Gus "Mr. Big" Greenlee

Gus Greenlee was known on the Hill as "Mr. Big," the man who could get
things done. He was a nightclub owner, a bootlegger, a moneylender, a numbers runner, and a political heavy. While he made great economic gains off of the people on the Hill, Gus also gave back. When people needed anything from groceries to rent money to college tuition, they turned to Gus.

Gus made most of his money off of his numbers racket. Although he often took residents of the Hill for their money every
week, when they did win, they knew they could count on Gus to pay off. He used his profits from the numbers--some
estimated they were $20,000-$25,000 per day--to invest back in the community. Gus' profits from the numbers and his clubs enabled him to support his fellow Hill residents in almost any endeavor. It also gave him and the Hill political power.

The Crawford Grille

Gus migrated from North Carolina in 1916, and quickly took a prominent position as "King of the Hill." The numbers and the Crawford Grille were his most successful endeavors, and the ones which garnered him the most popularity and prestige. He used the power that his money gave him to exhibit his racial pride; locals remember him as someone who "always went to bat for Negroes in those dark Depression days." His success on Wylie Avenue opened the door for him and many others for economic and political gains.

Gus bought the Pittsburgh Crawfords in 1930, and quickly made them one of the most popular attractions on the Hill. He brought in big name players like Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, and Oscar Charleston to form one of the strongest baseball teams of all time--the Big Five of the 1935 Negro League Championship teams. In 1932 he opened Greenlee Field, the country's first black-owned baseball stadium. Greenlee built it right in the Hill, on Bedford Avenue, where it could be a source of pride for all who lived there.

The "Big Five."

Once his field was built, Gus turned his eye to another major project: rebuilding the Negro National League. Started in 1933,
his NNL was more organized and successful than any other previous attempt at a black national baseball league. Greenlee's
league lasted until the late 1940s, but provided the opportunity for African-Americans to enjoy their own sporting ventures
with a measure of stability they had not known before.