St. Louis women have taken the field at separate times

Don’t tell us what kind of history Norma Taveh will traverse once she starts rummaging through her basement.

About two years ago, Taaffe came across some old newspaper clippings and photos, sitting in manila envelopes packed in boxes for years.

One such package contained information that validated an old family tale about relatives who once owned a Negro league A baseball stadium in North St. Louis.

“And now, I find this,” Taffy said recently, handing over another old file offering a fresh look at baseball history in St. Louis:

Over 110 years ago, our city fielded a team of black female players – the St. Louis Black Broncos.

St. Louis Black Bronchos, 1910-11

St. Louis Black Bronchos, 1910-11.

Image provided by Steve Bona

“I knew some (black) men’s teams played at the stadium my family owned, but I had no idea in the world that there was a black women’s team,” said Taffy, who lives in the Central West End.

People also read…

Actually, when you are In the spring of 2021Rumored bum about a women’s team.

“They even talked about putting together a black women’s team,” Taffy said at the time. “But that never happened.”

While information on the Broncos is sparse, two local experts on baseball history and one notable national were able to shed some light on the team’s brief existence that lasted for two seasons, 1910 and 1911.

The Bronchos played at Kuebler Park, which was owned by Conrad and Henry Kuebler, Taaffe’s uncle and grandfather, respectively.

The park’s office was at 6100 North Broadway, with home plate and grandstand entrance at Pope and Prescott Streets. The site is now covered with lots of trucks and a gas station.

Koebler Garden

Kuebler’s Garden, circa 1909, near North Broadway. The grandstand/home plate area was in the background at the corner of Pope and Prescott Avenues.

Image provided by Norma Koebler Petty

The park was reputed to be the home field of St. Louis GiantsNegro League men’s team that played there from 1908 through 1915.

The Giants changed their name in 1922 to the Stars, a team that includes five Hall of Fame members, including the legendary outfielder James “Cool Papa” Bell.

Steve Bona, President St. Louis Baseball Historical SocietyHe discovered the Bronchos about 15 years ago, finding a picture of the team while researching other topics.

“My eyes popped out, I couldn’t believe it,” Bona said. “What was amazing was that they actually went on tour in the Midwest. I wondered if it was being marketed as a curiosity, or a sideshow of some sort.”

As more questions arise, Bona recommends a contact with James E Bronson IIIHe is a nationally recognized expert on black baseball and 19th century baseball.

Bronson’s Book of the Year 2019,”Black baseball: 1858-1900.It is a three-volume work (with A Volume IV On the Road) that some consider the definitive work on the subject.

In 2011, Major League Baseball named him to the Baseball Origins Committee, which includes other hitters like Ken Burns, George Will, and Doris Kearns Goodwin.

He is a former history professor and vice president of Northern Illinois University, a member of the Association for American Baseball Research – and a huge fan of the Chicago White Sox.

“Bronchos are interesting and curious,” Bronson said in a recent interview.

First, it dispelled any notion that the Bronchos, or early women’s baseball in general, was a novelty business.

“These women’s teams were playing on their own days, playing their own game,” he said. “The Bronchos played one game in Louisville and they had a crowd of 5,000.”

Kuebler's Garden, circa 1909

A crowd gathers to play a game in Cuebler Park, circa 1909.

Image provided by Norma Koebler Petty

And there were a number of other black women’s teams, with Bronson quickly naming the Louisville Cubs, Oklahoma City Mohawks, Topeka Giants, Nashville Giants and Kansas City Royal Giants.

Ever the Finder, Bronson also revealed a number of Broncos players’ names and their assigned locations.

The only photograph of the team known to exist clearly shows some men on the Broncos squad. Old records indicate that they were both often used as pitchers and catchers in games, Bronson said, as well as at shortstop.

“It looks like six women played at one time,” he said, “even though there are 12 women on the list.”

Among the women on the second base bronchos were Dora “Baby” Ashley and Bess Diskmore; Third Officer Clara “Kitty” McFadden and Nelly Carter; first basemen Lena Wilson and Susan Young; and outfielders Manda Turani, Minnie Coover, Sophie Timmons, Cora Eldridge, Lisa Jones, and Lily (only).

Bronson said stories in several newspapers also indicate that Konrad Kuebler ran the team and that Henry Kuebler played at times.

So, with such a full roster and such an enthusiastic audience, why has the history of women in baseball — with the exception of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League made famous by “A League of Their Own” — been consigned to relative obscurity?

“I still wonder why they became extinct,” Bronson said. “My suspicion is that it never made it to the press.”

Ed Wheatley, President St. Louis Browns Historical Society And the author of several books about baseball in St. Louis, he can speak for the lack of coverage.

There was nothing in any of the major St. Louis papers or museums, Wheatley said. I also looked through a few collections of museum archives as well and found nothing.

He found old newspaper clippings outside town, which indicated that the team played in Indiana, Kentucky, Georgia, Mississippi, Texas, Arkansas, Kansas and Oklahoma.

A Simple Dealer of Topeka in 1911 described the team as “the only Negro team on the road,” and went on to say that the Bronchos were “a fresh attraction but also a strong team of well-behaved girls.”

While most articles downplayed the importance of sports to players, Bronson said that some players have won praise in the press.

One (a reporter) remarked that McFadden “casts like a line” and called Carter a “clever stick artist”, said Bronson.

In the April 1910 edition of the Indianapolis Freeman, a reporter noted, “Lilly and Bess’s performance was splendid (and) Nellie, who played first, was a star. She could throw to third as a man and also catch them off the ground with great style.”

The Freeman reporter also credited Konrad Kuebler for being “a staunch advocate of promoting league football among clubs of color” and also for finding female players “who knew how to approach the field in the most scientific way”.

Norma Kuebler trashy

Norma Kuebler trashy.

Joe Holman, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

But alas, there was less than kindness in their game, as in a story from August 1910 in the Leavenworth (Kansas) Times:

“One of the greatest festivals of the season was staged yesterday at League Park” when the Bronchos played a local team.

The reporter wrote that the Bronchos “couldn’t play balls with six-year-olds” and went on to note that “none of the young girls (the generic name for ball-players) could ever stop or hit the ball with the broom…”

But press reviews aside, Bronson maintained that the game wasn’t just a weekend game for the women who played it.

“In 1911, they had a 16-17 record; they played 33 games in four months, from May to August, and they’ve been traveling all over the Midwest and South doing it,” Bronson said.

“That was their job,” he said.

As for Norma Petty, she is simply elated that another link exists between her family and local baseball history.

“St. Louis is a baseball town,” she said. “And it makes me wonder how many more stories are waiting to be revealed.”

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