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May 18, 2020

The curious story of baseball’s Atlantic City (NJ) Bacharach Giants originates from a unique intersection of racism, tourism, and politics.

In 1915, an independent semi-pro “Atlantic City Colored League” was formed to provide an entertainment outlet for the city’s 11,000+ black residents – with the hope being they would attend the games and stay off the boardwalk, a then-booming summer haven for white tourists.  

Two black businessmen active in the local Republican political machine asked an existing area team to join the league and promotionally rename itself after politician Harry Bacharach, the once-and-future mayor of Atlantic City.  When the team refused, the duo travelled south and convinced eight members of the Duval Giants, a black amateur team in Jacksonville, Florida, to venture north and create the foundation for a new independent club instead.

The “Bacharach Giants” largely dominated whatever opponents came their way during the late 1910s, despite persistent financial wobbliness.  In 1920, the team began a three-year stint as an associate member of Rube Foster’s new Negro National League (NNL) – allowing them to retain official independence, but also to coordinate non-league games with the teams from Foster’s largely Midwest-based circuit. 

In 1923, Atlantic City broke from the NNL to help start the rival Eastern Colored League (ECL), where they achieved their greatest success – including winning two league pennants in 1926 and 1927 – though losing both times in subsequent Negro League World Series play to the NNL’s Chicago American Giants.

Beset by rancorous squabbles over player contracts, the ECL folded in 1928.  Five of its clubs – including the Bacharach Giants – formed the bulk of a new American Negro League for 1929, only to see both the league and its team from Atlantic City fold by the end of the season. 

Author/historian Jim Overmyer (Black Ball and the Boardwalk: The Bacharach Giants of Atlantic City) joins to discuss the history of the club, and some of the legends that emanated from it, including Negro League standouts Dick Lundy, Oliver Marcell, Dick Redding, “Nip” Winters, Chanel White, “Rats” Henderson, Claude Grier, and Luther Farrell – and National Baseball Hall of Famer John Henry "Pop" Lloyd.