Information about Octavius Valentine Catto
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On October 12, at 12 noon at "Bartram's Field" on the grounds of Little Flower Park across
Springfield Road from Eden Cemetery, the
Athletic Base Ball Club of Philadelphia will play
the Mohican Base Ball Club in an exhibition of 19th Century Baseball. The match will be
preceded by a wreath laying at the grave of Octavius Valentine Catto, founder and star player of
the Pythians Baseball Team at 10:00 AM at Eden Cemetary
Catto helped found and became a star player for
(and captain) of the
Pythian Base Ball Club, a
black entrant to the city’s new most popular sport.
(It was supplanting cricket.) Black leaders
considered baseball a route to American cultural
assimilation, and following the Civil War, Negro
baseball grew exponentially. Octavius Catto
pioneered the racial shift in baseball. Many of the
players were also Institute for Colored Youth
graduates. These men belonged to the
Knights of
Pythias fraternal organization, which helped pay
for baseball supplies. The Pythians’ first game,
against the Albany Bachelors in 1866, was a 70-
15 loss. But it was their only defeat of the season;
they ended with “a 9-1 record and the acclaim as
the best colored team in the city and perhaps the
nation,” Biddle and Dubin report. The following
year, Catto’s team applied for membership in the
state chapter of the National Amateur Association
of Base Ball Players, hoping to schedule games
against white teams. Association leadership
blocked the application from coming up for a vote.
Catto then drafted a proposal that the Pythians
join the national association, rather than the state
chapter. Its convention voted overwhelmingly not
to admit “colored clubs.” The following year, the
Philadelphia Olympics accepted the Pythians’
citywide challenge to white teams, and a match
was set. The game lasted three hours, and the
Olympics won, 44 to 23. (Pitching must have been
Detail from the Catto Memorial
at Philadelphia's City Hall
Article about inter-racial baseball in Philadelphia