It's like something straight out of a pulp mystery novel.
In the spring of 1946, Olympic gold medalist became the owner of the Portland Rosebuds – one of 10 baseball teams in the West Coast Baseball Association, an all-Black league.
The association itself was owned by Abe Saperstein, the owner and one of the original founders of the Harlem Globetrotters.
The Rosebuds – who shared a name with a professional hockey team in Portland 25 years before -- played their first game against the Seattle Stealheads in a city that has never been considered to be a part of the West Coast – El Paso, Texas.
Two months later, with only the Oakland and Seattle teams bringing in any money, the league folded and was nearly lost to memory.
Now, the Multnomah County Library is looking to include the Rosebuds as part of a national traveling exhibit on baseball, "Pride and Passion: The African American Baseball Experience." The trouble is – so little evidence exists of the Rosebuds' existence that it's becoming a little bit like a wild goose chase.
Cindy Strasfeld, pictured above, the library's Program Development Specialist, says it's been the most difficult exhibit she's had to put together so far. She's desperately trying to find anyone that has old artifacts, memories or information
"This is what keeps me up at night," she says of her search.
In an unofficial capacity, the library's Rodney Richards has been assisting Strasfeld in her search. An amateur baseball history buff who's lived in Portland since 1981, Richards made friends with Artie Wilson after Richards' wife tailored a dress for Dorothy Wilson.
While Wilson never played for the Rosebuds, he did play for Negro Leagues teams and MLB teams in the '40s and '50s, providing Richards a knowledge and history of baseball far exceeding his own. Wilson was even a mentor to Willie Mays, says Richards. Unfortunately, Wilson died on Oct. 31, 2010, right before the library received notice that the grant for the baseball exhibition was awarded.
The traveling exhibit will cover far more than Portland's two-month foray into negro baseball, instead covering the entire history of Blacks' involvement in the sport. Created by the American Library Association, the National Endowment for the Humanities' and the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the Multnomah County Library has been working to pull the history display to Portland for about three years.
The exhibit will be on display in the third floor of the Multnomah County Central Library in Downtown Portland starting in November 2011.
If you have any information, remembrances, or artifacts about African American Baseball in Portland, please contact Strasfeld at 503-988-3496 or [email protected].