It?s difficult to imagine the game of baseball today without players of Hispanic, African or Asian descent. Names like Albert Pujols, Barry Bonds and Ichiro Suzuki serve as a constant reminder of baseball?s diversity and just how popular the game has become worldwide. Before any of this could happen, however, there had to be someone willing to push the envelope. In society, people tend to think of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In baseball, it?s usually Jackie Robinson. But long before Robinson broke Major League Baseball?s color barrier, two other young black men stepped onto a baseball field at the University of Wisconsin.
Adelbert Matthews and Julian Ware became the first blacks to represent the UW in intercollegiate athletic competition when they suited up for the Badgers? baseball team in 1900. Today, we highlight the career of Julian Ware.
Ware represented the UW as a first baseman from 1900 to 1903 and was considered one of the most well liked and respected players on team. He was so respected, in fact, that his teammates elected him captain in 1902 and 1903, making him the first black in the Big Ten and one of the first blacks in the entire country to captain a team.
Prior to coming to Madison, Ware attended and played baseball for Fisk University, a historically black school in Nashville, Tenn. After arriving on campus in Madison, he enrolled in the electrical engineering program and would pursue this field of study for the next four years.
On the field, Ware?s first season was cut short by a knee injury that took place while sliding into third. The injury put him out of the lineup for the remainder of the 1900 season but he would recover in time to re-claim his starting position the following year.
After a strong 1901 campaign in which Ware led the team in triples (home runs were limited because outfield fences did not yet exist), the first baseman was elected team captain by his peers for the 1902 season. The Badgers would go on to win their first Big Ten baseball championship in 1902, finishing with a 5-1 record versus league competition and an 8-4 overall record.
Ware was retained as team captain for the 1903 season. The year began strong for both the team and Ware as the Badgers defeated the University of Dubuque behind a home run from Ware. Unfortunately, this would be his last game with UW. Behind in his school work, Ware was forced to leave the field and try to catch up in the classroom. Despite his hard work, however, Ware was never able to solve his academic problems and did not receive a degree from the UW.
Although it is unknown what became of Ware after leaving Madison, he certainly has staked a place in Madison as well as general baseball?s history.
*Special thanks to www.uwbadgers.com for this information