Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Mystery Of The Crimson Rims

A few weeks ago my friend Terrie Ekin forwarded me a newspaper article from Jay Mark of the Arizona Republic newspaper that I thought would make an interesting subject for November's Flannel of the Month. Peering out from the clipping was a proud group of ballplayers carefully grouped in front of palm trees with "Crimson Rims Tempe" emblazoned on their uniforms. Upon close inspection, what is curious about the team (other than the quilted sliding pants fashionable at the time) was the presence of an African-American player, posed with his bat and glove. While segregation in baseball was not always formalized, it would seem somewhat unusual for there to be an integrated team at this time. This photo shared with the newspaper by the curator of the Tempe History Museum, James Burns, with the hope that some light could be shed on this team. Given the savvy group of readers that this space has (response to last month's John Lennon post was amazing) I thought I'd throw this little mystery out to them and see what they came up with. It should be noted that Arizona was still a Territory until 1912.

Tempe History Museum

The only detail on the photo was a written "circa 1910". After the initial article appeared, local historian Ken Reid promptly came up with two newspaper articles from 1900 and 1901, which described games played by the Crimson Rims. The 1900 article describes a defeat for the Crimson boys at the hands of "the DeMund Nine". The 1901 piece reflected the propensity of newspaper editors of the day for hyperbolic headline writing: "An Atrocious Proceeding - National Game Hit In The Solar Plexus Yesterday". This article went on describe a 28-11 drubbing of the Crimson Rims by an opponent identified simply as "Phoenix".

My limited research into this team has come up nearly empty. There apparently was a brand of bicycle known as "Crimson Rim" in the late 1800s. It is possible that this was a company-sponsored semi-pro team. The team was not a member of any professional league we are aware of, yet was well-known enough to be covered by the local newspapers of the time. If anyone can identify the league they played in, or any of the players, the Tempe History Museum and EFF would love to know!

About the jersey: This is a byron-collar pullover style, common at the turn of the last century. It features a contrasting red wool collar and red felt letters. No numeral on back, as they were not worn at the time. It is available for a limited time at $99.

This just in: Blaise Lamphier and an anonymous poster have unearthed a roster from the Rims (see Comments). Based on Lamphier's research it appears possible that the team was sponsored by a Tempe bicycle shop...ed.

Anonymous said...
I found a 1901 newspaper article with the following Rims lineup:C PriestP Carroll1B Schureman2B Valenzuela3B UrbanoSS SigalaRF I. CelayaCF SurrateguiLF H. Celaya

From The Arizona Republican August 26, 1901:
"A regrettable incident occurred about the time the seventh inning was ushered in and it no doubt partly caused the poor playing at that time.
A Mexican named Bernal sat under the grand stand and on the grounds, in violation of the rules of the game, along with several other people No objection was made, however, until the attention of the Phoenix team was called to the fact that Bernal was tipping off the signals of the Phoenix catcher to the Mexican boys in the other team. Alexander, Captain of the Phoenix team, ordered the ground cleared and took particular pains to escort Bernal outside the fence. This resulted in personal remarks which ended later in a mix-up. Before the smoke cleared away Alexander had a painful but not serious wound in his cheek that looks like the work of a pocket knife though the presence of a knife in the melee is denied by some who saw it. The Mexican came in contact with a monkey wrench and also had a sore place to look after."

See Comments for more.