The Pittsburgh Crawfords

The Pittsburgh Crawfords in an early photo, with the Hill District in the background.

The Pittsburgh Crawfords formed in 1925, the dream of two local ballplayers, Teensie and Bill Harris. The team was a combination of black players from two local schools, and was originally just another local sandlot team. The next year the team gained the support and sponsorship of the local community, and the Crawford Bath House. Through this and other sources, the team grew in size and popularity, with increased financial backing each year.
The team started taking on a new character in the 1930s, after Gus Greenlee bought the team. Greenlee was the "King of the Hill," and used the money he gleaned from his numbers racket and clubs like the Crawford Grill to take a controlling role in the Crawfords. Rather than being a community-based team, the Crawfords became a more professional team, with big-name players being brought in by Gus to beef up the team.

Where local players like Harold Tinker had formerly been the heart of the team, Gus soon brought in outside players like Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige, and Oscar Charleston to improve the team. As the team grew stronger and stronger, Gus invested more and more into the organization. In late 1931 Gus started building his own baseball stadium, Greenlee Field, which soon became a source of great pride and accomplishment on the Hill.

The team's popularity continued to grow despite the fact that it was no longer a community-based team. The team grew in strength, and by 1935 was the Negro League Championship team. This year was the team's peak; the next season was rife with contract disputes, as Satchel Paige led many of the strongest players down to the Dominican Republic where they could earn more money. The team continued to decline through the 1930s until it eventually fell apart.

Click here to learn more about:
The community basis for the team
The rise of the Crawfords
The team's peak years
How the Crawfords folded