Stop 4 – Cornerstone Elementary Playground

Cornerstone Elementary Playground 101 W. Bowman St., Wooster (sign located at playground behind School) – Site of the original Wooster High School football field where Charles starts his historic sports journey.

As a Junior at Wooster High School in 1898, Charles started in their first ever football team. Already a standout track and field performer, and star catcher and slugger, his athletic prowess and personal charisma resulted in his selection as captain of the football team. Charles led the Wooster football team to two undefeated seasons his junior and senior years, earning him the nickname “The Black Cyclone.” He then played in Shelby, Ohio, where he was paid $10 per game making him the first African American professional football player. Charles’ ability and character impressed his Shelby Blues teammate Branch Rickey. Charles Follis finished his pro sports career as a standout catcher and slugger for The Cuban Giants Negro League, Trenton, New Jersey. 

Charles Follis died in 1910 from pneumonia at the age of 30. He is buried in the Wooster Cemetery with his family. In 1947, as fan interest in Major League Baseball was waning, Branch Rickey (remembering his old teammate Charles Follis’ character and ability) signed Jackie Robinson to the Brooklyn Dodgers. This signing broke the race barrier, bringing an end to segregation in professional baseball. 

This site is also notable in its special hill named for Daniel Broehl. He also exemplified the power of a bright, positive spirit, and passed way too young. His father, David, worked tirelessly to help build this playground. He shared that drive and enthusiasm as a member The Charles Follis Committee.