Dukes Baseball Club
By Alice Key
”We are the children of those who choose to survive”
-Nana Poussaint in Daughters of the Dust
Sports fans throughout the nation, and indeed for the most part, all over the world are familiar with the names of such stellar athletes as Dusty Baker, Bobbie Bonds, Rosie Bonds, Barry Bonds, Reggie Miller, Cheryl Miller, Alvin Davis and others who have achieved fame and fortune through individual outstanding athletic abilities in their given fields. A lesser number of those fans, however, may not be aware that all of these luminaries are natives of Riverside, California.
Old Timers remember that Riverside spawned numerous youngsters with stellar prowess who were denied their rightful place in the sun because of that old devil discrimination when participation in the major leagues and association was closed to blacks, no matter how skillful or talented.
The Dukes Ball Club, Lincoln Park and summer nights in Riverside’s eastside are something many “old timers” will remember with fondness. What fun, what excitement, the gathering place for families, young adults and children during the years of our growing up. Daily Vacation Bible school, the swimming pool in Lincoln Park and John Allen’s sweet shop. Julius Williamson was the keeper of the pool and also guardian of all the children who daily used the pool. Parents depended on him and well they could. He was great.
On summer evenings it was the “Dukes Ball Club” that held center stage at Lincoln Park. It was after World War II and segregation was the rule. Discrimination abounded. At loose end for recreational activities. a group of young men formed a pick-up baseball team they dubbed “The Dukes”. Eastside resident Stanley Y. Beverley, Sr., Scoutmaster of Riverside’s Troop #20 became interested and assisted the team during this organizational and early development period. This team “The Duke’s”, became the pride of Riverside and the envy of all other such teams in the Inland Empire and San Diego County.
The roster of the Dukes talented players included Fred Luke (ss), Malcolm Key (c), Albert Strickland (p), Trivel “Bubba” Williams (1b), Frank Beverley (2b), Eddie Streeter (3b), “Jelly Roll” Jordan (cf), Obie Stowe (3b), Hank Culpepper (lf), Herbert Culpepper (rf), J.W. Roberts (p), Harry “Skike” Toppin (rf).
The Dukes began their sensational drive at Lincoln Park which became the “home” park for the team and they played a myriad of teams that sprung up in the era in Riverside, San Bernardino, Palm Springs, San Diego, and other California locales. The Dukes Club was the “class” of the league. Everyone wanted a shot at the Dukes. The Dukes remained tips and amassed fans from all over Southern California. Sports fans from Los Angeles drove to wherever the ream was appearing to delight in the team’s knowledge and expertise in the fame, known and accepted as America’s pastime.