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Fri, 09.30.1938

The thrill of the game, those Baltimore Elite Giants

This date in 1938 celebrates the establishment of the Baltimore Elite Giants baseball team. This was one the many Negro League Baseball teams of the twentieth century.

Over 30 communities in the midwest, northeast, and south were home to franchises organized into six different leagues. In Baltimore, their nickname is pronounced "EE-light" with a Southern twang. The Giants migrated from Nashville to Columbus, Ohio to Washington D. C. and finally to Baltimore in 1938. They won the Negro National Title in 1939 and 1949. The Elite Giants gave Joe Black, Junior Gilliam, and Hall of Fame catcher Roy Campanella their initial exposure to professional baseball before becoming bums with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

The 1942 season was the best-ever for the club when they had a 37-15 record, tops in the Negro National League. The Baltimore Elite Giants were in the Negro National League 1938-1948, and the Negro American League 1949-1950. In Baltimore, the Homestead Grays were the dominant team. The Elites would play them every year and finally in 1939, the Elites claimed the championship, beating the Grays in a four-team post-season tournament. In 1946, Tom Wilson sold the franchise due to health problems, and two years later the league folded.

In 1949, after the league had been reconstructed and under the new management of Lennie Pearson, the Elites won the Eastern Division and Western Division. In 1950, although the team won second place in the East, it was suffering from financial problems and sold to William Bridgeforth for $11,000. The team returned to Nashville for a final season, and subsequently was dissolved.

The Negro Baseball Leagues: A Photographic History
By Phil Dixon with Patrick J. Hannigan
Copyright 1992, Jed Clauss and Joanna Paulsen
Ameron House Publishing
ISBN 0-88488-0425-2

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