The Story of Cumberland Posey, the only person in both the baseball and basketball Halls of Fame

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5 mins read
Harrison Studio [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I’m in DC and during the Nationals parade, I kept receiving notifications from people who read the baseball thread about the first black MLB players.

But you don’t even know half of the story. 

In 1858 two formerly enslaved Africans gave birth to a boy they named Cumberland. He eventually got a job sweeping the deck on a ferry.

But he was smart AF. He kept getting jobs on different boats because he loved it.

Soon he knew more about the boats than the captains. Soon he got a job as a mechanic, then a captain, but what he really wanted to be was an engineer. There was only one problem: Black people couldn’t become engineers.

So he learned how to pilot, fix and operate every kind of commercial boat. 

Now the US government said they weren’t being racist, it was just that negroes weren’t smart enough.

So he convinced the top white engineer in the country to accompany him to a meeting.

But it wasn’t a meeting. 

Cumberland challenged the engineering board to test him AND the white captain. Cumberland was flawless.

And that’s how Cumberland Posey became the first black licensed engineer in the country

He met a woman and settled down. Angelina Stevens Posey convinced him to start his own company. Soon they were building boats and had one of the largest fleets on the East Coast.

But Angelina was like: “You know what powers the steamboats?”

Cumberland was like: “Say no more.” 

Soon Cumberland owned the coal company that provided the coal to the steamboats. Then he bought the whole damn coal mine, which allowed him to supply another company owned by a contemporary Cumberland called “Andy.”

You may know him as Andrew Carnegie of US Steel. 

Now during this time, Cumberland had a son, Cumberland Jr.

“Cum” Jr. was a great athlete. He became a great football player, and baseball player but his best sport was basketball. He went to college and became a star. 

We know that baseball was segregated, but we rarely talk about how pro basketball was segregated. Basketball had their own negro league called “Black Fives” When Cum finished playing college b-ball team, he formed Black Five.

They won the Colored Basketball World Championship. 

Then Cum went BACK to college under a fake name and led Dusquene University in scoring. Still, black players weren’t allowed to play with white players. But Cum’s father was rich, so…

Cumberland Sr. put up the money for a team Loendi “Big Five.” 

They won four straight world championships.

Then Cum retired and went on to become one of the best sportswriters in the country for the Pittsburgh Courier, which was one of the biggest and best black newspapers But just for shits and giggles, Cum decided to play minor league baseball. He eventually excelled and BOUGHT the team. So Cum became the general manager, manager, owner and player.

They won THIRTEEN Negro League World Series titles. 

The team made more money by splitting up their home games. They were the home team of Pittsburgh AND DC. A lot of people didn’t like Cum because he had a habit of buying the best players. Cool Papa Bell, Josh Gibson & 11 other players on those teams ended up in the Hall of Fame. 

A year after baseball integrated, Cum’s team won the last Negro League World series.

They beat the Birmingham Barons, who had a pretty good young player:

17-year-year-old Willie Mays. 

But Cum’s team beat them.

When the Washington Nationals won the World Series, they were the first team to bring home a baseball championship since THAT team, the Homestead Grays

When Cum died in 1946, the Negro Leagues started to go down, and so did the team. Cum’s team still had the best players, though. In fact, when baseball integrated, Jackie Robinson wasn’t considered the best black player in the world. It was a player named Josh Gibson

And that’s why, with almost 250 years of history and players between them:

Cumberland Posey is the only human being ever inducted into both the Basketball and Baseball Hall of Fames. 

Originally posted on Twitter. Re-posted with permission.


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