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Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

CLEVELAND TATE STARS

CLEVELAND TATE STARS

The CLEVELAND TATE STARS were the city's representative in Rube Foster's Negro National Baseball League in 1922 and part of 1923, with offices located at 3734 Central Ave. Owned by businessman George Tate, the team was plagued by financial problems and a losing record throughout its short existence. The Tate Stars also reported decent attendance figures at their home games in Cleveland and owned their own park, Tate Field. Negro National League founder Rube Foster once called the park, located E. 55th St. between Woodland and Central avenues, "one of the finest baseball stadiums owned by our people in the country." In addition to league matches, the Tate Stars also played against a number of both black and white semi-pro teams.

The Tate Stars formed in 1918, two years before Rube Foster started the first organized black baseball league, the Negro National League. The Tate Stars became a league affiliate in 1921 and a full member in 1922 (after they paid a $1,000 league entry fee). Once they joined the league, the Tate Stars started selling stock to local investors at $10 per share, and later $15 per share. They also sold season tickets before games began for $11 a seat; friends and family could also enter for free with the ticket holder. The Tate Stars hoped to sell $3000 to $4,000 worth of tickets prior to the season, but it was not clear if they ever reached this goal. The team did report 6,500 fans in attendance for at least one late April game, a rather large figure for a regular season Negro League game in 1922.

Despite the sizable attendance numbers, the Tate Stars' finances were in disarray; by May creditors and stockholders began to clamor about money the team owed them. The first official court complaint claimed that the Tate Stars owed one Cleveland man $4,302.41. In June Col. Jacob Reed, the treasurer of the team complained publicly that he was never given an opportunity to see the Tate Stars' financial records. This fact was unsettling to fans and stockholders, since Reed's purpose with the team was to handle the finances. Stockholders called a June meeting to protest the 32-year-old Tate's mishandling of the team's money and Reed's lack of involvement in his assigned position. For much of the summer, Tate was in and out of court defending himself against the numerous charges against him. The public wondered where the "thousands of dollars" the Tate Stars earned that the gate went.

By the end of the 1922 season the finances weren't the Tate Stars' only problem; the team was near the bottom of the standings in the eight-team league. They finished tied for seventh with a record of 17 wins and 29 losses. After the season their financial affairs were in shambles and many in the community believed the Tate Stars were in debt by almost $20,000. Creditors were told that if they received twenty-five percent of their initial investment, they could consider themselves lucky. Soon the creditors and stockholders learned that even Tate Field suffered financial problems; part of the Tate Field grandstand was on leased ground and there was a large, second mortgage on the park. Tate owed his players almost $1,000 in back wages after the 1922 season ended. When the league hierarchy met in December, they dropped the Tate Stars from the NNL. The team actually made $8,000 profit during the 1922 season, but was inhibited by the $20,000 needed to pull the team out of debt.

The Tate Stars started the 1923 as an independent team, but was accepted back into the NNL by the end of June. Claude Johnson was named the manager for the 1923 season, replacing "Candy" Jim Taylor, who left the team after the 1922 season. Reportedly, Taylor was dissatisfied over the state of the team. Stockholders continued to push Tate for their money throughout the season; many were afraid that Tate planned to sell the team without repaying them for their investment. Attendance at games was supposedly much less than during the 1922 season. In fact one team from Rochester, Pennsylvania, refused to play a scheduled game against the Tate Stars in July due to the small crowd at Tate Field. Visiting teams received a portion of the gate total after the home team collected its major share. The Rochester team was afraid that their share was almost nonexistent, due to the small crowd. The Tate Stars managed a 7 and 14 record during their shortened second season.

Even though the Tate Stars initially planned to return for the 1924 season, the team folded for good at the end of 1923. The remnants of the team were sold to new owners, and the name was changed to the CLEVELAND BROWNS (BASEBALL). Tate Field was rechristened as Hooper Field, and was remodeled and enlarged for the 1924 season.