Chances are, you've never heard of Hippo Galloway. I, for one, never had, until I read about him in a story by Gary Ashwill discussing the release of the next installment of his monumental Negro leagues statistical data. Ashwill's more-than-impressive research into the early years of blackball has been an inspiration to me for many years and I enjoy reading his blog and being hit with new players or facts I'd never come across before. And it was there I discovered Galloway. That he should be so obscure is odd, for Hippo is a trivia buff's dream - he has the distinction of being a "first" in the sport of hockey and a "last" in the sport of baseball.
Although I can't say for certain, it's a good guess he was born William Hipple Galloway in Dunnville, Ontario. Like most kids in Canada he played both hockey and baseball - that much is certain, for those are the two sports in which he left his mark in history. Despite what you might visually imagine, Galloway's nickname "Hippo" derived from his given name of Hipple and not from his girth. In fact photographs show him to he a thin fellow and rather on the tall side.
In 1899 he joined the Woodstock club of the newly formed Central Ontario Hockey Association. When Hippo skated onto the ice for Woodstock he became the first black man to play professional hockey. It looks like the other teams gave him a rough time to test his mettle, which he passed with good marks. A sportswriter wrote that "The coloured player is proverbially cool and collected so essential to hockey." Against the Hamilton team he scored two goals and a game against Paris earned him praise in the papers for his excellent passing skills. As far as Woodstock hockey fans were concerned, black or white, Hippo Galloway was fine with them.
When baseball season began, Galloway joined the Woodstock Bains in the new Canadian League. This was the lower minors and comprised 7 teams. It existed for only one season, but it was a professional league and Hall of Famer Wahoo Sam Crawford got his start with the Chatham Reds that same season. Although he only batted .150 in 5 games, it wasn't his skills with a bat that got Galloway bounced from the team. No, Hippo was forced out because he was black. It seems that a new addition to the Bains' was an American who had a serious problem with playing along side a black fella. A perusal of the 1899 Woodstock roster lists at least 4 Yanks on the club, so it's hard to say which one of those "sportsmen" were responsible.
That a good black player was forced off a professional league team wasn't anything new. Cap Anson tried unsuccessfully to run Moses Fleetwood Walker off the Toledo team in 1884 and succeeded in forcing George Stovey off the Newark club in 1887. By the following year both Walker and Frank Grant were gone from the major leagues and it wasn't until 1947 that a black face appeared in a big league ballgame. A few black ballplayers remained at various levels of the minor leagues until the precedent of racial intolerance in the majors trickled down to every little town that boasted a team. It took Canada a little longer than their cousins to the south, but the gentleman's agreement eventually seeped into Woodstock in the summer of 1899 when only Hippo Galloway was left.
Maybe his low batting average made it easy to let him go. Or, perhaps the American who raised the stink was considered enough of a draw that Galloway simply was expendable. We just can't say, but what is certain is that when Hippo turned in his Woodstock uniform, he was the last black ballplayer in organized baseball until Jackie Robinson suited up for the Montreal Royals in 1946. What Galloway thought about leaving the Bains is unrecorded, but a local sportswriter bemoaned "an effort should be made to keep Hipple in town. Our hockey team needs him!"
So, in the space of 12 months in 1899, Hippo Galloway became the first black to play pro hockey and the last black to play pro baseball before Jackie Robinson.
Life after the Canadian League wasn't bad for Galloway, in fact, it got better. He traded the rinky-dink Woodstock Bains for the Cuban X Giants, the best blackball team around. That he was accepted onto the X Giants shows that Hippo had exceptional skills as a ballplayer. The 1899 team boasted Sol White, George Stovey, Frank Grant and Bill Monroe, all turn-of-the-century superstars of black baseball. In order to take the field with the Cubans, Galloway had to be damn good. Through records it can be acertained that he played at the top level of blackball for 6 seasons after Woodstock, first with the aforementioned X Giants and then with the equally famed Cuban Giants. As for the rest of the Bains, only two of his teammates had the skills to make it to the big leagues, and their careers were just cups of coffee at that.
How's that for a knock em' dead trivia question?