Rufus Jackson

From BR Bullpen

Rufus Jackson

Biographical Information[edit]

Rufus "Sonnyman" Jackson was born in Georgia but moved to Pittsburgh, PA in the early 1920s and made his fortune there in the "numbers game", the illegal lotteries directed towards the city's African-American population. While this earned him a lot of money, it also resulted in numerous brushes with the law, and he wanted to be a respected businessman. Officially his fortune came from his profession of selling jukeboxes to restaurants and clubs, and eventually from running his own restaurant and night club in Pittsburgh.

He was brought into baseball by Gus Greenlee, owner of the Pittsburgh Crawfords of the Negro National League, who was also active in the numbers game. He put him in touch with Cumberland Posey, who was a baseball genius in running the Homestead Grays, but needed capital. The two formed a successful partnership starting in 1934, resulting in some dominant teams. There was also a falling out with Greenlee, in part because Jackson signed away his best player, C Josh Gibson, and numerous brushes with Latin American talent scouts, first from the Dominican Republic and later from Mexico, who were looking to raid the best players from the Negro Leagues to built up the talent of their own leagues. This resulted on July 10, 1943, with Jackson being briefly jailed after a confrontation with Mexican agents.

Jackson became a power-broker in black baseball, helping to revive the Negro World Series in 1942 and being one of the most influential men in the loosely organized Negro National League. However, when Posey died in early 1946, it marked the beginning of the end. Posey had always been the baseball mind in the tremendously successful patnership, and after his death the Grays simply lived off their past succeess. The end of the color barrier in the major leagues then dealt another major blow to the Negro Leagues, as the NNL dissolved after the 1948 Negro World Series. Jackson tried to continue operating the Grays as an independent team, but health issues soon forced him to give up the business and he died in early 1949 during an unsuccessful operation to remove a brain tumor.

Related Sites[edit]