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San Diego History Center honors city's black baseball players

Posted at 12:36 PM, Feb 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-12 15:37:18-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — San Diego has a rich history of African-Americans in baseball.

San Diego's first African-American baseball team formed in 1899. The Young Giants played against some of the top white teams in the U.S. and helped form the grounds from which San Diego black baseball would develop.

It was an African-American catcher named Sanders that played on the Young Giants who went on to play on San Diego's first integrated team, Star Cycle.

Baseball historian Bill Swank will speak to this storied past at the San Diego History Center Tuesday. One of the subjects of Swank's talk will be Neale "Bobo" Henderson, San Diego's last surviving Negro League player. Henderson died in December 2018.

"When I think of 'Bobo' Henderson all I can do is laugh because he was always laughing and we had a lot of fun together keeping the history and legacy of African American Negro League baseball alive in San Diego," Swank said.

Henderson, who played for the Kansas City Monarchs, played in the Negro League alongside two other prominent San Diegans: Walter McCoy and Johnny Ritchey, of the Chicago American Giants.

Ritchey would go on to play in the Pacific Coast League, where Swank says he, much like Jackie Robinson in the MLB, broke the color barrier to play for his hometown Padres in 1948. Padres fans may recognize a bronze bust of Ritchey at Petco Park and his name in the Breitbard Hall of Fame.

It's these men who helped give way to the growth of baseball in San Diego and African-Americans in the sport, and paving the way for local baseball icons like Nate Colbert, Dave Winfield, Garry Templeton, and Tony Gwynn.