BINGHAMTON (WBNG) – As Major League Baseball honors the 100th anniversary of the Negro Leagues, Bud Fowler's legacy is remembered in Binghamton.
Fowler was the first African American to play organized professional baseball.
Born in Cooperstown, Broome County Historian Roger Luther said he made his way to Binghamton at the age of nine.
As a teenager, he signed with a professional baseball team in Pennsylvania.
"That made him the very first African-American to sign with a baseball team,” said Luther.
Fowler was known as a pitcher and second baseman. He jumped from team to team but in 1887 Roger said Fowler found his way home.
"He joined the Bingo's, the Binghamton baseball team,” said Luther.
Despite being one of the best players on the team, the then 30 year-old didn't make it through one full season back in his hometown.
"The reason was his teammates did not liking having an African-American on their baseball team," said Luther.
Luther said Fowler's teammates signed a letter citing the team's refusal to play if he was a member of the Bingos. That was the end of Fowler's brief baseball career in Binghamton.
Fowler continued to play baseball until African-Americans were banned from playing on all-white teams.
"Shortly after that he formed an all-black team, that was in 1895," said Binghamton baseball historian Jim Maggiore.
That team was the Page Fence Giants, where Fowler finished his career before returning to Binghamton to retire.
Luther said he stopped playing baseball in 1900, and moved back to Binghamton where he then ran a barbershop on Washington Street.
Fowler's barbershop was in the building downtown now known as “Craft.”
Fowler died in 1913 in Frankfurt, New York. He leaves a legacy that is still shown in the major leagues.
Fowler has been recognized by the National Baseball Hall of Fame, which named the street leading up to the famous Doubleday Field “Fowler Way.”