King Solomon “Sol” White (June 12, 1868 – August 26, 1955) was an American professional baseballinfielder, manager and executive, and one of the pioneers of the Negro leagues. An active sportswriter for many years, he wrote the first definitive history of black baseball in 1907. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.
Born in Bellaire, Ohio, White’s early life is not well-documented. According to the 1870 and 1880 U.S. Census, his family (parents and two oldest siblings) came from Virginia. His father, Saul Solomon White, apparently died when White was very young. White’s mother, Judith, supported Sol and four siblings with her work as a “washer woman.” White “learned to play ball when quite a youngster.”
As a teenager White was a fan of the Bellaire Globes, local amateurs. The journalist Floyd J. Calvin recounts the story of how White got a chance to play for his team. The Globes were playing a team from Marietta, Ohio. “One of the Globes players got his finger smashed and since they all knew Sol, the captain pushed him into the game. Sol always remembered that game for the captain and second baseman of the Marietta team was none other than Ban B. Johnson, in later years president of the American League and a leading sportsman of the West. Sol takes pride in having played against Ban when he was an obscure captain of a hick town club.”
White quickly made a name for himself as a ballplayer. By the time he was 16, he “attracted the attention of managers of independent teams throughout the Ohio Valley and his services were in great demand.” Originally a shortstop, White eventually “developed into a great all-round player filling any position from catcher to right field.” In 1887 he joined the Pittsburgh Keystones of the National Colored Base Ball League as a left fielder and later second baseman. He was batting .308 when the league folded after a week of play. He then joined the Wheeling (West Virginia) Green Stockings of the Ohio State League and batted .370 with a slugging percentage of .502 as the team’s third baseman.
In the off-season the Ohio State League renamed itself the Tri-State League and banned black players, including White. Weldy Walker, an African American catcher for the league’s Akron club, wrote an eloquent open letter to league officials protesting the decision. It was published in the Sporting Life in March 1888, and within a few weeks the ban was rescinded. White was resigned and sent to join his team on the road, but the Wheeling manager, Al Buckenberger, refused to accept him, and he was released. He rejoined the Pittsburgh Keystones, and played in a “Colored Championship” tournament held in New York City, in which the Keystones finished second to the Cuban Giants.
White spent 1889 with the New York Gorhams, a black team that spent part of the season in the Middle States League. White played both catcher and second base for the Gorhams. The next year, he joined the York Colored Monarchs of the Eastern Interstate League, a white-owned team that signed up most of the 1889 Cuban Giants. White played second base, hit .350, and stole 21 bases in 54 games. In 1891 he played for the Big Gorhams of New York, a team that he later called “without a doubt one of the strongest teams ever gotten together, white or black.” The Gorhams briefly represented Norwalk, Connecticut, in the Connecticut State League.
In 1895 White batted .385 as a second baseman for Fort Wayne, Indiana of the Western Interstate League. Later that year, White replaced Bud Fowler at second base on the barnstorming Page Fence Giants team, batting .404 as the Giants finished with a 118-36-2 record and played in 112 towns in 7 states.
White enrolled in Wilberforce University as a theology student in 1896, spending the next four years alternating between professional baseball with the Cuban X-Giants in the summer and college in the fall and winter. He was still listed as an athletic instructor at Wilberforce in 1900.
After a year as shortstop for the Chicago Columbia Giants in 1900 and one last season with the Cuban X-Giants in 1901, White moved to Philadelphia where he co-founded the Philadelphia Giants. His playing time was gradually curtailed as he concentrated on management.
According to research by Bob Davids, White spent all or part of five seasons in organized minor leagues, playing 152 games and hitting .359 with 169 runs scored, 231 hits, 40 doubles, and 41 stolen bases.