Pythian Base Ball Club was an Black American baseball team out of Philadelphia.
The Philadelphia Pythian’s also known as the Pythian Base Ball Club were founded in 1867, as the first black baseball club. The club founders were two young black Americans childhood friends and prominent leaders in the black community Jacob Clement White Jr. and Octavius Valentine Catto (February 22, 1839 – October 10, 1871). Catto and White believed baseball was another way in which blacks could assert their skills and be independent, and prove their rights to full citizenship and equality. The Pythian’s were composed of primarily black business men and middle class professionals from Philadelphia, and New York City. Two-years after the American Civil War ended in 1867, the Pythian Base Ball Club applied for entry into the Pennsylvania State Convention of Baseball, located in Harrisburg, but was denied. Despite many setbacks the Pythian’s enter it’s team first Season that took place in 1867, under Catto. The Pythian’s first game was played at Diamond Cottage Park in Camden, New Jersey. The Pythian’s believed that credibility and acceptance could be promoted by competing against “our white brethren” on a baseball Diamond. In September of 1869, the Pythian’s got that chance and beat an all-white Philadelphia city team. This was likely one of the earliest interracial game recorded. Baseball has been denied to Black-Americans and was considered a route to American Cultural assimilation. Years after the American Civil War Black Americans and baseball grew exponentially. Catto pioneered the racial shift in baseball.
The Pythian’s were refused membership in the National Association of Base Ball Players (NABBP), based on their race. The NABBP banned “the admission of any club which may be composed of one or more colored persons.”. The association feared divisions among players if colored clubs were admitted. Ultimately, this set the precedent for segregated Major Leagues and independent leagues which flourished in the twentieth century. Therefore, the club was the first attempt to integrate African American males into the segregated baseball league. By 1871, the NABBP dissolved and the team was no longer restricted by such rules. Finally, after the United States Supreme Courts made the decision to sanction racial segregation in United States Baseball through the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision. Overall, the sport helped to close the color gap and provided the Black American community with a sense of pride and respect. Once admitted into the major leagues, America’s segregation issues in baseball began to crumble.
By 1902, the Pythian’s had morphed into the Philadelphia Giants which went on to win five championship games in the Eastern League. Baseball had become something that exuded equality and optimism, a reconstruction.