Durkeeville Historical Society and Jacksonville Historical Society will host a joint program on Saturday, July 13 to honor the Jax Red Caps team. The historical societies will present a multi-media program on the Jax Red Caps team at 5:00pm. Afterwards we will cheer on the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp as they face the Mississippi Braves. Game tickets for participants are reserved in Section 110 along the first baseline.
The Jax Red Caps had a relatively short tenure in the Negro American League. They played in Jacksonville at Barr’s Field in 1938. They moved to Cleveland, Ohio for two seasons where they played as the Cleveland Bears, following which they returned to Jacksonville for the 1941 and 1942 seasons. Although their time in the Negro American League was short, the team is historically significant to Jacksonville. The Jacksonville Red Caps team takes its name from the red caps that many of the players wore in their role as porters for the Pullman sleeper cars traveling in and out of the Jacksonville Terminal. The sport and the players became part of the African-American community’s culture and pride.
During segregation, the NAL teams were reputed to have some highly talented players rivaling those of Major League players. The Negro League games became popular with many spectators due to their relatively fast pace and daring style. Herbert Barnhill (1914 – 2004), a talented Red Caps catcher, reported that the Major League banned the NAL from playing in the same town as a MLB game after one day in 1943 when 45,000 people flocked to a game of the Kansas City Monarchs against the Homestead Grays in Chicago, while only 20,000 turned out to see the New York Yankees play the White Sox. The NAL and its teams provided a great outlet during a pivotal time in civil rights, yet the league formally closed in 1962 due to the integration of baseball that began as Jackie Robinson joining the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.
The Red Caps home field was Barr’s Field in Jacksonville, now known as J. P. Small Memorial Park. The ballpark, located in the Durkeeville neighborhood, is the site of much history for both black and white baseball teams and was accepted to the National Register for Historic Place in 2013. The stadium has been renovated several times since its founding in 1912 while maintaining the original bones of the structure.