Celebrating Black History
Julian Vivian Ware
(7 August 1877 - 8 July 1946), Baseball 1900-1903
Julian V. Ware, a power-hitting first baseman, was one of the first African-American athletes to represent the University of Wisconsin when he played varsity baseball from 1900-1903. He was a popular and respected member of the squad, and he became the first African-American to captain a Big Ten team when his peers elected him to that position in 1902 and 1903.
Julian Ware was born in Evansville, Indiana in 1877. Little is known about his life before he enrolled at Fisk University, an historically black college in Nashville Tennessee in the 1890s. At Fisk, Ware was a member of the varsity football and baseball teams and worked as a student instructor of gymnastics. He received a bachelor's degree from Fisk in 1897.
Two years later, Ware came to the University of Wisconsin to study electrical engineering. Soon after arriving on campus, he auditioned for the football team. The quick 22-year old impressed in pre-season practices, returning a kickoff for a touchdown for the "scrub" team in a practice game against the varsity.
The Milwaukee Journal reported in late September that "among the new men... is Ware, a colored boy from Fiske [sic] University... [who] puts up an active game as halfback." The local press in both Madison and Milwaukee predicted that Ware would help the Badger gridiron squad, but his name disappears from football dispatches in early October, and he never played in a game for Wisconsin.
Ware did not abandon his athletic pursuits, however, and, in the spring of 1900, he and pitcher Adelbert Matthews became the first African-American inter-collegiate athletes at Wisconsin when they suited up for the baseball team. With a combination of slick fielding (as part of the Badgers' "stonewall infield") and hitting prowess, Ware quickly won the starting first baseman's job. His first year in a Wisconsin uniform was cut short, however, in a game against Dixon College. According to the Daily Cardinal, he drove "a clean three-bagger towards Middleton, [but] in making a long slide for third... was injured so as to probably put him out of the game for the remainder of the season."
The "big first baseman," as the student newspaper called him, recovered from his injuries and re-claimed his starting position at first base for the next two seasons. Ware usually batted clean-up for the Badgers and was one of the top hitters on the team. In an era before outfield fences, the power-hitting Ware led the team in triples in 1901 and 1902. The Cardinal, praised his ability by saying "batting... is Ware's specialty... and he can be counted upon for safe hits when his turn comes."
After the 1901 season, his teammates recognized Ware's important position by electing him team captain for the following season. He was the first African-American to be so honored in the Big Ten conference, and one of the first black college athletes in the country to be elected team captain.
Ware responded with a typically strong performance, and his leadership helped the Badgers capture their first Big Ten baseball championship in 1902. UW turned in a 5-1 record against league competition and went 8-4 against all colleges. Captain Ware played an integral role for Wisconsin, hitting triples against Chicago and Northwestern; batting in the winning run at Notre Dame; and, defensively, finishing a triple-play in a tight 2-1 victory over Illinois.
The Badgers had high hopes for 1903, and the team rewarded their "big first baseman" by retaining him as the team captain. In early April, Wisconsin played its first game against the University of Dubuque, and Ware starred in the victory with a homerun. This, however, was the last game he would play for the Badgers. Behind in his schoolwork, Ware sacrificed his inter-collegiate baseball career to finish his Electrical Engineering degree.
The Cardinal explained the situation thusly: "Capt. Ware has been working diligently at his shop work... The big captain is anxious to wield the stick again but is not over sanguine concerning his chances of playing. The matter rests in the hands of his class officer who will decide if his shop work is sufficiently advanced to allow him to take the time to participate in the game." Coach Oscar Bandelin, a former minor league baseball player explained Ware's value to the Wisconsin Alumni Magazine: "Captain Ware... is the best college first baseman in the west and the heaviest hitter on the team; his loss is a serious one."
Ware was never able to catch up with his studies, and the team reluctantly replaced him as captain midway through the season. He did not, however, lose interest in the Badger baseball nine. Wisconsin struggled through a losing season in 1903, and several players refused to make a scheduled trip to Illinois late in the year.
In the words of the Cardinal, "this action so disgusted former captain Ware that he hustled out nine ball players and led them to Coach Bandelin's room at 606 Frances Street. It was long after the midnight hour that the Coach was awakened by the call: 'Bandelin here are nine men for you to take to Champaign.'" Thanks to the quick work of the former first baseman, UW made the trip the following morning and fulfilled their obligations.
Unfortunately, Julian Ware could not similarly solve his academic problems. Despite his hard work in the spring of 1903, he did not graduate at the end of the semester, and he never received a degree from the University. Despite his lack of formal credentials, Ware moved to Chicago and worked for many years as a technician in an electrical power plant. While in the Windy City, Ware continued his athletic pursuits and played many games for a Chicago-based University of Wisconsin alumni baseball team.
In 1914, Ware returned to school and took classes at the University of Chicago. He received a bachelor of science degree in 1917 and then enrolled at the Rush Medical College. Ware earned his M.D. from Rush in 1927 and promptly moved to California where he passed his medical boards in 1928. He practiced medicine in Long Beach and Los Angeles for nearly two decades. Ware died in Los Angeles in 1946.
Gregory Bond, Ph. D.
History, University of Wisconsin