Old Timers

In 1959 Walter Wright, former pitcher for the New Orleans Black Pelicans, founded the New Orleans Old Timers Baseball Club. Wright created the club, whose records now reside in the collections of the Amistad Research Center, to preserve the memory of Negro League baseball in New Orleans. The club organized an annual Old Timers game and documented the careers of former players, managers, owners, and officials.

Independent African American teams were active in New Orleans as early as the late 1860s, and New Orleans fielded a team—the Unions—in the short-lived but first-of-its-kind Southern League of Colored Base Ballists in 1886. The establishment of the Negro Southern League (NSL) in 1920 kicked off a new era. The original NSL remained in existence until 1936, and a second one formed in 1945 and folded in 1951, four years after Jackie Robinson broke the major league color line. The New Orleans Caulfield Ads were a charter member of the league and, like most NSL franchises, shared a ballpark with a white Southern Association team. In New Orleans, the Caulfield Ads used Heinemann Park while the Pelicans were out of town. Some teams entered and exited the league multiple times over the years, and during the NSL’s existence a number of clubs represented New Orleans, including the Crescent Stars and the Black Pelicans.

Louis Armstrong avidly followed baseball and supported the sport in his hometown by sponsoring his own team in 1931, the Secret Nine. The local papers poked fun at the team for being the best dressed—thanks to Armstrong’s generosity—but not the most skilled. Though they didn’t play in the NSL, they competed against other African American clubs in the city. In August 1931, Armstrong attended a doubleheader at St. Raymond Park in New Orleans, which featured his Secret Nine vs. the Melpomene White Sox in the opener and the Metairie Pelicans vs. the St. Raymond Giants in the nightcap. In front of 1,500 fans, Armstrong took the pitcher’s mound to ceremonially (and with much camp) strike out the first batter. The crowd went wild.

Education Resources

Click here for an activity about African American baseball teams in New Orleans

Click here to read about the Negro Leagues North-South All-Star Game, played in 1939 at Pelican Stadium in New Orleans

Click here to read about Wesley "Skipper" Barrow, a former Negro League player and manager 


Young fans attending 4th of July baseball game at Gentilly Park
1928; gelatin silver prints from photographic album
by Corinne E. Densen, compiler
The Historic New Orleans Collection, 2013.0074.2.39

Armstrong’s Secret “9” Base Ball Team of New Orleans, La.
The William Russell Jazz Collection at The Historic New Orleans Collection, acquisition made possible by the Clarisse Claiborne Grima Fund, 92-48-L.385.358

Caulfield Ads
courtesy of the Old Timers Baseball Club Collection, Amistad Research Center, New Orleans