Cum Posey, the principal owner of the Homestead Grays, spent 35 years (1911-1946) in baseball as a player, manager, owner and club official before succumbing to cancer. He built a strong barnstorming circuit that made the Grays a perennially powerful and profitable team, one of the best in the East.
After starring in basketball in college, Posey began playing baseball for the semi-pro Grays in 1911. He soon ended his playing career to become field and business manager. He took control of the Grays in 1920 and turned them into a highly successful regional enterprise as an independent team. The Grays’ strong identity in Pennsylvania and surrounding states enabled them to survive the depths of the Great Depression.
Posey, an aggressive talent seeker with the Grays, at one time or another had 11 of the 18 current Negro leagues Hall of Famers playing for him. He was often accused of raiding other clubs’ rosters, enticing their best players to join his team. He suffered a heavy dose of the same in the early 1930s when he lost several stars to the well-financed Pittsburgh Crawfords. The Grays rebounded and became a member of the second Negro National League in 1935, soon dominating the circuit. Posey’s teams reeled in nine consecutive pennants form 1937-1945.
Posey unwisely attempted to start the East-West League in 1932 during the Depression, but it did not last the season. He later became an officer of the Negro National League, and was a major force at its meetings throughout the rest of his career. He also was a frequent critic of the league, both before and after joining it, in his regular sports columns for the Pittsburgh Courier, a leading black weekly newspaper.
Courier sportswriter Wendell Smith once wrote of Posey: “Some may say he crushed the weak as well as the strong on the way to the top of the ladder. But no matter what his critics say, they cannot deny that he was the smartest man in Negro baseball and certainly the most successful.”