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St. Paul Colored Gopher (players 1909)
The St. Paul Colored Gophers of 1907 are celebrated on this date. They were a small club of Black baseball players formed in St. Paul, MN, 40 years before Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball's color barrier.
Awareness about the history of Negro League Baseball and its legacy to the game has increased in recent years, but little is known about some of the teams that were around before the league formed in 1920. The St. Paul Colored Gophers were part of the growth of the league, as it tried to find venues in which to play and determine which ones worked and which ones did not. They chose cities where they could make money or where the players would want to live; Chicago worked and St. Paul didn't.
The St. Paul Colored Gophers lasted only four years, as the market in St. Paul was too small. Like other barnstorming teams of the time, however, they had considerable impact on the desegregation of baseball. In 1909, the Colored Gophers defeated what was considered to be the most powerful Negro baseball team, the Leland Giants. The Colored Gophers are rarely mentioned in Negro baseball history, and statistics and rosters are hard to find. On occasion, the Minnesota Twins have honored them by wearing replica throwback jerseys of the 1909 team.
Swinging for the Fences: Black baseball in Minnesota
by Kwame McDonald and Steven R. Hoffbeck.
Minnesota Historical Society Press,
Copyright, February 2005,
Image: Five of the St. Paul Colored Gophers ball club at the Hardscrabble Field in Hibbing, Minnesota. The Gophers defeated Hibbing 17 to 2 that day in 1909.