Monsters, UVM honor William Clarence Matthews

One of first black players in pro baseball starred in Burlington
One of first black players in pro baseball starred in Burlington
Published: Aug. 5, 2022 at 10:51 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The Vermont Lake Monsters matched the 2021 team for the league record with their 42nd victory of the year on Thursday, but that wasn’t the most important thing they did.

Before last night’s contest, the Monsters honored William Clarence Matthews, an early 20th century star at Harvard who became one of the first black players in any level of professional baseball, playing in Burlington in 1905.

The Monsters, in conjunction with UVM, raised a banner on the concourse at Centennial Thursday honoring Matthews’ achievement and sacrifice, something they hope will inspire the next generation.

“He was just a great baseball player at Harvard, and I contend he was the best college baseball player in the country,” said Karl Lindholm, a former Middlebury College professor and historian on Matthews’ life and career. “He played one season professionally. The Northern League was a very fast ‘outlaw league.’ An outlaw league meant that it didn’t have to abide by contractual arrangements of organized baseball. They could hire a black player, and they did. He was probably the only black player playing alongside a white player for pay in the country.”

“I mean there’s been some amazing players that have come through here,” said Monsters General Manager CJ Knudsen. “It’s a great place for us to have that banner up, to recognize him and his accomplishments. And also have our players walk by the banner and see it, and learn a little about history and baseball here in Burlington.”

“It’s an incredible story,” added UVM Athletic Director Jeff Schulman. “When you listen to Karl Lindholm talk about it and you realize that Burlington was the backdrop for this incredible baseball player playing professionally 41 years before Jackie Robinson. It’s really special and it’s something that deserves to be amplified.”

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