The baseball story of Neale “Bobo” Henderson is one of a childhood dream coming true but falling short of adult aspiration.
Born on June 24, 1930 in Fort Smith, Arkansas; Henderson was exposed to Negro League baseball at an early age. On the Kansas City Monarchs’ frequent trips to Fort Smith, a favorite Negro League barnstorming stop, he was the team’s batboy. This allowed him to see Josh Gibson, “Cool Papa” Bell, and other Negro League stars up close. It was his childhood dream to someday play with the Monarchs.
After moving to San Diego, California “Bobo” became a football and baseball star in high school. The nearly six feet, speedy switch hitting outfielder played against Eddie Matthews and other white future Major League players who attended high school in Southern California. Although the “invisible color line” had been erased, no Major League team pursued Henderson after graduation. However, his childhood dream came true when he signed in 1949 with the Kansas City Monarchs.
He began with the Monarchs at the time Negro League baseball was declining. Despite a quote system that kept many of them in the minor leagues, the best African American players were being signed by Major League teams. In Henderson’s 1949 – 1953 years with the Monarchs, which included time he spent in military service, six of his teammates signed with Major League clubs: Ernie Banks, Elston Howard, Gene Baker, Connie Johnson, Frank Barnes, and Bob Thurman.
But despite his obvious talent, Henderson never played in the Major Leagues.
Which one of Neale Henderson’s former teammates on the Monarchs pitched two no-hitters in the minor leagues?