For the current MEARS Online Auction, January 23rd-31st, 2015, we are offering the following lot:

Consignments Wanted For Future Auctions

1944-47 Athletics vs. Zulu Cannibal Giants 9”x12” Original Broadside Poster With Possible Attribution To Buck O’ Neil as “Limpopo” (From the Syd Pollock Collection)

The epitomy of cartoonish stereotypes, the Zulu Cannibal Giants were based in River City, Kentucky and barnstormed across the south from 1934-1937 and were revived again and played during the mid 1940s.

According to the book “Negro League Baseball: The Rise and Ruin of a Black Institution,” the players wore grass skirts, headdresses and war paint. “Pandering to white America’s worst attitudes and most stereotypical views of blacks, the players entertained fans between games with various ‘comedy’ acts including staged fights with spears and shields along with a crap game featuring loaded dice and players brandishing razors.” It’s also reported their bats were shaped to resemble war clubs, and they played barefoot.”

The players didn’t use their real names, but rather played under “native” names. According to a printed game lineup from 1935 that first ran in the Meridan (Conn.) Daily journal:

“The Cannibals will lineup as follows: Wahoo, right field, Limpopo, first base, Rufigi, center field, Tanna, left field; Taklooie, third base; Bissagos, shortstop, Kangkol, second base, Nyass, Catcher; Kalahare, Pembra, Moke, Impo and Tankafu pitchers.”

The original creator of the team is a bit hazy, as Negro league pitcher Charlie Henry is often credited with the task. According to the book “Barnstorming to Heaven: Syd Pollock and his Great Black Teams,” written by Syd’s son Alan J. Pollock, Harlem Globetrotter founder Abe Saperstein may have purchased the team at some point and Goose Tatum may have suited up for the Cannibals.

It is reported that Buck O’ Neil played first base for the Zulu Cannibals in 1937 and was listed on the roster as the player, “Limpopo”. The name also appeared on a surviving 1935 lineup, so definite attribution to O’Neill on this broadside is not certain. This example is undated, but a small group that originated from the estate of Syd Pollock had some similar styled Zulu Cannibal broadsides that were dated in the 1940s, which would have precluded O’Neil’s time with the team. Since this example is undated, we just don’t know if Buck was a member depicted on this broadside.

O’Neil confirmed his time with the Cannibals in his autobiography and noted,” looking back on it, the idea of playing with the Cannibal Giants was very demeaning.”

O’Neil, though, maintained there was more to the games than mere clowning. “I don’t believe many white fans came just to see us clown around,” he wrote. “Most had respect for us as ballplayers and would’ve come regardless.”

The Cannibal Giants were not an official Negro League team; rather they were considered an independent team. And though they have been said to be Louisville-based, they travelled widely, even playing in Canada. The team played at Parkway Field in Louisville. Some of the Cannibal Giants were great players, and since their uniforms, such as they were, didn’t have numbers or anything like that, they would put on one another’s wigs and paint so the better hitters would illegally hit for the worse hitters all through the game.

This rare broadside originated from the Syd Pollock Collection. Measuring 9”x12”, two examples of this poster were obtained by MEARS Auctions. The other example had damage, this is the superior example. MB $250.00