John W. "Bud" Fowler
Perhaps the most important figure on the 1885 Western league Keokuks was John W. "Bud" Fowler. He is the first African-American to play professional baseball before the color lines were drawn. Fowler changed his name from John W. Jackson after he enter professional baseball, for unknown reasons. He spent one season in Keokuk, 1885, as a second baseman. Fowler is pictured in the team photo. This photo is very popular among baseball historians, and can be seen quite frequently in this field.
The difference between Fowler’s accomplishment and that of Jackie Robinson, is that Robinson is that Robinson was the first African American in professional baseball in modern times, after the color line was drawn. Color line or not, both players overcame the challenge of playing baseball in a racist game and society.
Fowler could play every position, but was best at second base. He played for twenty different teams in thirteen major and minor league teams. The reason he played for so many different teams was not his playing ability, but his race. Teams did not know what reaction the players, fans or opponents would take. Generally he was not accepted by the new team or fans. Keokuk was one of the teams to give him a chance.
Fowler managed, organized and played for Negro League teams after baseball’s color line was drawn around the turn of the century. As a result of the color barrier, he founded the Page Fence Giants in the fall of 1894. The all-black team was sponsored by the Page Woven Wire Fence Company of Adrian, Michigan. Fowler was also involved with the following all-black baseball teams: the Smoky City Giants, the All-American Black Tourists, and the Kansas City Stars.
Fowler died in 1913 at the age of 54.

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