May 8, 2005
Keeping the Monarchs alive
Effort under way for team marker
By Paul J. Letlow
The Monroe Monarchs were long gone by the time Scott Greer and Jeffrey Newman discovered the history of the former Negro Southern League baseball team.
"What grabbed our interest about the team was when Scott saw a Negro League emblem on a T-shirt at a school, did some research to find if there had been any Negro League teams in Louisiana and came across the Monroe Monarchs," Newman said, "which surprised him considering he lived in Monroe 23 years and had never heard of them."
After learning more about the intriguing team from the 1930s, the two Monroe natives decided it was important to keep the memory of the team alive.
To educate a larger segment of the population about a forgotten chapter of this area's sports history, Greer and Newman have formed the Monroe Monarchs Historical Foundation, which is leading an effort to erect a marker to recognize the team.
They've also created a Web site (www.monroemonarchs.org) to share and gather information about the Monarchs — who played the Pittsburgh Crawfords in the 1932 Negro League World Series and helped produce future Hall of Fame pitcher Hilton Smith.
Greer, 33, is a police officer who now lives in Dallas. A history buff and sports fan, he enlisted the aid of his friend Newman to begin the project that would result in formal recognition of the Monroe Monarchs.
Newman, also a former Monroe resident, is now 32 and an assistant vice president with JP Morgan Chase and Co.
"The historical significance of this team is vital to preserving the culture of Northeast Louisiana and is educational to the youth of today," Newman said. "It shows how a seemingly minor geographical portion of the country contributed greatly to the nationwide prominence of many well-known figures in the 'the great game' of baseball."
Former Negro League star Buck O'Neal said he played against the Monarchs at Casino Park in 1935. He can vouch for the high quality teams that played in Monroe in those days.
"It was a very good team," O'Neil said. "You named some guys that were on that team like Hilton. Willard Brown was on that team. Ted Mayweather. Very good."
Greer and Newman are currently working to raise money to erect the Monarchs marker in the proposed location of Magnolia and short Washington. They've targeted the dedication ceremonies for Black History Month, February, 2006.
"This event will not only provide formal recognition of a team that has largely been forgotten, even in Monroe history, but will also provide a historical backdrop of encouragement for future athletes in Northeast Louisiana, especially in urban areas," Newman said. "Even in an era of racial divide, the Monroe Monarchs were a beacon of racial unity with both whites and blacks regularly attending games."
Greer and Newman have discussed their goal with Director of Community Affairs Johnny Riley and Rod Washington, media coordinator for Monroe.
"We think it is a great idea and, if successful, would be a great addition to the City of Monroe," Washington said.
They are also working to attract some corporate and private sponsorship to cover the cost of the marker and a traveling Negro League baseball museum.
"Without the support of Monroe's citizens, governmental bodies and corporations, we would not be able to complete such a large undertaking in a short period of time," Greer said. "We are delighted at the significantly positive response and eagerness to contribute we have received."
While some information on the team is available, Greer and Newman hope to fill in the gaps. Anyone with memories or memorabilia related to the team can help by contacting them.
"We encourage the elders of Monroe's rich past to contribute pictures, memories and stories so that we may paint a detailed portrait for Monroe's future," Greer said. "Record-keeping was not a priority during this era, so very little is available."
Owned by a white drilling company operator named Fred Stovall, the Monarchs played in Casino Park, which stood near what is now Carroll High School. The park is no longer in existence.
"It was down at the tail end of DeSiard," O'Neil said. "It was more like an amusement park. They had a dancehall and a swimming pool. It was one of the few swimming pools in the South for blacks."
O'Neal said Stovall's generosity with his players was legendary.
"He was just like J.L. Wilkinson in Kansas City," O'Neil said. "Stovall was the type of guy that when things got tough in the winter and his players needed some spare change to get by, he'd give it to them."
In an interview with Black Ball News in 1993, former Monroe Monarch Marlin Carter talked about playing for Stovall: "Fred Stovall was a very wealthy man. On his plantation he built a ballpark for his team. He also built a recreation center where the players relaxed when they weren't playing.
"Stovall spent a lot of money on his ball team. The players lived in houses on Stovall's plantation, and our meals were prepared by a cook the Stovalls employed. In 1932 he bought three brand-new Fords for the team to travel in. But, most importantly, we always got paid. All the way around, the Monarchs were a pretty classy operation."
Originally published May 8, 2005