Gary Ashwill has an interesting link at his blog, showcasing the newly digitized Spalding Baseball Guides which covered the semi-pro baseball scenes in several major cities during the first half of the twentieth century. He’s posted a photograph of the famous Leland Giants from one of these guides. They were, of course, an all-black team which was one of the bigger draws (and more talented outfits) in Chicago before 1910. By coincidence, I recently made contact with Tom Niesen, whose Great-Great Grandfather William C. (Bill) Niesen is featured in this same Spalding Baseball Guide (page 10). Bill Niesen was the owner of Chicago’s all-white Gunthers team from about 1901 to 1915, then later ran the Pyott’s ballclub during the 1920s. The Gunthers and Pyotts were two of the top semi-pro teams in the city, often competing against the Lelands, and later Rube Foster’s Chicago American Giants, as well as other Negro league teams.
Tom Niesen was kind enough to forward some pictures from his personal collection, two never before seen shots of his Great-Great-Grandfather’s ballclub and stadium. Both are stunning. The first one is a photograph of Gunthers Park, circa 1904, with Niesen’s team in action versus an unknown opponent. The grandstands are packed and kids climb their bikes to watch the action over the right-field fence. This venue was the site of many games with the Leland Giants, American Giants and Jose Mendez’ Cuban Stars. The second photo shows the Pyotts ballclub outside Niesen’s stadium, dating from the early 1920s. They had some legendary (and often heated contests) versus Rube Foster’s teams.