By Jurry Taalib-Deen
Journal Staff Writer
In 1884, Moses Fleetwood Walker became the first African American in the United States to play professional baseball. He played catcher for the Toledo Blue Stockings.
One-hundred and sixty one years after his birth, October 7, 1856, John Kasich, Ohio Governor, signed into law recognizing his birthday as Moses Fleetwood Walker Day.
Celebrating the milestone, at the Fleetwood’s Tap Room, 28 N. St. Clair, named in honor of Moses Fleetwood Walker, were The Toledo Chapter of Jack & Jill, representatives from the Mud Hens Baseball Team, and members from the community.
The sponsoring entities gave brief words about the importance of the day. Attendees then enjoyed live music from the O.K. Trio, tried their luck in a 50/50 raffle, and even enjoyed a birthday cake celebrating the guest of honor.
Asha Barnes, president of the Toledo Chapter of Jack & Jill, told The Toledo Journal, that the evening wasn’t just about celebrating the milestone, but it served as a fundraiser to send 50 kids to a baseball camp, at 5/3 Field in 2018, which would be ran by players from the Mud Hens.
Michael Keedy, director of events and entertainment for the Mud Hens, said it was an honor that his organization could participate in the historic event. Yearly, the Mud Hens sponsor a baseball camp for area youth.
Pete Wagoner, founder of the Moses Fleetwood Walker Society said he was the best catcher the Toledo Blue Stockings ever had. In 1884, catcher didn’t have gloves, but instead, caught the ball barehanded.
“He was not only a good catcher, but he was very fast,” Mr. Wagoner said.
Moses Fleetwood Walker would only play for one year, 46 games, before being removed from the league because of his color.
Mr. Wagoner said, that he would eventually author a book entitled, “Our Home Colony,” which was about the Emancipation Proclomation.
To help send 50 kids to baseball camp, at Fifth Third Field, send a check to Toledo Mud Hens, Attn: Rob Wiercinski, 406 Washington St., Toledo, Ohio 43604. Make checks out to “Helping Hens.” Write Moses Fleetwood Walker on the check memo or in a note attached to the check.