The old Dallas streetcar came across the Trinity River not far from where the modern one does. But it turned onto Colorado Boulevard and made its way to Gardner Park at 1500 East Jefferson, where Dallasites could catch the Dallas Eagles, or the before that, the Rebels, and later, the Rangers.
Dallas’ Texas League teams played on that site near the levee, which has yet to be redeveloped, for 50 years, ending in 1964.
But those weren’t the only professional teams that played there.
We also had the Dallas Black Giants of the Negro Leagues.
For decades, until after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947, black players were shut out of the major leagues. The greatest athletes of color from that era had their performances lost to history. You had to be there.
Their stats weren’t recorded, and mainstream newspapers didn’t cover their games. Like too much of African American history, a regretful amount is lost.
We know that the Dallas Black Giants games had live jazz. In the grand tradition of minor-league baseball publicity stunts, they held beauty pageants between innings in the 1930s.
Baseball games were a way to celebrate Juneteenth, the holiday that commemorates June 19, 1865, when Texas slaves were freed, two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation.
A headline in the daily newspaper, June 6, 1931: “Ball Games and Beauty Review to be Features of Negro Holiday Here.”
Black people weren’t the only fans of the Negro Leagues, but the games were still segregated. Advertisements announced “special seats for whites.”
The Dallas Black Giants played in the Colored Dixie Series in 1922 and lost the series to the Memphis Red Sox, six games to three. The Black Giants also hosted the famous Kansas City Monarchs on April 21, 1935, losing both games of a double-header.
The team folded after 1939, and the Dallas Green Monarchs played here for seven seasons in the 1940s.
Banks, who grew up in Dallas, was still a student at Booker T. Washington High School at the time. He later joined the Kansas City Monarchs for two seasons before signing with the Chicago Cubs, where he played for 17 seasons.
Known as Mr. Cub, Banks remains a beloved figure in Chicago as well as one of the greatest Major League Baseball players of all time.
Blair suffered a career-ending injury after six years in the Negro Leagues. He later founded the Elite News and was a community figure in Dallas his whole life. Blair, who died in 2014, spoke with the Dallas Morning News about his baseball career in 1986.
“I don’t have any regrets,” he said. “Without baseball, I never would have met Jackie Robinson or had a beautiful relationship with Satchel Paige … I know there were a lot of things I could have done if the pigment of my skin had been different, but it wasn’t, so why look back on something I couldn’t do anything about?”