The team was organized by Rube Foster, known as the father of Negro League Baseball, who was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1981. Including the seasons spent playing in independent leagues, the team operated for 42 seasons, one of the longest-standing clubs in Black baseball’s history.
The team began to play as the American Giants in 1911, initially part of independent leagues. Some of the most notable players in the team’s history were on the 1917 club before they helped found the Negro National League. That squad featured greats such as Bruce Petway, John Henry “Pop” Lloyd, Pete Hill, Frank Wickware, and “Cannonball” Dick Redding.
In 1920, the team became one of the founding members of the Negro National League and won each of its first three pennants. The American Giants lost to the Indianapolis ABCs in the league’s inaugural game on May 2, 1920. Foster was the team’s initial manager, leading the team to those first three titles. He was succeeded by Dave Malarcher in 1926, who continued the winning tradition with World Series titles in 1926 and ‘27.
“Foster, without a doubt, was an absolute genius in handling men, in devising strategies of defense and attack. He called every play and expected everyone to do his job,” Malarcher once said of Foster. From 1920 through 1935, the team played in the Negro National League, Negro Southern League, and then the second Negro National League. In 1936, the team spent a year playing as an independent club again, before helping to found yet another league — the Negro American League.
The American Giants played at South Side Park during their championship seasons and into the 1930s — a wooden ballpark that had at one point hosted the White Sox before they built and moved to White Sox Park, which would soon be renamed, Comiskey Park. Beginning in 1941, the American Giants actually shared Comiskey with the White Sox, utilizing the grounds while the team was on the road.
According to some stories, the team occasionally outdrew the White Sox and Cubs in its heyday.