“A cloudburst of the harshest kind ever known in local baseball history,” hit Port Henry on Lake Champlain, June 14, 1923. It was not the kind of cloudburst of rain which disrupts a ballgame and sends fans scrambling, but a cloudburst of talent that finds local fans cheering for the visiting team.
The Brooklyn Royal Colored Giants professional baseball team defeated the Port Henry semi-professional team, comprised primarily of local players, 20-1 in a game the home team was not expected to win. Sourian, the Giants pitcher, had 19 strikeouts.
“The locals had no more of a show against this aggregation than a kitten would have against a tiger,” the Essex County Republican reported on June 22, 1923.
The goal of Port Henry management was to test the draw that a nationally-recognized team would have in this segregated Essex County mining village, where semi-professional and amateur baseball had long been a pastime.
Booking the Brooklyn team was a matter – as in real estate – of location, location, location.
Port Henry was a convenient stop on the way from Burlington, where the Royal Colored Giants had won two of three games against the University of Vermont the previous week, to Montreal, where the Giants were scheduled to play the next day.
Bringing in the “fast and classy aggregation” was expensive. “It cost the Port Henry team’s management so much to get this team that it is necessary to raise the admission price to 75 cents (the equivalent of $13.38 in 2023 dollars) for gentlemen and 50 cents for ladies,” the Ticonderoga Sentinel reported on June 7. “If the attendance of the game warrants it, Port Henry will book some more high-class teams like the Giants.”
Typically, 25 cents was the standard admission to baseball games in various towns in that era.
Fans got their money’s worth, according to the Essex County Republican. “Fans who witnessed the game will perhaps wait many a day before they will see a ball team in action as that of the Royal Colored Giants.”
John Wilson Conner, owner of the Brooklyn Royal Café, established the Royal Colored Giants in 1905. Over the decades, the team played in various Negro leagues, starting in 1907 in the National Association of Colored Baseball Clubs of the United States and Cuba.
The Royal Colored Giants also played against semi-professional white teams.
Conner later sold the team to Nat Strong, a white booking agent and promoter from New York City, who owned the team when it played at Port Henry.
In 1923, the same year the team played at Port Henry, the Royal Colored Giants was a charter member of Eastern Colored League, and played in the league through the 1927 season, according to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.
The Royal Colored Giants placed third in the league in 1923, with a .500 season record.
The team disbanded in 1942.
Photo: The Brooklyn Royal Colored Giants team in 1919