Forerunner to the Homestead Grays

It’s hard to pick a favorite image among the Dorsey-Turfley Family Photographs, an image collection recently added to Historic Pittsburgh. The collection contains photographs of African American sports teams from the early 20th century, playgrounds, Hill District recreation centers and playgrounds, as well as images documenting several generations of the family.  With a new baseball season just underway, I thought it would be appropriate to highlight this image of a baseball team at Forbes Field.

Forerunner to the Homestead Grays - MSP455_B003_F005_I01

The back of the photograph reads “Forerunner to the Homestead Grays — the Grays,” which might indicate that this is an image of the Murdock Grays, a short-lived team that later reformed as the Homestead Grays in the early 1912.  The Murdock Grays were preceded by an even earlier team, the Blue Ribbons, a sandlot team that included steel workers from Homestead mills.

A handful of players are identified on the back.  Crouching in the first row, second from the left, is Cumberland Posey.  Posey, who joined the Grays as a player around 1911, would go on to become the team’s manager and owner. In the 1920s, Posey built the Grays into one of black baseball’s first dynasties by aggressively acquiring the best local and national talent.  For these efforts, was posthumously inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.

Next to Posey on his left is Sellers Hall, a pitcher who played for the Pittsburgh Giants, among other teams.  Hall‘s uniform is different those worn by the rest of the players.  It appears to have a stylized “MD” that looks similar to the insignia on the uniform of the Monticello-Delaney basketball team (images of this team can be found elsewhere in the collection).  Another player is wearing a uniform that appears to have “South Hills” across the front of the jersey.

The historical record contains few references to the Murdock Grays.  During the course of my research, I was not able to locate an image of the team or even a newspaper account of any of their games.  Therefore, the identity of the all of the players in this image, as well as the team(s) represented, may remain a mystery.


About Matthew Strauss

Chief Archivist at the Senator John Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, Pa.
This entry was posted in African American Collection, Sports. Bookmark the permalink.

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