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Black History Month Features: Cumberland Posey

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By Simone Lee, GoPSUSports.com

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -  To honor and celebrate Black History Month, Penn State Athletics is proud to share the stories of its African American student-athletes and coaches who have shaped Nittany Lion history through their success and challenges, even long after Penn State. 

Penn State's first African American student-athlete, in 1909, Cumberland "Cum" W. Posey was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in September 2016. He is the first person to be inducted into the National Baseball and Naismith Basketball Halls of Fame.

Born June 20, 1890, Posey was born into a strong family, one built on the foundation of hard work and entrepreneurial spirit, which allowed Posey a tremendous amount of opportunity.

Able to attend school in Pittsburgh, Posey also was able to play basketball and baseball for local clubs, as well as on his school teams. Heading into his high school years, Posey attended Homestead High School and there created one of the first all-black club teams, the "Monticello Club." At 5-9 and 140 pounds, Posey quickly earned the nickname "lightning fast." 

Enrolling at Penn State in 1909, Posey made history as the school's first recognized black student-athletes. While studying chemistry, Posey also was a multi-sport student-athlete as a forward on the freshman basketball squad in 1909-10, the varsity basketball squad (1910-11) and the freshman baseball team.

Following two seasons at Penn State, Posey decided to continue his academic and athletic career at Duquesne University in his hometown of Pittsburgh. While at Duquesne, Posey led the team as its top scorer all three seasons.

In 1911, Posey formed the roots of the Monticello Athletic Association (MAA) and in just a year, quickly became one of the top players on team in addition to taking on responsibilities as "The Monticellos" main operator, responsible for management, book keeping and aspects of promotion. The MAA later changed its name to the "Loendi Big Five," where he both directed and helped his teams to the Colored Basketball World Championship for four consecutive years.

Although he didn't earn a varsity letter at Penn State, Posey was among a group nominated as one of 16 to earn a direct elect nomination by the Early African American Pioneers Committee prior to his election into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Basketball is just one piece of his legendary career and impact, though.

Post "Loendi Big Five," Posey soon furthered his career and influence as one of the greatest entrepreneurs in professional sports, along with his already established reputation as one of the greatest college basketball players of his time. 

Posey was instrumental in forming the "Homestead Grays," a semi-professional baseball team based in Pittsburgh that played in the Negro National League (NNL). Stringing together a roster originally consisting of steel workers, there was no denying that Posey had outstanding knowledge when it came to identifying talent.

While playing for the Homestead Grays, Posey was presented with a re-occurring problem, as he was often easily recognized by baseball fans in the Pittsburgh area. It wasn't until 1920 that Posey, who worked his way through the ranks from player to primary management role, finished his playing career with the Grays.

Whether it was playing or managing the Grays, though, Posey transformed the organization into one of the most successful franchises the Negro Baseball League history.

As both owner and manager of the Grays, there came a point where he and the other owners of all-black baseball teams became weary when one of their very own, Jackie Robinson, eventually signed with the Montreal Royals.

As Robinson prepared to sign with an all-white baseball team, Posey and the rest of the owners feared that if Robinson became successful on the national stage, the Negro National League (NNL) would cease to exist. 

In the early stages and for the sake of the NNL, many black owners hoped that Robinson's career wouldn't take off. It was Posey though, who soon realized, Robinson's true potential and the great picture of the future of professional baseball.

Posey owned the franchise until losing his battle with a terminal illness on March 28, 1946, after 35 seasons as the team's founding father. Posey Cumberland Plaque_NB.png  

In celebration of his life and outstanding contributions the sport, Posey was posthumously honored by the Negro Baseball League as one of of 17 Negro Baseball League legends selected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006. Posey was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame as an executive, joining a small yet elite group of honorees selected as executives.

Posey's entrepreneurial legacy continues to live on, as he's still widely known as one of the most influential people in Negro baseball history. His legacy of integrity and leadership will continue to live on not only in the community, but all in all of baseball history.

Information from www.baseballhall.org, www.blackhistory.psu.edu and GoPSUsports.com was used in this story.

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