New York Gorhams (1886-1892)

George Stovey
George Stovey

The New York Gorhams were a Negro league baseball team formed in 1886 that grew to be one of the most successful black professional clubs in the country in the late 19th Century. The Gorhams were organized by saloon owner Ambrose Davis, who named the team after Alexander Gorham, a nearby black saloon keeper in New York City.

The Gorhams, also known as the New York Big Gorhams, played in the League of Colored Baseball Clubs in 1887, and became the founding members of the short lived National Colored Base Ball League, organized as a minor league, under the management of Ben Butler. In 1888, another league, the Middle States League, was formed, and it admitted two all-black teams to its otherwise all-white membership, New York Gorhams, and their arch-rivals, the Cuban Giants. The two clubs briefly formed a traveling team called The Colored All Americans, to fulfill their league obligations but eventually returned to their status as separate teams in 1890.

New York Gorhams
Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper article, August 16, 1891, describing the New York Gorhams Defeating the Cape May Athletic Association Team. President Benjamin Harrison was in attendance.

In their first season (1886), the Gorhams signed Frank Grant as hitter, Sol White as 2nd baseman, and George Stovey as pitcher. They beat the top ranked Cuban Giants in two games to be hailed as the best black team in the East but ultimately finished the season in third place with a record of 45-28.

By 1891, the Gorhams played in the Connecticut State League, and had a solid team of top-ranked players. George Williams, Arthur Thomas, Billy Selden, George Stovey and two future Hall of Fame inductees, Sol White and Frank Grant, were on their roster. They played over one hundred games during the 1891 season, lost only four, and had a thirty-nine game winning streak. This was their best year and they had the best record in the league.

During the summer of 1891, the White House was under renovation, and for several months, Cape May Point, New Jersey became the residence of U.S. President Benjamin Harrison. On August 15, 1891, the President and then Pennsylvania State Senator John E. Reyburn, went to Cape May’s Athletic Park to witness a game between the Cape May Athletic Association and the New York Gorhams. The Gorhams shut out the Association 5-0. Harrison is the only sitting President to have watched a game involving a black baseball team during the entire era of segregated baseball. Despite their remarkable 1891 season, the New York Gorhams team folded in 1892.