Harry Passon

From BR Bullpen

Harry Passon

Biographical Information[edit]

Harry Passon was the owner of a large sporting goods store in Philadelphia, PA who became the sponsor and owner of semi-pro and Negro Leagues teams in the City of Brotherly Love. He was himself an excellent amateur baseball player in his youth, playing for the South Philadelphia Hebrew Association (SPHA) team and at the University of Pennsylvania.

He opened PGB Sporting Goods in 1920, the initials standing for his surname and that of his two associates, Ed Gottlieb and Hughie Black, both former teammates on the SPHA team. Their main market was local semi-professional teams, so they took an interest in promoting the growth of baseball and other team sports in the city. He bought and renovated a ballpark that became "Passon Field", which would host various Negro Leagues teams in the 1930s. He was instrumental in challenging and overturning Philadelphia's blue laws which prevented the playing of baseball games on Sundays.

Passon himself got into the act by buying the bankrupt Atlantic City Bacharach Giants, former members of the defunct American Negro League, in 1931 and setting it up as an independent Philadelphia-based team. That started a bitter rivalry with Ed Bolden, the African American owner of Hilldale, the most prominent black team in the city, who had turned to Passon's business partner, Ed Gottlieb, as his financial backer. Both teams applied to Commissioner Cum Posey to join the newly-formed Negro National League in 1934, but Bolden forced Posey to accept only one team from the city - his own - as the new organization favored black ownership as much as possible. However, the Bacharach Giants continued to play as an "associate member" of the new league and were eventually admitted as full members in mid-year. They were not particularly successful on the field and Passon decided to return to independent status in 1935. He eventually passed management of the team to Tom Dixon, a former Negro Leagues player and a store employee, and it continued to serve as a feeder team for the Negro Leagues over the following years. Local player Roy Campanella got his first experience for the Bacharach Giants, for example. The team dissolved in the mid-1940s.

Harry Passon died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound in February 1954.

Further Reading[edit]

  • Rebecca T. Alpert: "Harry Passon: Philadelphia Baseball Entrepreneur", in Morris Levin, ed.: From Swampoodle to South Philly: Baseball in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley, The National Pastime, SABR, 2013, pp. 64-68.