State Rep. Stephen Slesnick (D-Canton) today applauded the passage of House Bill 87, legislation to honor Moses Fleetwood Walker, the nation’s first professional African American baseball player. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Slesnick, designates Walker’s birthday of October 7 as “Moses Fleetwood Walker Day” in the state of Ohio.
“Walker overcame prejudice and discrimination to break into professional baseball during the Jim Crow-era,” said Slesnick. “His legacy as one of the first professional African American athletes is an inspiration to all of us today."
Walker, an Ohio native, attended Oberlin College in 1877 and played on the school’s first varsity baseball team. His skill as a catcher and batter led to Walker being signed by the Toledo Blue Stockings in 1883, where he would begin his professional baseball career.
Walker’s career in baseball was cut short when both the American Association and the National League unofficially banned African-American players in 1889. It would not be until 1946 when the color barrier was finally broken by the Brooklyn Dodgers’ Jackie Robinson.
“Moses Fleetwood Walker’s baseball career and legacy has gone largely unrecognized,” Slesnick added. “This bill finally gives an extraordinary Ohioan the long overdue credit he deserves for being the first African American to play in major league baseball.”
The bill now goes to the Ohio Senate for further consideration.