The Rise of the Pittsburgh Crawfords,

The Pittsburgh Crawfords originally formed in 1925 as a combined community team, made up of African-American players from two local high school teams. Teensie Harris from the mostly black Watt High School team and Bill Harris from the mostly white McKelvey High School team dreamed of an all-black team that would combine the best talents from both teams. The neighborhood team practiced at the local Washington Park for the 1925 season, picking up more local players as they went.

In 1926, the team entered the city recreation league, and gained sponsorship from the Crawford Bath House; when they did so, they also gained the name of the Crawfords. It was right around this time that more prominent black citizens were calling for more community support of athletics through recreation centers.

As the Crawfords rose in talent and accomplishment, they won city recreation league pennants, and also started receiving more donations from the community. Gus Greenlee made his first key donation to the team in 1926; his donation provided the funds for new team uniforms.
From 1927-1928, the Crawfords became one of the most popular, and highly ranked, black sandlot teams in the city. They had to play teams made up of men in their 20s, 30s, and 40s just to have better competition. They would often gain players from these other strong teams, after the Crawfords had beaten them. Around this time, Teensie Harris dropped out of the management, to join his brother Woogie in the numbers racket. The team was still associated with the Bath House, and was managed by Bill Harris and Harry Beale, and coached by Jim Dorsey, Sr.

The Crawfords gained a number of players from the Edgar Thomson Ball Club in 1928, including Harold Tinker, Charlie Hughes, and other recruits like Josh Gibson. Even though they lost some players to the Grays, the addition of the other recruits made the team the best sandlot team in western Pennsylvania.
By 1929, the Crawfords had undergone an almost total transition, from a neighborhood team to a city sandlot team. By midseason, the team was drawing over 3,000 fans to home games.

1930 proved to be an important year for the Crawfords. The Crawfords and the Grays met for the first time at Forbes Field that season; the Crawfords lost, but earned more popularity throughout the community. Gus Greenlee also agreed to buy the team in 1930; he promised to pay each player a salary of $125 per month, but instituted a play or work policy. Each member of the team had to either quit his day job, or quit the team. Several players such as Tinker had to leave the team under this policy. As players left, Greenlee started to recruit heavily off the Hill for their replacements.

Satchel Paige

Toward the end of 1931, Greenlee made two vital decisions for the team: he hired Satchel Paige, and started building Greenlee Field. When the field opened in 1932, it held over 7,000 fans, and soon became a landmark on the Hill.

After opening the field, Gus turned his attentions again to recruiting. In 1932 he acquired more big-name players. Sam Streeter, Jimmie Crutchfield, Oscar Charleston, Judy Johnson, Josh Gibson, Ted Page, Jud Wilson, John Henry Russell, Bill Perkins, and Ted Radcliffe all joined the Crawfords in 1932, and the team was again transformed. It was no longer a city sandlot team, but a professional team that was based in the Hill.

As his team grew stronger, Gus turned his eyes toward another dream that would continue to professionalize--and isolate--
the Crawfords team; he looked to resurrecting the Negro National League, and looked forward to acting as its head commissioner.

Its rise in popularity and new ownership under Greenlee sent the Crawfords team spinning toward new heights by 1933. Greenlee's heavy recruiting and focus on winning set the stage for a whole new powerhouse of a team to form by 1935.