Black History Month – Sports
Did you know many of Chatham’s Black community, both historically and present-day, feature many strides and significant feats in the sporting world? It is difficult to highlight them all but let us explore three of them:
The Chatham Coloured All-Stars were a group of all-Black men who began playing baseball together in Chatham’s east side in 1932 at Stirling Park. In 1933 Archie Stirling, astounded by their skills, helped sign the team up for the local league, which consisted of all white players, as segregation was still common practice. The team rapidly gained popularity, and by 1934 they would win the provincial championship, making them the first all-Black team to win a provincial baseball championship. The team would continue to play together until many players left to join the war effort. The Chatham Coloured All-Stars were inducted in 2022 to Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, where they would receive the Order of Sport, the highest sporting honour in our nation.
The Chatham Coloured All-Stars blazed a trail and broke down barriers for future generations of the Black community to excel and have doors opened for them in sports.
Fergie Jenkins is one of Chatham’s most well-known baseball players, but did you know his dad played on the Chatham Coloured All-Stars? Unlike his father and his teammates, because of the colour barrier in the major leagues, Fergie would be given the opportunity to join the majors. His career has many highlights, but some of the highest achievements include receiving the Cy Young Award in 1971 and his induction as the first Canadian to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991.
Edward Wright, like Fergie, too has a connection to the Chatham Coloured All-Stars; his cousin Orville Wright was the team’s scorekeeper and secretary. Ed would go on to play on the Chatham Junior Maroons and receive a scholarship to play hockey at a university in Boston. After finishing his education, Ed was hired to coach the State University of New York at Buffalo’s hockey team, making him one of the first Black coach of an NCAA hockey team in history. Following this, Ed would also take on a role of a scout for the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks, marking him also as the first Black NHL scout.
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(Credit: The Chatham-Kent Historical Society)