, and professional athlete for several sports. He played professional football, baseball, and later coached college football. Some researchers believe he is the first Black to play college basketball.

Samuel L. Ransom was born in Chicago, Illinois, and attended Hyde Park Preparatory Academy from 1899 to 1902. In football, he played halfback. In baseball, he played catcher, was a forward on the basketball team and worked on-field events for the track team. During his time at Hyde Park, the basketball team went to the championship. The football team went to the county, state, and even an "intersectional preparatory school game" with Brooklyn Polytechnic, beating them 105 to 0. The track team went to the Penn Relays.

According to a close teammate, he also worked as a bell boy in the Del Prado Hotel after classes and sports practice.  The teammate, Walter Eckersall, became a sportswriter for the Chicago Tribune. Amos Alonzo Stagg of the University of Chicago football team tried to recruit Ransom along with Eckersall. Ransom declined and instead attended Beloit College in Beloit, Wisconsin playing four sports there. He graduated in 1908. He led the 1904–1905 Beloit team to a 9-4 record. In 1906, Ransom was injured during rush week, dislocating his shoulder. Later in 1906, he helped the basketball team go undefeated, 9-0 in the winter of 1906–1907. 

Between his Junior and Senior year at Beloit, he was a second baseman for the St. Paul Colored Gophers. He moved to Minnesota again after graduation in 1908. During the years in Minnesota, when not playing professional sports, Ransom also worked for a businessmen’s club in St. Paul called the "Minnesota Club." Ransom enlisted and joined the 8th Illinois Regiment of the National Guard in July 1917. When he left St. Paul, the Minnesota Club where he worked threw a large party, and the patrons raised $550 and he received a soldier's silver wristwatch with an inscription, "From John Jackson and Sherman Finch to S.L. Ransom."  

Ransom's regiment was stationed along the Mexico border and was eventually sent to France during World War I, and the unit was rebranded the 370th Infantry. Ransom moved to the rank of First Lieutenant by the end of the War. During his time in France, he was wounded in February 1919 and earned a Purple Heart. He remained in the National Guard and eventually became a Major. Ransom returned to St. Paul and a large welcoming ceremony in March 1919.

He returned to his job as Superintendent of Service at the Minnesota Club. Ransom later coached football at Meharry College and Lane College. Ransom received a citation in 1969 for his work in Minnesota helping to create the state's first Interracial Commission. The honor was for "distinguished service to the state." Fellow high school player Walter Eckersall compares Ransom to Bobby Marshall and Fritz Pollard. Samuel L. Ransom died in 1970 at the age of 87 in St. Paul, Minnesota. Beloit College inducted him into the Beloit College Athletic Hall of Honor on October 19, 1973.

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