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Charlie Culver

Sport: Baseball

Born: November 17, 1892

Died: January 4, 1970

Town: Hudson County

Charles Culver was born November 17, 1892 in Buffalo, NY. A talented all-around baseball player, he found his way south to New Jersey, where he played for black semipro and professional clubs while living in Hudson County starting sometime around the age of 20. Among the teams Charlie played for was a barnstorming outfit called the Red Caps. The roster was made up of African-American railroad employees, many of whom held weekday jobs as porters (also known as Red Caps) at Penn Station in New York. In 1918, he served as player-manager of the team. His star pitcher was Stringbean Williams. In 1919 and 1920, Charlie suited up for the Havana Red Sox and Lincoln Giants.

In 1921, Charlie, now 28, was invited to play for St. Henri, a semipro team in a working-class section of Montreal with a significant black population. Charlie worked as a laborer during the week and played on the weekends. The following year, 1922, Charlie signed a contract with the Montreal Royals in the newly formed Eastern Canada League, which was officially recognized as a Class-B minor league by baseball’s governing body, the National Association. Charlie was a coup for the new club—he would likely be their best hitter and top pitcher.

Charlie pitched the Royals to a 7–2 victory on opening day and hit a homer, too. The next day he played the outfield and homered again in a 3–2 win. No problem, right? Wrong. There were a couple of problems. First, a semipro team in Sainte-Hyacinthe, across the St. Lawrence River from Montreal, had already signed Charlie. Second, the National Association had a gentlemen’s agreement regarding the signing of black players.

A week later, Sainte-Hyacinthe exercised its contractual rights and Charlie was forced to play out the year with that club. Whether the National Association had a hand in banishing Charlie from organized professional baseball is unknown. What is know is that he continued to play—and play well— in Quebec semipro leagues for the rest of the decade, and then served as a player-manager for several teams in the 1930s and early 40s. He worked weeks as a factory foreman.

Among the hundreds of players Charlie coached in Canada was a two-sport star who went on to enjoy a solid career in the NHL, Dennis Brodeur. He later became the team photographer for the Montreal Canadiens and his son, Martin, became a Staley Cup-winning goalie. Charlie Culver passed away in 1970 in Montreal at the age of 77.


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