George Sweatt Born: December 7, 1893 (Humboldt, KS)
Graduated: Humboldt High School, 1910; Pittsburg State University, 1922
Deceased: July 19, 1983 (Los Angeles, CA)
The rural southeast Kansas town of Humboldt in the early decades of the twentieth century could have held the title of “Baseball Capital of Kansas.” After all, one of the state’s most famous sons was at the peak of his athletic career. Yet, while Charter Kansas Sports Hall of Fame Inductee, and Charter Inductee of the Baseball Hall of Fame, was fanning American League hitters like Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb for the Washington Senators, another of Humboldt’s son was making his name in a different professional league that lands him in the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame today.
They called him “Sharkey” and “The Teacher.” But, today, the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame recognizes George Sweatt as the first Negro Leagues baseball player inducted to this hallowed honor roll.
Born in Humboldt in 1893, Sweatt was six years younger than fellow Humboldt native Walter Johnson. Sweatt graduated from Humboldt High School and served in the United States Army as part of the all black 816th Pioneer Infantry Regiment during World War I.
Following his service in the military, Sweatt enrolled at the Kansas State Teachers College of Pittsburg, now known as Pittsburg State University, where his athletic career took off. Sweatt was a star in nearly every sport for the Gorillas and became the first African American to letter in football, basketball, and track at Pittsburg State. Sweatt earned two basketball letters in 1920 and 1922, lettered in football in 1921, and earned numerous honors in sprints and the shot put in track. Sweatt graduated with his teaching degree in 1922 and began work as a school teacher in Coffeyville.
During his summers dating back to his teenage years, Sweatt played semipro baseball for area all-black teams like the Iola Go-Devils and the Chanute Black Diamonds. It was there that Sweatt’s talents were noticed by touring professional black baseball teams, namely the Kansas City Monarchs, who offered Sweatt a contract in 1922.
Sweatt played seven professional seasons with the Kansas City Monarchs from 1922 to 1925, the Chicago American Giants from 1926 to 1927, and the Chicago Giants in 1928. A utility player who used his athleticism to help him succeed at any spot on the field, Sweatt played every position except short stop during his career that saw him compile a .262 batting average with eight home runs, fifty eight doubles, twenty three stolen bases, and 165 runs scored during his career. Take into consideration the fact that Sweatt didn’t join his professional teams until June due to his teaching responsibilities and his career totals become even more impressive.
In 1924, Sweatt was helping the Monarchs to the first ever Negro League World Series against the Hilldale Club of Pennsylvania. In game seven of the inaugural series, Sweatt stepped to the plate in the bottom of the twelfth inning with two outs and belted a triple. Sweatt was injured on the play but the pinch runner in his place scored the eventual winning run to win the game for the Monarchs as they went on to win the championship.
Sweatt also played in the next three Negro League World Series with the Monarchs and the American Giants and he helped his team to three world championships. Sweatt was one of just two players to play in each of the first four Negro League World Series.
Sweatt retired from baseball in 1928 and worked for the Postal Service before his retirement in 1957. He passed away in 1983 in Los Angeles, California, never getting the recognition he deserved for his contributions to the state of Kansas.
Today, George Sweatt gets his long over-due recognition with his induction to the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame where the lesson from “The Teacher” from Humboldt will inspire future generations of Kansans.