, , , , ,

Oscar Charleston’s one year managing the Indianapolis Clowns–the final year of his baseball career and, indeed, his life–was made particularly remarkable by the team’s inclusion of two women: Connie Morgan and Mamie Johnson. These were the second and third women to play for the Clowns, actually, following the lead of Toni Stone the year before.

Prior to the Clowns’ 1954 season, owner Syd Pollock hired Charleston to replace Buster Haywood as his manager. Haywood had left to manage the Memphis Red Sox. Alan Pollock implies in his history of the Clowns, Barnstorming to Heaven, that part of the reason for Haywood’s departure was Syd’s decision to bring in female players.

Barnstorming to Heaven

Charleston, writes Alan, was to Syd “the greatest baseball player who ever lived.” By 1954, Charleston had been retired for a year from managing the Philadelphia Stars. Perhaps his health was already slipping. In any case, when he was hired by Pollock in early 1954, he was living in Philadelphia near Connie Morgan, the Clowns’ new second baseman.

Charleston immediately took Morgan under his wing. She recalled:

Oscar Charleston was my mentor. Once the Clowns hired me and hired him, he took me off-season and taught me all he could about sliding and running the bases and, when it warmed a touch, hitting and fielding. He was a strict manager, not so you couldn’t have fun, but stern enough so you knew to get down to business. He had us self-disciplined. Didn’t talk much about the old days. He was interested in winning here and now.”

The other Clowns’ woman player was Mamie Johnson, a pitcher. She said, “with Oscar Charleston, you either played ball or you went home.

The Clowns played ball; in 1954, they won the league championship. In retrospect, it was a fitting close to Charleston’s career.