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Buck Ewing

"Introducing Buck Ewing, the colored Babe Ruth of baseball. If you have seen him play once, you will want to see him again. If you haven't, then don't miss him."

--Originally from the Cobleskill, NY Index, 7/23/3,
From the book The Mohawk Giants of Schenectady by Frank M. Keetz. To order the book call 518-377-5058.

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©Copyright 2000-2001, Kyle McNary, McNary Publishing

Negro Leaguer of the Month
January, 2002

William Monroe "Buck" Ewing

Position: catcher
Career: 1920-1941
Teams: Chicago American Giants, Homestead Grays, Albany Black Sox, Mohawk Giants of Schenectady, NY.

HT: 6'-2"; WT: 200 lbs
Batted left; threw right
Jan. 31, 1903 in Massillon, OH
Died: Sept. 1, 1979 in Schenectady, NY

To some Negro League fans Buck Ewing was the Wally Pipp of his race--It was Pipp whom Lou Gehrig replaced and wasn't out of the lineup for years. Ewing was a catcher with the Homestead Grays in 1930 when he split his finger on a foul tip--his replacement was Josh Gibson and the rest, as they say, is history.

But Ewing was much more than a footnote in Negro League history. He was a star in his own right and had more than 10 fine seasons after Gibson took his place, they were just with other teams, most notably the Mohawk Giants of Schenectady, NY.

Ewing, known for the gold tooth that he flashed with his quick smile, started his pro career with Rube Foster's Chicago American Giants, then played with other teams of lesser quality before landing in Schenectady in the mid-1920s. With his talent and kind disposition Ewing soon became a local favorite.

Ewing was a slugger who could hit for average and was well respected for his catching abilities. He was named manager of Schenectady when he was 24 years old.

In 1928 he was offered more money and jumped to the Homestead Grays.

In 1931 he returned to Schenectady for good and would make the town his home for the rest of his life.

One might say that Buck was a big fish in a little pond playing in upstate New York for most of his career, playing against local semipro teams and the occasional powerful Negro League club. The Mohawk Giants played for several years in a Twilight League as the only black team in the loop. While true, Ewing still was the top name in baseball in the area for 20 years and could probably have starred with many Negro League teams.

Ewing, as the largest gate attraction of the area, also made more money than most Negro Leaguers and had to travel far less than the average Negro Leaguer who ate and slept in cramped cars or buses.

One of Ewings greatest thrills was a homerun he hit off the House of David's Grover Cleveland Alexander, who afterwards remarked, "That's the greatest catcher I ever saw, black or white."

Hall of Fame manager John McGraw also sung Ewing's praises when he said, "He'd be the greatest catcher in the big leagues but for his color."

Ewing was taught the finer points of catching by old-time star Chappie White, who actually caught a game for the Mohawk Giants in 1932 at the age of 62 and singled twice.

It was reported that the Mohawk games were often frequented by mobsters such as Bugsy Siegel, Frank Costello and Lucky Luciano, who ran night clubs in the area.

At the very least, Ewing was the most popular player to ever star in upstate New York, and might be one of the best catchers you never heard of!