Tom Wilson and the Nashville Elite Giants

ImageBorn in 1888, Tom Wilson’s baseball roots can be traced to 1909 with the Nashville Maroons, a local negro baseball team, and with a team called the Elites in 1913.

On March 26, 1920, Thomas T. Wilson, T. Clay Moore, J. B. Boyd, Marshall Garrett, Walter Phillips, W. H. Pettis, J. L. Overton, and R. H. Tabor chartered a corporation with the State of Tennessee for a baseball club that would be located in Nashville and known as the Nashville Standard Giants semi-pro team.

According to the charter, the “Nashville Negro Baseball Association and Amusement Company” was formed for the purpose “of organizing base ball clubs and encouraging the art of playing the game of baseball according to high and honorable standards and of encouraging the establishment of a league of clubs in different section(s) of the state; and also of furnishing such amusements as usually accompanying base ball games and entertainments.”  The stock value was set at $5,000.00.

The Standard Giants had played as an independent team until the mid-1920s when Wilson chartered the team and changed the team name to Elite Giants.  The club became a member of the Negro Southern League in 1926.  Home games were played in Sulphur Dell and GreenwoodPark, the African American community’s local park, and often Wilson would schedule his teams against barnstorming clubs.

In 1930 Wilson moved his team into Wilson Park in an area known as Trimble Bottom, just north of the fairgrounds.  The grandstands had seating for 4,000.  The team finished seventh in the league standings with a 39-47 record.

After several years of trying, in 1931 Wilson’s team was given membership in the Negro National League. Wilson purchased the contract of Satchel Paige from the Birmingham Black Barons and moved the club to Cleveland, Ohio, renamed the team the Cubs, and hoped to capitalize on the larger market in the north. Due to weak crowds the team was disbanded mid-season.

Although the league disbanded that year, Wilson moved the team back to Nashville in 1932, and another opportunity arose in 1933 for him to place a team in the resurrected Negro National League.

In 1935 Wilson moved the team to Columbus, Ohio. Once again, he hoped to capitalize on the larger market of a northern city.  The team was moved to Washington, D.C. for the 1936-37 seasons and to Baltimore in 1938 where the club remained until the death of Tom Wilson on May 15, 1947.

Wilson was a nightclub operator as well as a baseball club owner. Ever the promoter, he had torn down his ballpark and built the Paradise Ballroom in its place. Cab Calloway and Lena Horne were only a few of the many stars who performed there, where the profits helped to finance his baseball teams.

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