#Shortstops: ABCs vs. All-Stars
In the era of segregation in Major League Baseball, it was commonplace for Negro League teams to play exhibition games against white teams. Some teams were actual major or minor league clubs, while most of them were “all-star” teams consisting of major, minor, and semi-professional players.
During the fall of 1915, a memorable series of exhibition games were played in Indianapolis, Ind., between white all-star teams and the local Black team: the Indianapolis ABCs.
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In the photo archives of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, a picture of the 1915 Indianapolis ABCs is preserved. Named for the local brewery that initially sponsored them – the American Brewing Company – the Indianapolis ABCs were one of the most well-known and successful teams in Negro League Baseball history. They were managed by Charles Isham “C.I.” Taylor, who came to the club in 1914 after successful stints with the Birmingham Giants and the West Baden Sprudels.
The team featured two future Hall of Famers: first baseman Ben Taylor – C.I.’s brother – and rookie outfielder Oscar Charleston, who was an Indianapolis native. Other notable players were second baseman Bingo DeMoss, outfielder George Shivley, and pitchers Dicta Johnson and Dizzy Dismukes.
The 1915 ABCs finished the regular season with a 37-25-1 record. Against the Chicago American Giants, the Cuban Stars, and the Lincoln Stars – their toughest black competition – they went 26-16-1. With the regular season finished, they were now ready to take on some of the best talent in Organized Baseball.
The ABCs would face three different white all-star teams from Sept. 26-Oct. 24. All of the games were played at Indianapolis’ Federal Park – the former home of the Federal League’s Indianapolis Hoosiers – because it held a bigger capacity than the ABC’s home field: Northwestern Park.
In the first matchup, the ABCs dominated the all-star team that was made up of players from the low minors, sweeping the doubleheader with scores of 12-1 and 7-1, while managing to steal 11 bases.
In the next matchup on Oct. 3, the ABCs took on an all-star team that was made up of players from the Indianapolis Indians and the Louisville Colonels. This all-star team proved to be better competition, but they could not beat the ABCs either, as the game ended in a 3-3 tie after 12 innings.
The final three matchups were against an all-star team led by Detroit Tigers shortstop and Indianapolis native Donie Bush. This team included his teammates Bobby Veach, George “Hooks” Dauss, and George Boehler; Pat Bauman of the New York Yankees; Reb Russell of the Chicago White Sox; and Otto Miller of the Brooklyn Robins.
The ABCs met their match with this all-star team, losing 5-2 on Oct. 10. They rebounded in the Oct. 17 game, as Ben Taylor recorded the game-winning hit in the 11th inning to win 3-2.
In the third and final game of the series on Oct. 24, the All-Stars were leading 1-0 in the fifth inning, when Bush attempted to steal second base. The catcher’s throw to DeMoss at second beat Bush to the bag, but he was called safe by the umpire, who was white. Enraged by the call, DeMoss pushed the umpire and swung his fists at him. Charleston then ran in from center field and punched the umpire in the face, knocking him to the ground. Both teams and fans then came onto the field to join in what the Indianapolis Star called a near “race riot” before the police restored order. The All-Stars would go on to win the game 5-1.
The 1915 Indianapolis ABCs went 3-2-1 against the white all-star teams, proving that their talent on the diamond was equal to their white counterparts.
Matthew Carter was the 2019 curatorial intern in the Hall of Fame’s Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program for Youth Leadership Development