John Holway / Negro Leagues
By John B. Holway
There were three bench-clearing brawls between blacks and whites before integration, and Oscar Charleston was in all of them. Unlike the big leabaseballguru.comgue brawls, which did little injury, as Ted Williams said in another context, when Charleston hit you, "you stayed hit."
The last one, between Dizzy Dean's All Stars and the Pittsburgh Crawfords in Pittsburg in 1934, ended in handshakes all around.
The first one , in Indianapolis in 1915, involved the ABCs and a major/,minor team that included Reb Russell, Bobby Veach, and Donie Bush. Bush was called safe on a close play at second. Second sacker Bingo DeMoss charged the ump, and Charleston, a rookie fresh out of the army, raced in from center and slugged the ump upside the head. According to the papers, "a near race riot" ensued.
The ABCs hustled Charleston and DeMoss onto a train to Florida for a series in Cuba, and their owner, C.I.Taylor, apologized publicly for their behavior.
The second reportedly occured in Cuba. I have not seen written evidence for it, but it's a part of the oral tradition of Negro League history. Pitcher Webster McDonald, outfielder Ted Page, and a Cuban fan, Pedro Cardona, told me of it. I don't know how it started, but the volatile Charleston was involved. He was pummeling an opponent when he saw a shadow advancing on him from the rear. He swung around and decked the guy,. Then he reportedly picked up an infielder and swung him by his heels, flattening several other attackers.