Stop 9 – Oakland / Most Pure Heart of Mary Cemetery

252 S. Gamble St., Shelby (South entrance, near Chapel) Frank Schiffer’s headstone is just before the brick building on left. He was the first owner in the Ohio

Frank Schiffer, and his wife Julia, were pivotal in Charles Follis’ becoming the first black professional football player in America. Frank was a prominent businessman, and tobacco broker in Shelby at the end of the 19th century. As a business leader, he became an ardent supporter of this new, popular game of football. Frank was a tremendous advocate of the Shelby Athletic Club (later Shelby Blues). After facing Charles at a game against the Wooster Athletic Club, when Shelby barely won 8-0 “due to the spirited play of Follis on offense and defense” (Wooster Daily Record). Frank Schiffer schemed to bring Follis to Shelby as he stated, “I never want to play against Follis again.” He offered $10.00 a game to Follis in 1902. Charles won over the community and stayed in Shelby until 1906.While in Shelby, Charles’ ability and character impressed his teammate Branch Rickey. 

Charles Follis finished his pro sports career as a standout catcher and slugger for The Cuban Giants Negro League from Trenton, New Jersey, and sadly passed in 1910 after contracting 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.