Negro League baseball team (1918-1951).
The Baltimore Elite Giants started life as the Nashville Standard Giants in 1918. The team was founded by Thomas T. Wilson after encouragement from the owner of the Chicago American Giants, Rube Foster. They played exhibition games throughout the south, but didn't have a regular schedule. By 1921, the team had built up quite a reputation in the region, so Wilson changed the name of his team to the Nashville Elite (pronounced EE-lite) Giants.
The team soon joined the Southern Negro League, which included teams from Atlanta, Jacksonvlle, Chatanooga, Memphis, and Birmingham. But Wilson had his eye on entering the Elite Giants into the Negro National League, where northern teams drew a larger audience, and thus, higher revenues. Starting in 1928, Wilson started a heavy campaign to get the attention of the northern teams.
His first move was to acquire Satchel Paige from the Birmingham Black Barons, thus bringing big name draw to his ballclub. His second move was the construction of a new stadium for his team.
Wilson Stadium opened in the spring of 1929. The 8000 seat stadium was the first black-owned ballpark in the south. It was built in the Trimble Bottom neighborhood of Nashville, which was its largest black neighborhood at the time. However, the baseball games soon drew a mixed crowd, with whites outnumbering blacks in the stands.
The Elite Giants gained acceptance to the NNL in 1930, just in time for the league to collapse. After some time back in the Southern League, a new NNL formed in 1933, and the Elite Giants rejoined, remaining until that league's collapse in 1947.
Wilson moved the team from Nashville to Columbus in 1936, due to a weakening economy in Nashville, then turned around and moved to Washington. 1937 brought a team move to Baltimore, where they set up at Bugle Field and remained until 1949. Here, the Elite Giants would see the height or their glory.
The Elite Giants went on to win two Negro World Series titles, in 1939 vs. the Homestead Grays, and again 1949. In 1942, they ended the season with the best record in the league with 37-15. During this time, the players would include Hall of Fame catcher Roy Campanella, and Negro League greats Lester Locket and Bill Wright.
Thomas Wilson fell ill and passed away in the spring of 1947. His estate sold the ball club to William Bridgeforth for $11,000. The team moved back to Nashville for one season before dissolving in 1951.