The International Origins of Jesse “Hoss” Walker’s Storied Negro Leagues Baseball Career

Jesse “Hoss” Walker was a baseball lifer. His career lasted 31 years, from 1925 to 1956. He was a starter in multiple East-West All-Star Games and competed in the Negro League World Series. In 1949 he managed the East team to a victory in the mid-summer classic. He retired after the 1956 season and like most Negro Leaguers, he disappeared into the obscurity of daily menial work and the bliss of domestic tranquility surrounded by family and friends. 

Not many people even know who Jesse Walker is, and fewer know that the early days of his career involved a 15,000 mile journey across the Pacific to play baseball in Japan, Korea, China and the Hawaiian Territories in the late 1920s. 

Walker was the youngest member of the Negro Leagues All-Star Philadelphia Royal Giants ballclub that toured across the Pacific between March and August 1927. He lied about his age to immigration officials. His passport reflected a birthdate of September 10, 1904, making him 23-years-old. In reality he was born September 10, 1911, meaning that the young ballplayer was actually just 15-years-old – a few months shy of his 16th birthday. 

Before the ‘27 tour he was a member of Robert Fagen’s L.A. Railway Panthers and Lon Goodwin’s Los Angeles White Sox. Upon his return home, Walker continued to play with O’Neil Pullen’s Los Angeles Giants. 

On July 14, 1928, Walker and his Giants teammates boarded the S.S. City of Los Angeles at LA Harbor and sailed six-days to the port of Honolulu, Hawaii. Also included on the ship was Japanese American baseball pioneer Kenichi Zenimura and his family, wife Lillian and son Kenso Zenimura. 

Below is a snapshot of the passenger ship record featuring Jesse Walker listed next to Zenimura’s family. 

Kenichi isn’t listed on this document with his family because this page only reflects U.S. citizens. In 1927 individuals born in Japan were not allowed to become U.S. citizens. His presence on the ship was documented in a separate section for “foreigners.” (Note: Ken Zenimura would later become a U.S. Citizen after the passage of the McCarren-Walter Act in 1952.)

Photos: (left) California native Kenso Howard Zenimura (age 26) with the Hiroshima Carp in 1953; (center) Texas native Jesse “Hoss” Walker (age 15) with the Philadelphia Royal Giants in 1927; (right) first-generation Japanese American Kenichi Zenimura (age 29) with the Fresno Athletic Club in 1929. 

If you follow this blog, you know that Kenichi Zenimura is considered the “Father of Japanese American Baseball,” and his sons Kenso and Kenshi were the first Americans to play for the Hiroshima Carp in 1953.

But little is known about the Royal Giants’ Jesse Walker. In fact, his profile on Baseball-Reference (pulled from does not reflect his full legal name, displays incorrect birth information, and lacks the details of his death. 

Image: Jesse “Hoss” Walker’s profile on

The following article is my attempt to fill in the gaps of missing information about Jesse Walker’s life and career, and to celebrate his underappreciated role as an international baseball ambassador during his Trans-Pacific Barnstorming tours with the Philadelphia Royal Giants. 

Begin with the End

On February 12, 1971, The Tennessean, the daily newspaper for Nashville, published the obituary for Jesse “Hoss” Walker. The text reads: 

WALKER. Mr. Jesse (Hoss) of 562 Joseph Ave., suddenly February 10, 1971 at a local infirmary. Survived by wife, Mrs. Gustavia Walker; six daughters, Mrs. Jessie Mai Dillard, Mrs. Andrea Drake, Misses Thelma Louise, Eunice, Elaine, Barbara Lynn and Catherine Walker, all of Nashville; two grandsons: brother, Mr. James Walker; aunt, Mrs. Corine Winston, both of Los Angeles, Calif.; four sisters-in-law; three brothers-in-law; a host of nieces, nephews; dear friends, Mr. William Washington, Mr. and Mrs. James McClendon, Col. R. H. Van Volkenburgh, Col. and Mrs. James D. Martin, other relatives and friends. Visitation with the family (this) Friday, February 12, 1971 in the Chapel of Holmes Funeral Home from 8 to 10 p.m. Funeral services Saturday, February 13, 1971 at 1:00 p.m. from the above Chapel conducted by Rev. S. H. McCrary. Pallbearers selected from friends. Interment Greenwood Cemetery. HOLMES FUNERAL HOME, 1408 So. Johnston Ave.

Family and friends listed provide some interesting and insightful clues about his life:

Col. R.H. Van Volkenburgh – It appears that retired Brigadier-General Robert Heber Van Volenburg moved to Nashville in 1963, and presumably he and Walker became friends during this time. (Gotta be a good story there.)

Gustavia Walker was Jesse’s second wife. His first wife, Hattie Bush Walker, is listed on his WWII registration card (below). It appears that Jesse and Hattie separated around 1950, as Hattie Walker declared herself “widowed” in the 1950 U.S. Census. Jesse Walker was alive and well managing the Nashville Stars in 1950.

Corinne Winston of Los Angeles, California. She is listed as his aunt in this obituary, but census records reveal that she is actually his older cousin. Corinne Johnson Winston was born in 1900 to Amanda Walker Johnson. Amanda is the sister of John Walker, Jesse’s father. This family connection might provide clues as to how the young Texan ended up playing baseball with a team based in Los Angeles.

Here’s the Census trail between Jesse Walker and Corinne Winston:

Amanda Walker in the 1880 United States Federal Census
Name:         Amanda Walker
Age:         3
Birth Date: Abt 1877
Birthplace: Texas
Home in 1880:Travis, Texas, USA
Dwelling Number: 151
Race:         Black
Gender:         Female
Relation to Head of House: Daughter
Marital Status: Single
Father's Name: Squire Walker
Father's Birthplace: Arkansas
Mother's Name: Ann Walker
Household Members Age Relationship
Squire Walker 30 Self (Head)
Ann Walker 26 Wife
Caldona Walker 10 Daughter
Squire Walker         8 Son
Mary Walker 6 Daughter
Amanda Walker 3 Daughter (Jesse’s aunt)
John Walker         7/12 Son (Jesse’s father)

Amanda Johnson in the 1920 United States Federal Census
Name: Amanda Johnson
Age: 35
Birth Year: abt 1885
Birthplace: Texas
Home in 1920: Los Angeles Assembly District 74, Los Angeles, California
Street: Mc Garry street
Residence Date: 1920
Race: Black
Gender: Female
Relation to Head of House: Wife
Marital Status: Married
Spouse's Name: Allan Johnson
Father's Birthplace: Texas
Mother's Birthplace: Texas
Able to Speak English: Yes
Occupation: Washlady
Industry: Home
Employment Field: Own Account
Able to read: Yes
Able to Write: Yes
Neighbors: View others on page
Household Members Age Relationship
Allan Johnson 45 Head
Amanda Johnson 35 Wife (Jesse’s aunt)
Aileen Johnson 13 Daughter
Arabelle Synigan 21 Daughter-in-law
Corienne Winston 20 Daughter (Jesse’s cousin)

Jesse Walker in the 1920 United States Federal Census
Name: Jesse Walker
Age: 8
Birth Year: abt 1912
Birthplace: Texas
Home in 1920: Austin Ward 1, Travis, Texas
Street: West Mary
Residence Date: 1920
Race: Black
Gender: Male
Relation to Head of House: Son
Marital Status: Single
Father's Name: John Walker
Father's Birthplace: Texas
Mother's Name: Ollie Walker
Mother's Birthplace: Texas
Able to Speak English: Yes
Attended School: yes
Able to read: Yes
Able to Write: Yes
Household Members Age Relationship
John Walker 33 Head
Ollie Walker 30 Wife
John Walker 14 Son
Willie Walker 10 Son
Jesse Walker 8 Son

It is worth noting that Ollie and John Walker were married on November 18, 1919, per the following record: 

Ollie Tinnin in the Texas, U.S., Select County Marriage Records, 1837-1965
Name: Ollie Tinnin
Gender:         Female
Marriage Date: 18 Nov 1919
Marriage Place: Travis, Texas, USA
Spouse:         John Walker

Ollie Tinnin married John Walker in 1919, this is roughly 8 years after Jesse was born. Ollie was previously married to Fred Guest in 1902, according to this record: 

Ollie Tinnin in the Texas, U.S., Select County Marriage Records, 1837-1965
Name: Ollie Tinnin
Gender:         Female
Marriage Date: 25 Jul 1902
Marriage Place: Travis, Texas, USA
Spouse:         Fred Guest

Although unconfirmed, the above facts suggest a possibility that Jesse Walker, born in 1911, is actually the biological son of Fred Guest, and was adopted by John Walker after the marriage to Jesse’s mother Ollie in 1919. Of course, this is just speculation on my part. 

Texas to California

Jesse Walker moved to California sometime between 1920 and 1925. As mentioned above, it’s possible that his father’s family – aunt Amanda and cousin Corinne – are his California connections. 

His mother, Ollie Walker, appears in a July 17, 1921 issue of The Austin American, in an article about her husband “Jake Walker” being killed. Is Jake Walker the same person as John Walker? Not sure. But if it is, the tragic death of John Walker might be the impetus that sent young Jesse to live with his paternal aunt in Los Angeles. 

The earliest record of Jesse Walker playing baseball is with the 1925 Los Angeles Railway Panthers managed by Robert Fagen, former member of the 1921 Kansas City Monarchs. This would make Jesse age 14-to-15-years-old competing with grown men on the ballfields of California. Fagen also participated in the 1927 tour to Japan, so we now  sign to see that Fagen was Walker’s earliest introduction to the L.A. White Sox and the Philadelphia Royal Giants. 

Jesse Walker’s Early Playing Record

Year (age)



1925 (age 14)

L.A. Railway Panthers (2b)

California Eagle (Los Angeles, California) 03 Jul 1925, FriPage 7

1926 (age 15)

L.A. Panthers

Los Angeles White Sox

California Eagle (Los Angeles, California) 05 Mar 1926, FriPage 7

California Eagle (Los Angeles, California) 02 Jul 1926, Fri pg 7

1927 (age 16)

Philadelphia Royal Giants

The Honolulu Advertiser (Honolulu, Hawaii) 25 Jun 1927, SatPage 7

1928 (age 17)

Philadelphia Royal Giants

Cleveland Colored All-Stars

Bakersfield Morning Echo

Bakersfield, California

24 Mar 1928, Sat  •  Page 1

Santa Ana Register (Santa Ana, California)19 Mar 1928, MonPage 8

1929 (age 18)

Pullen Giants (with Connie Day) to Hawaii

Atlantic City Bacharach Giants (with Connie Day)

Philadelphia Royal Giants

Honolulu Star-Bulletin (Honolulu, Hawaii)23 Mar 1929, SatPage 9

Honolulu Star-Bulletin (Honolulu, Hawaii)21 Mar 1929, ThuPage 10

1930 (age 19)

LA Giants (Pullen trip to Hawaii)

The Pasadena Post (Pasadena, California)03 Nov 1930, MonPage 20

Photo: The baseball cleats of Frank Duncan, Jesse Walker, and Andy Cooper. The wear and tear on Walker’s cleats reveal two things: 1) that he pitched often during his early playing days, and 2) that he lacked the funds to buy new cleats for his tour to Japan in 1927.

In the Spring of 1928, Walker and his teammates narrowly escaped death during a car accident on Golden State Highway (CA-99). The Bakersfield Morning Echo reported “Slippery Pavement Injures 10 Men”: 

Slippery pavements caused by the rains of yesterday were responsible for two traffic crashes in which 10 men received injuries. Two of the men were seriously hurt. M. B. Wood and Alex Shipe, driving from Los Angeles to Eugene, Ore., received painful cuts and bruises about the face and head when the automobile skidded, and turned over on the wet pavement 25 miles south of Dakersfleld on the Golden State Highway, near Grapevine. They were taken to the Emergency Hospital. The eight men injured when their car skidded and crashed into a tree near Switzer’s Tavern on Union avenue were members of the Philadelphia Colored Giants baseball team coming here to play a two-game series. Harold Morris was the most seriously Injured passenger In the automobile. He received a fractured hip and painful cuts about the face. George Adams suffered a deep gash in one leg and several ribs are probably fractured, according to attaches of the Bakersfield Emergency Hospital. Other passengers In the car who received slight cuts and bruises, but left the hospital after receiving emergency treatment were: Jesse Hubbard, Frank Warfield, Jesse Walker, O'Neal Pullen, Reilly (sic) Mackey and “Crush Holloway.”

Source: Bakersfield Morning Echo (Bakersfield, CA), 24 Mar 1928, Sat, Page 1.

Photo from the 1929 tour to Hawaii. 17-year-old Jesse Walker near center, 5th player from left. Source: Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 03 Apr 1929, WedPage 10.

Walker batted .305 during the 1929 tour to Hawaii, fourth best on the team. 

Source: Honolulu Star-Bulletin (Honolulu, Hawaii)17 May 1929, FriPage 35.

Jesse “Hoss” Walker’s Managerial Record

Walker’s managerial record on is incomplete as well. Online records show his managerial career ending in 1948 with the Baltimore Elite Giants, but in fact it ended in 1956 with the Birmingham Black Barons. See managerial record below:

  • 1944 - Cincinnati-Indianapolis Clowns
  • 1945 - Cincinnati-Indianapolis Clowns
  • 1946 - Cincinnati-Indianapolis Clowns
  • 1947 - Cincinnati-Indianapolis Clowns
  • 1948 - Baltimore Elite Giants 
  • 1949 - Baltimore Elite Giants (NNL Champion)
  • 1950 - Nashville Stars / Nashville Cubs
  • 1951 - Baltimore Elite Giants (Nashville-based - player/coach)
  • 1952 - No managerial record
  • 1953 - Birmingham Black Barons  (Mgr. of East in E-W Game, lost)
  • 1954 - Birmingham Black Barons
  • 1955 - Detroit Stars (half season)
  • 1956 - Birmingham Black Barons

Source: The Baltimore Sun, Baltimore, Maryland, 06 Apr 1986, Sun  •  Page 465
Source: The Huntsville Mirror, Huntsville, Alabama, 02 Jun 1956, Sat  •  Page 7

After the 1956 season, we find Jesse Walker out of baseball, married to his new wife Gustavia, and working as a janitor at various locations across Nashville, including the AME Sunday School Union (in 1957) and the Dennis Douglas Garden Center (in 1958). Here are the sources: 

Jessie Walker in the U.S., City Directories, 1822-1995
Name:                 Jessie Walker
Gender:                 Male
Residence Year: 1957
Street Address: 814 10th av S
Residence Place: Nashville, Tennessee, USA
Occupation:         Janitor (with the AME Sunday School Union)
Spouse:                 Gustavia Walker
Publication Title: Nashville, Tennessee, City Directory, 1957

Among the final mentions of Jesse “Hoss” Walker in the press during his lifetime occurred in June 11, 1966 issue of the The Louisiana Weekly (New Orleans, LA) detailing a tribute to local baseball hero, Negro Leaguer Milfred Laurent, slated for Juneteenth (June 19).

A year after his death, Jesse was “sadly missed” by his wife and daughters — as reflected in a remembrance posted in the local paper (below).

Source: The Tennessean, Nashville, Tennessee, 10 Feb 1972, Thu  •  Page 56

Here’s Walker’s profile updated (in  highlights) with the correct information.


Jesse “Hoss” Walker
Positions: Shortstop and Third Baseman
Bats: Right  •  Throws: Right
5-11, 190lb (180cm, 86kg)
Born: September 10, 1911 in Austin, TX
Died: February 10, 1971 in Nashville, TN