By: Nevaeh Richardson
While the eyes of the world are on athletes competing in Tokyo for the 2021 Olympics, and more of a spotlight being placed on mental health, we want to highlight a great Black athlete who broke many barriers while dealing with mental health issues of his own. Learn about legendary baseball pioneer Rube Foster in this week’s “Know your history!”
Andrew “Rube” Foster (September 17, 1879 – December 9, 1930) was an American baseball player, manager, and executive in the Negro leagues. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1981.
Foster, considered by historians to have been perhaps the best African-American pitcher of the first decade of the 1900s, also founded and managed the Chicago American Giants, one of the most successful black baseball teams of the pre-integration era. Most notably, he organized the Negro National League, the first long-lasting professional league for African-American ballplayers, which operated from 1920 to 1931. He is known as the “Father of Black Baseball.”
Foster adopted his longtime nickname, “Rube,” as his official middle name later in life.
The year 1926 saw him complete his team’s reshaping, leaving only a handful of veterans from the championship squads of 1920 to 1922. The club finished third in the season’s first half; but Foster would never finish the second.
Over the years, “Foster grew increasingly paranoid. Took to carrying a revolver with him everywhere he went.” Suffering from serious delusions, including one where he believed he was about to receive a call to pitch in the World Series, he was institutionalized midway through the 1926 season at an asylum in Kankakee, Illinois.
The American Giants and the NNL lived on—in fact, led by Dave Malarcher, the Giants won the pennant and World Series in both 1926 and 1927—but the league clearly suffered in the absence of Foster’s leadership. Foster died in 1930, never having recovered his sanity, and a year later, the league he had founded fell apart.
Foster is interred in Lincoln Cemetery in Blue Island, Illinois. At his funeral, it was said that his coffin was closed, according to attendees, “at the usual hour a ballgame ends.”