In 1900 a young group of men, who loved baseball, joined together to form the "Blue Ribbons"industrial league team. Unknowingly, these young men had founded a team which would grow to be a Negro National League franchise and set unprecedented records. For ten years the Blue Ribbons remained mediocre, but they managed to field a team every year and play some of the best sandlot teams in the area.
From 1937 to 1945 they won nine straight league pennants. They were led by future Hall of Famers Josh Gibson (C), "Cool" Papa Bell (OF), Judy Johnson (3B), Buck Leonard (1B) and Cuban great Martin Dihigo (2B, P, OF). Their ace pitcher was "Smokey" Joe Williams, who once struck out 27 batters in a 12-inning game.
During World War II, the Grays played their home games at both Forbes Field (Pittsburgh) and Griffith Stadium (Washington, D.C.) when the white Major League clubs were on the road. The Grays traditionally outdrew their white counterparts, the cellar-dwelling Washington Senators.
Unheralded greats included 23-year Grays vet Vic Harris (OF), Jerry Benjamin (OF), Howard Easterling (3B), Luke Easter (OF, 1B) and Sam Bankhead. Bankhead became the first black manager in Minor League Baseball in 1951.