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1920 Detroit Stars Negro League Photo

1920 Detroit Stars Negro League Photo

A remarkable piece from the mists of Negro league history -- an original cardboard cabinet photo of the 1920 Detroit Stars, one of the original six Negro National League teams that year. The Stars were created by Rube Foster to be a charter franchise if his league. In 1919, while Foster laid the groundwork for the circuit -- the second version of the NNL - he began stocking them with some favored “blackball” veterans, so as to provide competition for his own dominant American Giants. First he prevailed on Pete Hill, who’d been his top hitter on the Am-Giants for years, to become the Stars’ player-manager. He also shuttled in catcher Bruce Petway, who’d made his reputation by throwing out Ty Cobb twice in a Cuban league game in 1910. Foster also installed a Detroit underworld figure, Tenny Blount, as the nominal owner - paving the way for other gangster types to become Negro league owners, a necessary evil since few other blacks could afford to own teams. Playing in historic Mack Park, the Stars didn’t prosper on and off the field and would never finish higher than 2nd in their 15 years in the NNL, though the men who posed for this photo included some real Negro league standouts. Besides Hill and Petway, historians will recognize pitcher Bill Holland (who would one year be awarded $500 as the top hurler in the Cuban Winter League), Willie Gatewood, Andy Cooper, Jimmie Lyons, Buck Hewitt and Charlie Harper. The last names of the Big Three of Holland, Petway and Hill are written in pen over their images, with others identified on a photostat of a page from a Negro league history book that used the photo. A sly-looking Tenny Blount is in a dark jacket and roadster cap in the middle of the 2nd row. (For those wondering, HOFer Norman “Turkey” Stearnes didn’t join the Stars until 1923.) “Detroit Stars - 1920” is imprinted on the center bottom. Piece is more than a bit weathered and a technical G with the photographic surface peeling away from the cardboard at spots along the edges and corners and a substantial segment of the lower right corner itself torn away. Back of the piece, on which is written “Detroit Stars 1920” in blue pen, has adhesive and other damage. However, the group image is nearly completely undisturbed and amazingly razor-sharp - one can marvel at the clarity of the players’ faces and their classic uniforms with “Detroit” across the chest above a star on their left side of their shirts, and caps with “D” on them. This museum-worthy piece measures 10” wide and 8” top to bottom and would look awesome mounted and displayed in an antique-style frame.


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