Cumberland "Cum" Posey
Posey (2nd Row, 3rd From the Left)
Cumberland‚"Cum" Posey owned the Homestead Grays with affection. He gave birth to the only true dynasty in the Negro Leaguesnurtured them, treated the Grays like they were his own which they were. Many owners enter the game as businessmen, never knowing what it was like to have been on the field, in love with playing baseball.
Posey loved competing. The avid sportsman gained fame by playing football and basketball. Posey was also a talented baseball player and found himself in the outfield of an upstart sandlot team out of Homestead. He was a good player but more importantly a solid leader. He soon became captain and then the team's manager. Posey divided his time between his job at the Railway Mail Service and the organizing and playing sports. He established ties with promoters, sportswriters, and owners with whom he made a point of maintaining for the remainder of his career. The Grays, with their talent backed by Posey's newfound ownership soon became the largest draw in black baseball. He recruited many of the best prospects in the Pittsburgh area and also mixed in some veterans from the old Negro National League of the teens. He brought in 49-year-old future Hall of Famer Smokey Joe Williams. Williams was voted the best black pitcher in the game by thirty students of black baseball in 1951in the Courier. The Grays‚ behind Williams and center fielder Harold Tinker posted a‚remarkable‚record, winning 130 games while losing only 23. That season also included a 43 game winning streak after which Posey rewarded histeam, as he had promised with gold baseballs. (Ruck p.131)
Posey's clout in black baseball enabled him to recruit the‚top stars. He attracted some of the greatest players including Oscar Charleston, Martin Dihigo arguably‚the best player to come out of Latin America in the era and Judy Johnson. The Grays were not simply a strong team they were the best black team around. They were so secure that they refused to‚enter any league. They made great money travelling around the tri-state area. Posey was often even granted "the much sought for but rarely granted rain guarantee from area teams, meaning that the Grays receieved a minimum payment even‚if the game was rained out.(Ruck‚p.133)
Posey's dominance as an owner earned him respect. His team was the best in the area. They began to play in the Negro National League and the Eastern Colored League and in 1929 joined the American Negro League. Though the players were all black, the Grays teams were often better than many white professional clubs. Attendance rose as did the revenue. The Grays were a complete success. Then the Depression hit. The 1931 season among saw colored clubs suffer greatly (Ruck p.135). Worried about the welfare of American Negro League, Posey tried to create another group of organizations. Midway through the season the Detroit franchise folded and the league did not make it until September.
Posey's Grays would soon find a rival in the Steel City, Gus Greenlee's Pittsburgh Crawfords. Greenlee began to lure some of Posey's players. Posey kept many of his stars but Greenlee had money from the numbers game to buy the best players away form the Grays. Between 1932 and 37, the two giants jockeyed to€be€the Kings of Black Baseball. The Crawfords won championships in 1935 and 1936 but when their stars‚ enticed by warm weather and good money, then‚went South to play in Latin America the Crawfords would fall off the map. Nevertheless many of the same players (i.e. Paige and Gibson) would return to‚Pittsburgh to‚the Crawfords. Cum Posey, in 1937 inked Josh Gibson to a long-term‚deal that would keep him‚with the Grays‚for the remaining 11 years of his career. From 1937, the Grays would go on a tear winning nine championships in a row in the Negro Leagues. (More‚about‚those‚years)
Cum Posey died on March 28, 1946 Homestead declared a school holiday in his honor. Many local politicians, Art Rooney the owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and‚ Posey's players attended the funeral. He was a very influential man.
The Grays never quite could get back above the water. See Posey, the Grays' former secretary and Cum's brother, took over the team. Despite winning the championship in 1948 there were signs of the end for the team. Baseball was integrated. Josh‚Gibson their star had passed away. But most importantly, Cumberland Posey's void was too big to fill.