Tragedy Strikes the Buckeyes

   The headlines said it all. In the early morning hours of September 7, 1942, one auto of a caravan of three automobiles carrying Cleveland Buckeyes players and other personnel was involved in a fatal car accident. The team was using three cars as their team bus, pictured below, was in the shop for repairs.

   The players were traveling from Buffalo to Akron having played an exhibition double header on Sunday against the New York Black Yankees and were scheduled to play another double header on Monday in Akron. The car had a flat tire on Route 20 outside of Geneva, Ohio. They pulled off to the side of the road to fix the tire. After the tire was fixed, Ulysses "Buster" Brown, a catcher, pictured right, was driving and pulled out onto Route 20 when it was struck in the rear by a semi-tractor pulling a trailer.   The car driven by Buster Brown was pushed into a tree across the road and crushed.           

    Buster Brown died in the accident as did Raymond "Smoky" Owens, a pitcher. Both those players were from Jacksonville, Florida.  Business manager, Wilbur Hayes, and pitcher Alonzo Boone, below right, were injured in the accident.       


    Like so many Negro League ballplayers, not much is known about the two players who died. "Smoky" Owens pitched and also played the outfield. He was born in Manning, South Carolina on March 15, 1912. He played for the Jacksonville Red Caps in 1938 and came to Cleveland when the Red Caps became the Cleveland Bears in 1939 and 1940. The Bears moved back to Jacksonville but it appears that Smoky Owens stayed in Cleveland and played for the Buckeyes in the team's first year in 1942.

    Buster Brown was born in Jacksonville, Florida on November 20, 1916. He also played for the Jacksonville Red Caps in 1938 but spent most of his career with the Newark Eagles before playing for the Buckeyes in 1942.

    The team went on to finish out their barnstorming tour which went through the end of September.


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