by Mike Magers
Born in Ft. Griffin, Texas, Bazz Owen Smaulding was raised in Albuquerque and attended Albuquerque High School. He was an outstanding athlete in high school, once scoring seven touchdowns in a single game against Santa Fe High School. He also excelled at every sport that he tried, including basketball, baseball and track. He was not particularly big, carrying 170 lbs. on his 5’11” frame.
It has been said that it was difficult to enter him in track meets, since he typically would qualify for almost every event. Often he would score more points individually than his opponents would score for the entire team. In the summer baseball leagues, he pitched for the Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Madrid baseball teams. His high school graduation was delayed one year when he served 5 months in the U. S. Army near the end of World War I. He returned to school following military service and graduated in 1919. Following graduation, he attended University of Washington from 1920-1923 where he played football and ran track, later transferring to University of Idaho. There he played baseball and football on an athletic scholarship until he graduated. He frequently played local sandlot ball while he was in college.
After working a short while, Smaulding joined the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Baseball Leagues around 1928. This was the only baseball venue available to him, since he came up almost 20 years before Jackie Robinson would break the so-called color line in major league baseball. After Kansas City, he moved to Chicago where he signed with the American Giants and Gilkerson Union Giants where he either pitched or played in the outfield.
Following his retirement as a player, Owen began teaching in 1935 at the Piney Woods School near Jackson, Mississippi where he would remain for 5 years. Afterwards, he returned to Chicago where he ran his own printing business and helped manage the Palmer House baseball team. Smaulding continued to work for the team until he retired in 1961.
He returned to Albuquerque following his retirement where he was honored by Albuquerque High School by being named the AHS All-time Athlete, Class of 1919. In addition, the AHS gymnasium was renamed the Smaulding Center in 1977 and the yearly Owen Smaulding Award was presented to the outstanding high school athlete. Smaulding is considered by many to be one of the greatest athletes ever to be produced by Albuquerque High School or the State of New Mexico.
To read more about Owen Smaulding and other black athletes, please see “Black Baseball and Chicago” by Leslie A. Heaphy. To learn more about the rich history of the Negro Baseball Leagues, please see the website of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. To view Owen Smaulding’s page on Baseball-Reference.com, please click here.