Spring Training has started and we wanted to share with you some interesting baseball history about an all-black team called "The White Elephants." The team -- one of the best in Colorado -- was sponsored by a businessman named A.H.W. Ross, who ran The Rossonian hotel in Denver's historically black Five Points neighborhood.
Baseball historian Jay Sanford tells Colorado Matters that Ross took over what was the Baxter Hotel, put his name on it, and hosted some of the most famous names in jazz in the 1920s and 30s, including Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong. The musicians came to Denver to play at venues like the Brown Palace, but they weren’t allowed to stay there because they were black.
Ross started his baseball team in 1915, when baseball was thriving in the state. Sanford says in Denver at that time there were over 200 men’s teams. Most were amateur; some, like the White Elephants, were semi-professional.
Baseball started in Colorado in the 1860s, and early on, many of the Colorado teams were integrated. But in the 1890s, Jim Crow laws were adopted that banned integrated teams, and that was when black teams emerged. Besides the White Elephants, teams in Denver included the Champions and the Black Diamonds, while Pueblo had the Blues.
Sanford says the White Elephants played mainly against white teams -- something very unusual elsewhere in the U.S. In Colorado, it was never black teams only playing black teams.