St. Christopher Club was an amateur African-American basketball team in the early 1900s. The team won or shared the designation Colored Basketball World’s Champions four times (1914, 1917-19). They were also referred to as the “St. C.’s” and the “Red and Black Machine.”
The basketball team, which began play in 1905, was one of many social events and athletic activities sponsored by the St. Christopher Club of St. Philip’s Protestant Episcopal Church. These athletic events were opportunities for young men to engage in “muscular Christianity” to build a strong body and good character and to provide alternative pursuits to young men facing many challenges. While St. Philip’s was the wealthiest Black church in New York (and possibly America), it was located in the infamous Tenderloin section of Manhattan, on West 25th Street, an African American community known for the white-owned attractions that catered to various sinful activities. In 1910 the Church moved to the suburbs, building a new building in Harlem and its parishioners followed. It remains on 134th Street to this day.
In 1907 they joined the Olympian Athletic League, which included which included notable rivals Alpha Physical Culture Club of Harlem and the Smart Set Athletic Club of Brooklyn, as well as the Marathon Athletic Club of Brooklyn and the Jersey City Colored YMCA. In 1913, St. Christopher’s lightweight team won the championship of New York and New Jersey.
In the 1913-14 season, the St. Christopher heavyweight team vastly improved under new manager, Will Anthony Maddon. He hired a well-regarded white coach, Jeff Wetzler, and beefed up the line-up with talented new players, notably former New York All-Stars Charlie Bradford and Ferdinand Accooe. The during the season St. Christopher defeated their rivals, the Alpha Physical Culture Club twice to win the New York metro championship. At the end of the season in April, St. Christopher defeated Howard University and won the first of four Colored Basketball World titles.
In the 1916-17 season, St. Christopher featured such notable players as Paul Robeson,Clarence “Fats” Jenkins, Harold Jenkins (Fats brother), and veteran Charlie Bradford, and was deemed to have tied the Incorporators for the Colored World championship. Robeson and the Jenkins brothers led St. Christopher to two more World titles in 1918 and 1919.
St. Christopher essentially dismantled its team in the fall of 1920, dropping Paul Robeson, Johnny Capers, Fabby Robbins, George Faill, and Fats Jenkins, all on grounds of professionalism. Only Harold Jenkins remained. The team was a mere shell of its former self. Later in the season, in January, St. Christopher joined with a group of amateur clubs to form the Metropolitan Basketball Association Other members included Titan Athletic Club, Borough Athletic Club, Alpha Physical Culture Club, and Spartan Field Club.
Finding its team hopelessly outclassed against the competition, St. Christopher in January brought back most of the players it dropped weeks earlier. The team had only a so-so season, and in one of the team’s occasional intersectional games, St. Christopher met the Forty Club team from Chicago, led by Sol Butler and Virgil Blueitt, and lost.