From History |

Late nineteenth century Babylon and Bay Shore began competing on building the biggest luxury hotel.

These hotels and the construction jobs became the back bone of the local economy.

In Bay Shore, the Cortland, Prospect House, and Linwood welcomed hundreds of city vacationers, seeking relaxation with a back drop of sandy beaches battered with ocean currents to wade in and fish. In an effort to draw more economic prosperity to Babylon, a bigger and grander hotel named Argyle was opened in the early 1880s.

But what would this hotel offer that Bay Shore could not?

Following the Civil War, America was becoming obsessed with baseball. Tapping into the trending sport, Frank Thompson — head waiter within the Argyle Hotel — formed a baseball team among the other kitchen workers in an effort to pass the time.

While on their downtime, management started to notice the team became popular among the visitors.  By 1885, the team was named the Cuban Giants and the players — all employees at Argyle — were paid wages that ranged from $18- $12 a week.

The Cubans won every game against amateur teams, both white and black.

To prevent racial tensions after wins against white teams, the manager, S.K. Govern, advertised them as Latino and told the players to mumble when talking so the spectators would believe they were Hispanic.

Despite the attempt to mask the teams’ racial identities, they became an inspiration for people in black communities across Long Island and, ultimately, the U.S.

Seeking a new economic opportunity, men from these communities formed teams and played tournaments at resorts for extra money. North Amityville’s Native American and black communities formed the team Mohawk, which held local and regional championships.

story continues below team Mohawk photo

NA020dig North Amityville Mohawks Baseball Team, circa 1933-1934, which played at a field near the corner of Sunrise Highway and Albany Avenue. Standing: Rufus Devine (Coach), Ken Carpenter, Bill Miller, Bradley Devine, Benny Fern, Jim Brewster, Buster Devine, Charles Miller, Tom Greene (Coach/Manger). Seated: Willington Devine, William E. Hunter, Morgane Brewster, George H. Hunter, Albert Devine, Ferdinand Devine. Kneeling in Front: James Collins (bat boy). Not pictured: Johnnie Devine, Ciesel Devine, Ben Miller, Theodore Fowler, Arnold Fowler. Courtesy of Gerald Hunter, TOB Oral History Project. [reproduction* – digital copy]. Scanned 11/17/2008 (MC).

These baseball games and championship series would keep the Argyle economically viable until the early 20th century, when it would close its doors for good.   

But these teams indeed helped form the first national “Black Leagues,” while recruiting talent such as Solomon “Sol” White.

White, originally an infielder for the Cuban Giants, started to play for the team as a means of recreation but soon found it could be a lucrative career. White later became the Captain for the Philadelphia Giants.

Later he wrote the book “History of Colored Baseball.”

But White’s biggest contribution to the sport was his role in integrating minor league teams 47 years before Jackie Roberson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball.

In 1955, White died in Central Islip Sate Hospital at the age of 87, but would be later inducted to the National Baseball Hall of Fame — in 2006.

Today, the Argyle Hotel site is half housing and half Argyle Park. But the legendary games and the innovative players they produced have become a distant echo of the past, but which is celebrated in a monument that reads “Site of Argyle Hotel, Birthplace of the Famous Cuban Giants. First professional Black baseball team 1885.”Click here to read more about the legendary Solomon “Sol” White.

All three pictures are Courtesy of Historic Photograph and Post card Collection of the Town of Babylon, Office of Historic Services 

Featured Photo:

The team picture of the Cuban Giants is as followed: From left to right, standing in the back, George Parago, Ben Holmes, Shep Trusty, Arthur Thomas, Clarence Williams and Frank Miller. The front row, left to right, Sol White, George Williams, Abe Harrison, Manger S.K. Govern, Ben Boyd, Jack fry and Allen (first name unknown).