Tag Archives: Baseball Hall of Fame

A Snapshot of Negro League Baseball’s Cum Posey

Cumberland “Cum” Willis Posey, born June 20, 1891 began his baseball career playing with a black team in his hometown of Homestead, Pennsylvania; the Homestead Grays in  1911.  After becoming the team’s owner in 1920, Posey had turned the Homestead Grays into one of the most renowned and successful Negro League Baseball franchises by the time he died in 1946. From 1937 – 1945, the Grays finished first in the Negro National League eight times and played in four Negro League World Series, winning two:  1943 and 1944.

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In 2006, Cum Posey and fifteen other individuals from the Negro League baseball era were inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. I profile the 2006 inductees in my book “Last Train to Cooperstown: The 2006 Baseball Hall of Fame Inductees from the Negro League Baseball Era”.  The following is an  exert from my book with a preview of the chapter about Posey:

As the country’s economic condition worsened, Posey struggled

to pay the salaries of his ball players in 1932. He also faced a major

challenge from the new black team in Pittsburgh started by Gus

Greenlee a night club/restaurant owner and numbers operator, the

Pittsburgh Crawfords. He used a tactic Posey himself employed to

steal players from other teams. Greenlee offered the Grays’ best

players more money than Posey could pay them. Josh Gibson, Oscar

Charleston, and three other players took Greenlee’s offer and

signed with the Crawfords. Other players for the Grays also left for

other teams.

 

Determined to not let his team die, Cum Posey formed a

business partnership in 1934 with Rufus “Sonnyman” Jackson,

Homestead’s main black numbers operator. Posey operated the

club while Jackson provided the financial backing. Many black

sportswriters thought partnering with whom some called “black

mobsters” hurt Negro League baseball’s image with the fans. But

Posey and the other black owners said financial backing from

those men did not influence the teams’ performance on the field.

The numbers bosses were just fans who loved the game. The truth

was that if it were not for their investment Negro professional

baseball may not have survived.

 

Jackson’s financial backing allowed Posey to step away from

being the field manager and devote all his time to rebuilding the

team. He brought on Buck Leonard in 1934 as the first step of

putting together what would be the most dominant Negro League

team in the late 1930s and 1940s. The next year the Grays joined

the Negro National League (NNL). Despite Posey’s rebuilding

efforts, the team could not finish ahead of the Pittsburgh Crawfords.

In 1937 Posey got Josh Gibson back in a trade with his crosstown

rival. Part of the trade, as rumored, included “Sonnyman” Jackson

paying off a gambling debt of the Crawfords’ owner. By getting back

Gibson, Posey had the final piece to add to Leonard and the other players he assembled to

begin the Grays’ winning tradition.”

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To read more about Cum Posey and the Negro League baseball era Last Train to Cooperstown

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Snapshot of Negro League Baseball’s Sol White

King Solomon “Sol” White wrote about the plight of the late 19th Century and early 20th Century African-American professional baseball player, of which he himself experienced.  Born June 12, 1868 in Bellaire, Ohio, White played with teams in the minor league system of white professional baseball in the 1880s.  In the 1890s when the color line became solidified banning African-American and dark-skinned Hispanics, he then played with a number of the best Negro baseball teams and later the co-owner/manager of the Philadelphia Giants, one of the best black teams of the early 1900s.  His book written in 1907, “History of Colored Baseball”, gives a picture of obstacles he and other African-American professional baseball players faced as the game began its journey to become “the National Pastime”.

In 2006, Sol White and fifteen other individuals from the Negro League baseball era were inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. I profile the 2006 inductees in my book “Last Train to Cooperstown: The 2006 Baseball Hall of Fame Inductees from the Negro League Baseball Era”.  The following is a book exert from my profile of Sol White:

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“In 1890 Sol White played for the Monarchs of York,

Pennsylvania. The team’s owner, J. Monroe Kreiter, had also

attracted many of the players from the previous year’s Cuban

Giants. Failing in their attempt to get higher salaries from the

Giants’ owner, John M. Bright, the players were easily lured away by

the money that Kreiter offered. The Monarchs represented the city

of York in the Eastern Interstate League. It would be one of the last

breaks in the color line.

White played briefly in 1895 with Fort Wayne, Indiana of the

Western Interstate League. It would be the last time he played on an

integrated team. As the 1890s came to a close there were no black

players in organized white baseball. The ‘invisible color line” had

been set and would stay intact for over 40 years.

With the door to Major League professional baseball closed for

African-American players, Sol White continued his career in the

1890s with teams that were a part of Negro League baseball’s

early beginnings. They were African-American teams that played

small town white semi‐pro teams, other black teams, and anyone

that wanted to play them. No official Negro League existed at that

time. He played for the Cuban Giants in 1893 –1894, the Page

Fence Giants in 1895, the Cuban X Giants in 1896 –1899, and the

Chicago Columbia Giants in 1900. All of which were top African

American professional teams of that period.

In 1902 White joined forces with white sportswriter H. Walter

Schlichter to start a new black team, the Philadelphia Giants. As co-owner,

team manager, and one of the team’ top players, White

built what some called one of the best black teams of the new

century’ first ten years. Some of the best black players of that time

such as Frank Grant, Pete Hill, Charlie Grant, Grant “Home Run Johnson”

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Philadelphia Giants (Sol White fifth from left on back row)

To read more about the Negro League baseball era Last Train to Cooperstown

 

The Negro League Baseball Fact For Today – George “Mule” Suttles

Teammates would say when Negro League power hitter George “Mule” Suttles, born March 31, 1900 or 1901, swung his bat at a pitch they could feel the earth shake. “Kick Mule, Kick Mule”, is what fans and teammates would chant when “Mule” came up to bat.  The fifty ounce bat he swung was a testament to his strength.

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Although the year of his birth is in dispute one thing is not, other than Josh Gibson; no other power slugger was feared by Negro League pitchers more than “Mule”.  Suttles may not have hit more home runs than Gibson, but he could hit them as far.

The following about Suttles is an excerpt from my book, Last Train in Cooperstown:  The 2006 Baseball Hall of Fame Inductees from the Negro League Baseball Era:

“Because of the lack of documented Negro League baseball statistics, the total number of home runs hit by Suttles is not known. Supposedly, he led the Negro National League in round trippers twice. There is an eyewitness account of a 500 foot home run he hit over the centerfield fence at Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C. Hall of Fame Negro League shortstop Willie Wells frequently told the story of a 600 foot home run “Mule” hit at Havana’s Tropical Park while playing in the Cuban Winter League. The ball carried out of the stadium and over the heads of the Cuban soldiers on horseback doing crowd control duty behind the fence. Afterwards, a marker was supposedly placed at the spot the ball landed commemorating “Mule’s” blast. Another version of that home run has it landing in the ocean.

 Chico Renfro, former Kansas City Monarch’s infielder and longtime sports editor recalled, “Suttles had the rawest power of any player I’ve ever seen.” Since the major white newspapers mainly ignored Negro League baseball, “Mule” was not included when the Major League power hitters of that time ‐ Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Hack Wilson, Jimmie Foxx, and others, were given national media recognition. However, “Mule” was popular among Negro League baseball fans because they knew the stories about his home run power.”

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To read more about “Mule” Suttles and the Negro League baseball era Last Train To Cooperstown

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Effa Manley: The Only Woman in the Baseball Hall of Fame

Effa Manley, born March 27, 1897, is the only woman elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.  Inducted in 2006, Mrs. Manley and her husband Abe were the owners of the Newark Eagles; one of the most renowned Negro League baseball teams (1936 – 1949).  A Caucasian thought to be black because she was raised in an African-American family, Mrs. Manley ran the day-to-day operations of the team.  Very outspoken and opinionated, she had to fight not only racism but also the male chauvinist attitudes of the other Negro League baseball owners to be successful.  Her team won the 1946 Negro League World Series Championship.

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Abe and Effa Manley

The following about Mrs. Manley is an excerpt from my book, Last Train in Cooperstown:  The 2006 Baseball Hall of Fame Inductees from the Negro League Baseball Era:

“While attending the 1932 World Series she met her husband,

Abraham Manley, who was also an avid baseball fan and at least 12

‐ 15 years her senior. Manley was a real estate investor and also

supposedly ran one of the biggest illegal “numbers” game

operations in Newark. The success of his endeavors would provide

the funds for him and his wife’s entry into Negro League baseball.

They married in 1935. He was the second of four husbands Effa

would have in her lifetime.

In that same year they formed a Negro League team in

Brooklyn called the “Eagles”. Mrs. Manley said the name came from

her husband’s hopes that “they would fly high.” From the very

beginning as baseball team owners, the Manleys had a clearly

defined partnership, one she described as perfect. Abe provided

the money and despite having no prior financial experience, Effa

took an active role as co‐owner by handling the day-to-day

operations of the team. Mrs. Manley had what proved to be natural

business instincts and ownership skills. She did it all: arranged

playing schedules, planned team travel, handled payroll, bought

equipment, negotiated player contracts, and handled publicity. The

team played their home games at Ebbets Field, home of Brooklyn’s

Major League team, the Dodgers.”

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To read more about the Negro League baseball era Last Train To Cooperstown

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The Negro League Baseball History Fact For Today – John Henry Russell

In celebration of Black History Month, here is Today’s Negro League Baseball History Fact: John Henry Russell.

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Although primarily a second baseman, John Henry Russell’s versatility gave him the ability to also play first base, third base, or shortstop during his 12 year Negro League baseball career (1923 – 1934). Born February 24, 1898 in Dolcito, Alabama, he gained the reputation of being excellent on defense by using quick hands and feet combined with a strong throwing arm.  He did not consistently have a high batting average, but his speed made him a better than average baserunner.

After starting his career with the Memphis Red Sox, Russell played with the St. Louis Stars (1926 – 1930). He paired with Hall of Fame shortstop Willie Wells for the Stars to have one of the best double play combinations in the Negro Leagues during that time.  St. Louis, who also had Hall of Fame center fielder James “Cool Papa” Bell and Hall of Fame first baseman George “Mule” Suttles, won the Negro National League championship in 1928 and 1930.

While with the Pittsburgh Crawfords (1931 – 1933), Russell received honor from Negro League fans by being selected to play in the inaugural East-West All Star Game. On that September 10th at Chicago’s Comiskey Park, Russell shared the field with such Negro League greats as Satchel Paige, Oscar Charleston, and others.

Negro League baseball is not just a part of African-American history, but is woven into the fabric of 20th Century American history.

To read more about the Negro League Baseball Era Last Train To Cooperstown

 

 

The Negro League Baseball History Fact For Today – Raymond Brown

In celebration of Black History Month, here is Today’s Negro League Baseball History Fact:  Raymond Brown.

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Like all pitchers in Negro League baseball during the 1930s and 1940s, Raymond Brown’s accomplishments on the mound were overshadowed by the talent, charismatic personality, and showmanship of Satchel Paige. However Brown, born on February 23, 1908 in Algiers, Ohio, helped pitch the Homestead Grays to eight Negro National League (NNL) pennants and two Negro League World Series championships.

In 2006, Raymond Brown was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.  The following is an excerpt about him from my book, Last Train in Cooperstown: The 2006 Baseball Hall of Fame Inductees from the Negro League Baseball Era. 

”Of the five players the sportswriters suggested to the Pirates,

Brown has received the least notoriety in his career. Like other

Negro League hurlers, Raymond Brown’s abilities on the mound

were overshadowed by the great Satchel Paige. The most famous

pitcher in Negro League baseball during the 1930s and 1940s,

Paige’s accomplishments and showmanship antics on the mound

were well known.  Articles on him appeared not only in Negro

newspapers, but also in large national ones that seldom carried

anything about black baseball. Because of their refusal to cover the

Negro Leagues, those newspapers missed heralding that no Negro League pitcher won

more than Raymond Brown.  When Brown

pitched his Homestead Grays knew they had a great chance for

victory. If he had possessed some of Paige’s talent for showmanship

on the mound, Brown would have received more of Satchel’s fame.

A versatile athlete, Brown made his debut into the world in

Algers, Ohio on February 22 or 23, 1908.  Located in western Ohio,

the town is half the distance between Toledo and Dayton.  He used

his 6’1”, 195 pound frame to become an all‐state basketball center

in high school. But that did not distract him from playing the game

he loved ‐ baseball.  Brown could not only pitch, but he swung a

solid bat. Early in his career he played outfield on days he had not

been scheduled to pitch. The switch hitter also frequently pinch hit.”

After leaving Negro League baseball in 1946, Brown pitched first in the Mexican League and then during the early 1950’s in Canadian semi-professional leagues

Negro League baseball is not just a part of African-American history, but is woven into the fabric of 20th Century American history.

To read more about Raymond Brown and the Negro League baseball era Last Train To Cooperstown

 

 

The Negro League Baseball History Fact For Today – “Cool Papa” Bell

In celebration of Black History Month, here is Today’s Negro League Baseball History Fact: James “Cool Papa” Bell.

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In February 13, 1974; Negro League outfielder James “Cool Papa” was elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Many of the stories describing Bell’s speed were exaggerations (“He turned off the light switch and he got in the bed before the lights went off”). But; clocked at 12 seconds circling all the bases, he is considered one of the fastest runners in all baseball history.

Bell started his playing career as a pitcher. His manager called him “Cool Papa” because he kept his composure during pressure situations on the mound.  The nickname stayed with Bell even though he hurt his pitching arm and played outfield the rest of his career.

His Negro League baseball career spanned three decades (1922 – 1946).

From 1922 – 1931 he played for the St. Louis Stars. He teamed with fellow members of the Hall of Fame shortstop Willie Wells and first baseman George “Mules” Suttles to help the team win three National Negro League championships (1928, 1930 – 1931).

While in his 30’s, Bell wore the uniform of the Pittsburgh Crawfords (1933 – 1938); one of the best teams assembled in Negro League history.  Hall of Fame players Oscar Charleston, Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Judy Johnson, and Jud Wilson were teammates of Bell at times during this period.  The Crawfords were National Negro League champions in 1935.

Still playing while in his 40’s, Bell helped the Homestead Grays win Negro League World Series championships in 1943 and 1944.

Negro League baseball is not just a part of African-American history, but ii is woven into the fabric of 20th Century American history.

To read more about the Negro League baseball era Last Train To Cooperstown

 

 

 

 

Happy Birthday Henry Aaron

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Happy Birthday Henry Aaron!

Today marks the eighty-third birthday of the Hall of Fame (inducted in 1982) outfielder. Born February 5, 1934 in Mobile, Alabama; Aaron signed with the Boston Braves in 1952 after playing half of a season with the Negro League baseball Indianapolis Clowns.  Aaron spent two years destroying pitchers in the Braves’ minor league system.  While one of the first African Americans in the Southern Atlantic League (Sally League) in 1953, he hit .362 with 22 home runs and won the league’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) award.  However, Aaron thought at best he would be assigned to the Braves’ Triple A team in Toledo, Ohio.

On March 3, 1954 during an exhibition game in Florida; Milwaukee Braves outfielder Bobby Thomson broke his ankle sliding into second base on a force play. Three years after his pennant clinching home run for the New York Giants, Thomson had come to the Braves in a trade to add power to their line-up.  It was a forgone conclusion when spring training began that the Braves’ opening day outfield would be Thomson along with Billy Bruton, and Andy Pafko.  But with Thomson out for with a triple fractured ankle, the Braves had to change their plan.

With the previous year’s reserve outfielder Jim Pendleton not reporting to spring training in an effort to get a salary increase, the Braves’ turned to Aaron. The next day in his first time in the starting outfield, he hit a home run.  Exceeding his expectations, Aaron left spring training as the Braves opening day left fielder.

Aaron went hitless in five at bats during the season opener in Cincinnati on April 13, but got two hits in the Braves home opener on April 15. In St. Louis on April 23 against Cardinal pitcher Vic Raschi, Aaron hit his first Major League home run.  He finished 1954, his rookie season, batting .282 with 13 home runs and 59 RBIs.  He finished fourth in the Rookie of the Year award voting behind Gene Conley, Ernie Banks, and Wally Moon.

Hall of Fame Negro League Outfielder Cristobal Torriente

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Cristobal Torriente, like most of the 2006 National Baseball Hall of Fame inductees from Negro League baseball, had not been well-known to many baseball fans. That includes a long time one such as yours truly.  His feats on the diamond had not been celebrated as contributions to Negro League lore similar to those of Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, James “Cool Papa” Bell and the other Negro League legends that had previously been enshrined in Cooperstown.  But Torreinte deserved Hall of Fame recognition and he received it in 2006.

Born in Cienfuegos, Cuba on November 16, 1893, Torriente saw a few of his white countrymen play Major League baseball. However, he could not due to the dark hue of his skin.  Just like African-American professional baseball players for nearly half of the 20th Century, he could not cross Major League baseball’s “invisible color line”.  Instead, Torriente showcased his baseball talents in the Negro Leagues.

In a poll of former Negro League players and sportswriters conducted in the early 1950s, Cristobal Torriente was named one of the best outfielders to play in the Negro Leagues. Known as the “Cuban Strongman, the left-handed slugger stood 5’11”, 185 pounds, with broad shoulders, and a rifle for a throwing arm.

The following is an excerpt from my book, Last Train to Cooperstown: The 2006 Baseball Hall of Fame Inductees from the Negro League Baseball Era, which profiles the Hall of Fame outfielder:

“Pitchers had a hard time getting him out due to his quick,

powerful swing. They could not throw strikes pass him. Getting him

to swing at pitches out of the strike zone also did not work because

the Cuban was a notorious bad ball hitter. Facing him was an

experience pitchers dreaded.

 

Many stories have been told as a testimony of the Cuban’s

power when batting. One is about a line drive he hit off the right

field wall in Indianapolis against the ABCs. Supposedly the ball was

hit so hard, it got to the wall so fast, the right fielder was able to

throw the speedy Torriente out at first base. Another story is about

a ball he supposedly hit in Kansas City against the Monarchs. It

smashed a clock 17 feet above the centerfield fence. According to

Torriente’s American Giant teammate shortstop Bob Williams,

“The hand of the clock started going round and round.” It is doubtful

all the stories of balls hit by Torriente are true. But there is no

doubt he was one of the best hitters seen by Negro League fans.

 

Little is known about the early life of Cristobal Torriente in

Cuba. From most information, he was born in 1893 in Cienfuegos.

His family worked in the fields and boiler houses of the area’s sugar

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mills. By 17 he was in the Cuban Army displaying his physical

strength by loading heavy guns onto mules; while also blasting

baseballs around local sandlots.

 

After being a young phenomenon in the 1913 Cuban Winter

League, the 19 year old Torriente joined the Cuban Stars and played

his first season in the United States. The Stars were a traveling team

that played mainly against independent black professional baseball

teams. No official African American league existed at the time, but

the Stars competed against such black teams as the New York

Lincoln Giants, New York Lincoln Stars, Chicago American Giants,

and others. The change in surroundings did not hinder Torriente.

He quickly began to establish himself as the team’s hitting star

going up against the likes of “Smokey Joe” Williams, “Cannonball”

Dick Redding, ”Big Bill” Gatewood, and other Negro League

pitchers. By many accounts, Torriente hit .383 that first year. And if

the Stars’ opponents believed that was just rookie luck, the strong

Cuban put that to rest the next season by again hitting over .300. In

his years with the Cuban Stars, he reportedly never hit less than

.300.”

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For more of Cristobal Torriente’s Negro League baseball story, read Last Train to Cooperstown:The 2006 Baseball Hall of Fame Inductees from the Negro League Baseball Era”.  For more information, go to http://booklaunch.io/kevinlmitchell/last-train-to-cooperstown.

 

 

 

Pete Hill: Contemporary of Ty Cobb

hill-1                                                   Pete Hill Blog picture

Today is the birth date of Negro League baseball player John Preston “Pete” Hill; born on October 12, around 1882 or 1884 in Virginia (Culpeper County).

The following is an excerpt from my book, Last Train to Cooperstown:  The 2006 Baseball Hall of Fame Inductees from the Negro League Baseball Era, which profiles the Hall of Fame outfielder: 

“A star in Negro League baseball during the first quarter of the 20thCentury, Pete Hill was called the black Ty Cobb. Major League owners and executives futilely denied that it was not racism that kept African-Americans like Hill and others out of white organized baseball during that time. This implied that black players did not have the skills and abilities for big league baseball, which was not true and why the “color line” that kept black players out was invisible. If it were true, Negro League players would not have been compared to the Major League ones as they commonly were before the “color line” was erased. John Henry “Pop” Lloyd, one of the best pre‐1920 players in Negro League baseball, was referred to as the “black” Honus Wagner; his contemporary at shortstop that played for the Pittsburgh Pirates (1900 –1917)and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939. Pete Hill’ accomplishments on the field were compared to Ty Cobb; who in his Major League career (1905 ‐ 1928) hit over .400 three times, finished with a .366 career batting average, and was also inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939. It is a comparison painted by racism, but it gives an indication of Hill’ talents as a ballplayer. As Cobb was making life miserable for opposing American League pitchers, Pete Hill was the hitting superstar on three pre‐1920 era premier African American teams.”

“At 6” 1”, 215 lbs., Hill was a left-handed line drive hitter that was hard to defend because he hit the ball to all fields. A contact hitter that seldom swung and missed, he was a “tough out” for right handed and left-handed pitchers. Cum Posey, the long‐time owner of Negro League baseball’ Homestead Grays called Pete Hill, “he most consistent hitter of his time.” Negro League first baseman Ben Taylor who played on teams that were opponents of Hill called him “one of the most dangerous hitters a pitcher could ever face in a tough situation.” A 1910 article in the African-American Chicago Defender newspaper stated, “ete Hill would be a star in the Major Leagues if he were white. He can do anything a white player can do. He can hit, run, throw, and is what can be termed a wise, heady ballplayer.”

To learn more about Pete Hill who was one of best hitters in baseball history, read Last Train to Cooperstown:  The 2006 Baseball Hall of Fame Inductees from the Negro League Baseball Era”.    http://booklaunch.io/kevinlmitchell/last-train-to-cooperstown.

 

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