Spottswood Poles: Baseball Superstar, Harlem Hellfighter and Winchester, Virginia Resident

Shortly after moving to Winchester, Virginia in 2021 I saw the historical marker used as the feature photo during my morning walk. Not being a baseball fan myself, I had no idea who Spottswood Poles was or his accomplishments at a time when baseball was still a segregated sport. It seems that I was missing most of the story.



After the walk I found a little more information on him and on Winchester’s efforts to honor their citizen on the town website:

Angelo DeCecco in the Facebook group provided a link to an article on that summarizes his career: It emphasizes his high batting average and fast speed while playing on numerous African-American baseball teams between 1909 and 1923.



Théodore Peyron, of France, provided insight on Spottswood’s military service; showing that he enlisted in October 1917, while in New York at age 29½!  He joined Company D of the 15 Infantry New York National Guard, which ultimately became Co. D of the 369th Infantry Regiment, 93rd Division. According to his paperwork, he was “Slightly” wounded on 28 September 1918. At that time, the 369th Infantry Regiment was attached to the French 161st Division, and that division was advancing in the Champagne. The 369th suffered 851 casualties from 16 September to 11 October 1918.

The Regiment returned to New York in early 1919, and Spottswood was discharged on 24 February 1919.

Spottswood resumed his baseball career after the war, ultimately retiring in 1923. According to the MLB article, he suggested that the constant train travel exhausted him. Could his war wound have contributed to the exhaustion?

According to the Winchester website article, he started a taxi service in Winchester after retirement, before moving himself and the business to Harlem, New York. Spottswood also managed the semipro team Harrisburg Giants for an unknown period.

Spottswood died of bladder cancer in 1962 at the age of 75 years; never having the opportunity to experience an unsegregated hometown. His wife, Bertha G., died twenty years later. They are buried together in Arlington National Cemetery: Section 42, Grave 2324. (Note that the ANC photo lists Company H, not D.)  I wish I had had the opportunity to meet this accomplished American and to ask him about his wartime experiences.



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