Located first in a small steel town outside of Pittsburgh, they dominated the Eastern baseball scene. From 1937 to 1945, the Grays won nine consecutive league pennants. They were led by future Hall of Famers Josh Gibson (catcher), "Cool" Papa Bell (outfield), Judy Johnson (third base), Buck Leonard (first base) and Cuban great Martin Dihigo (second base, pitcher, outfielder). Their ace pitcher was "Smokey" Joe Williams, who once struck out 27 batters in a 12-inning game.
During World War II, the Grays played their home games at both Forbes Field (Pittsburgh) and Griffith Stadium (Washington, D.C.) when the white Major League clubs were on the road. The Grays traditionally outdrew their white counterparts, the cellar-dwelling Washington Senators.
Unheralded greats included Vic Harris (outfield), Jerry Benjamin (outfield), Howard Easterling (third base), Luke Easter (outfield, first base) and Sam Bankhead (shortstop, second base, outfield). In fact, Bankhead became the first black manager in Minor League Baseball in 1951.