The Cuban Giants

The Cuban Giants were a professional African American baseball team that played in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The team was founded in 1885 by Frank P. Thompson, a white businessman from Trenton, New Jersey, and was originally known as the Orions. The team was made up primarily of African American players, many of whom were Cuban or of Cuban descent, hence the name “Cuban Giants.”

The team was one of the most successful and popular African American baseball teams of its time and played a significant role in the development of black baseball in the United States. They played games all over the country, often against white teams, and were known for their fast-paced, high-energy style of play.

In 1885, Frank Thompson, head waiter at Long Island’s Argyle Hotel, organized the Cuban Giants—whose players were neither—using a few fellow waiters and players from Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., teams. The first salaried black ball club in the United States, it was known for its high caliber of play, on-field antics, and taking on everyone, from college nines to white major league teams. Dr. T. E. Townsend composed this polka in honor of the team hailed as the “world colored champions.”

In addition to playing baseball, the Cuban Giants also served as ambassadors for African American culture, showcasing their music and dance traditions during games and exhibitions. They were also involved in civil rights activism, using their platform to advocate for equal rights and opportunities for African Americans.

The team eventually disbanded in the early 1920s, as the Negro Leagues began to take shape and provide more organized opportunities for African American baseball players. However, the Cuban Giants remain an important part of the history of African American baseball, and their legacy continues to be celebrated by historians and baseball fans today.

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