The World Series is the most anticipated event and the most exciting time of the season for baseball fans. The American and National League pennant winners clash in what is traditionally referred to as the “Fall Classic” to determine who will get the crown of World Series Champion. It is a huge part of baseball history. This year’s Series, the 113th, began last Tuesday. The Los Angeles Dodgers, a long time National League franchise which began as the Brooklyn Grays in 1890, is going against the Houston Astros who began as a National League franchise in 1962 (Houston Colt 45s) and were switched to the American League in 2013. The Dodgers are after their fifth World Series title (Brooklyn Dodgers 1955, Los Angeles Dodgers 1959, 1963, 1965, 1981, and 1988), while the Astros their first.
But this blog post is not a commentary on the 2017 World Series. It is to give attention to the other World Series also a part of baseball history. On October 3, 1924; the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro National League (NNL) took on the Hilldale Club of Darby, Pennsylvania of the Eastern Colored League (ECL) in the first game of the initial Negro League Baseball World Series. Although never the financial success of the Negro League East-West All Star Game (1933 – 1948), the Negro League World Series gave an indication of Negro League baseball’s attempt at relative stability in the face of its economic and racial discrimination barriers. Held for eleven years, 1924 – 1927 and 1942 – 1948, it is the “forgotten” World Series.
By 1924, the acrimony between the two primary Negro professional baseball leagues had subsided to a level favorable to begin a championship series with the pennant winners of each. Chicago American Giant owner/manager Andrew “Rube” Foster had formed the Negro National League (NNL) in 1920 consisting of teams in mid America (Chicago, Kansas City, St. Louis, etc.). Organized of teams along the eastern seaboard (New York, Philadelphia, Atlantic City, etc.), the Eastern Colored League (ECL) began operating in 1923. Many NNL players broke their contracts to play for more money in the ECL angering Foster. In addition, he had other financial feuds with some owners of ECL teams. However, the leagues were able to forgo their differences to pursue the potential benefits from a championship series.
In an attempt to maximize revenue (ticket sales), league officials decided on a best five out of nine series format; same as the Major League’s World Series in 1919 – 1921. Also, in addition to the cities of the participating teams, some games would be played in cities with a large African-American population.
In the inaugural Negro League World Series in 1924 there were a number of players who now have plaques in the National Baseball Hall of Fame (Cooperstown, New York). The Kansas City Monarchs had pitchers Wilber “Bullet” Rogan, a 1998 Hall of Fame inductee, and Jose Mendez (2006), who also was the team’s manager. Third baseman Judy Johnson inducted in 1975, catcher Biz Mackey (2006) and catcher Louis Santop (2006) were on the Hilldale club. The latter two were involved in one of the key plays in the Series. In Game Seven with the Series tied three games apiece, the Monarchs trailed 3 -2 in the bottom of the ninth inning with two outs and the bases loaded. The Monarch’s batter Frank Duncan hit a foul ball behind home plate within the reach of Santop which should have resulted in a Hilldale victory. But the catcher dropped it, giving Duncan another swing. On the next pitch Duncan hit a ground ball that got past Biz Mackey who was playing shortstop to give the Monarchs a 4 – 2 win.
Hilldale recovered to win Game Eight to tie the Series. Monarch’s manager Jose Mendez, supposedly past his prime at 37 years old, pitched a 5 – 0 shutout in Game Nine for Kansas City to be the first Negro League World Series champion. The teams played the Series in four cities; two games in Philadelphia, one in Baltimore, three in Kansas City, and three in Chicago.
They met again in the 1926 Series, but with a different outcome. accidentally punctured with a needle in the knee by his son, Monarchs pitcher and best hitter “Bullet” Rogan could not play. Hilldale won the Series four games to one. Biz Mackey, who had replaced the aging Louis Santop at catcher, hit .360 including three hits in the Series clinching Game Five.
Both the 1926 and 1927 Negro League World Series featured the NNL’s Chicago American Giants against the ECL’s Atlantic City Bacharach Giants. Due to a debilitating illness to “Rube” Foster, Dave Malarcher took over as manager for Chicago. Excellent pitching highlighted the Series both years. In 1926, Atlantic City left-handed pitcher Red Grier hurled a no-hitter in Game Three. However, Chicago’s Bill Foster, Rube’s brother, was the pitching star for the Series. Inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1996 and considered the best left-handed pitcher in Negro League baseball history, Foster won two games as his team took the Series five games to three. In Game Eight, the Series clincher, he pitched a five hit shutout winning 1 – 0. In the 1927 Series, Atlantic City beat Foster twice. However, he still won Game 1 and Game 8 as Chicago won the Series again five games to three.
In most written accounts of the “Great Depression”, it does not officially start until the New York Stock Market crashes in 1929. However, economic hard times had hit African-Americans by the mid-1920s. Negro League baseball game attendance dramatically declined as fans had no money to support the teams. As a result many Negro League teams, low on capital from the start, went out of business. After the 1927 season, the ECL disbanded and the NNL economically limped to the end of the decade. With only one official league operating and facing extremely difficult economic times, the Negro League World Series disappeared after those four years, 1924 – 1927. However, this is not the end of its story. Stay tuned.
To read more about Negro League baseball history Last Train to Cooperstown
Born on September 16, 1896 in Hillsboro, Texas; Crush Christopher Columbus Holloway did not hit a baseball with the type of power in his Negro League career that fit his name. Holloway’s father legally named him “Crush” after attending a county fair and seeing two old train locomotives crash together head-on that September 16 day his son was born. Crush Holloway was not a home run power slugger; Crush did not “crush” the ball. However, the name was appropriate for his style of running bases.
He was known for his speed; not his power. An aggressive base stealer and an excellent bunter who consistently batted .300 during his career, Holloway caused havoc to opposing infielders and catchers as a lead-off batter. He ran the bases with reckless abandon, sliding hard with his file sharpened spikes aimed at infielders. If a catcher was blocking home plate, “Crush” would not hesitate running him over to score a run. In the book, “Voice from the Great Baseball Leagues” by John Holway, Holloway said, “My hero was Ty Cobb. That’s why I ran the bases like I did”.
The right handed hitting outfielder, 5’11’ and 180 pounds, started his Negro League career playing with the Indianapolis ABCs in 1921. His ABC teammates included Hall of Famers Oscar Charleston, Biz Mackey, and Ben Taylor. Beginning in 1924, he spent the remainder of his nineteen year career (1921-1939) with eastern teams including eight seasons with the Baltimore Black Sox where his teammates included Hall of Famers Pete Hill and Jud Wilson.
Read about Crush Holloway’s teammates Ben Taylor, Biz Mackey, Ben Taylor, Pete Hill, and Jud Wilson in my book “Last Train to Cooperstown: The 2006 Baseball Hall of Fame Inductees from the Negro League Baseball Era”. For more information, go to www.klmitchell.com or http://booklaunch.io/kevinlmitchell/last-train-to-cooperstown.
Yesterday was the birth date of Negro League baseball player James Raleigh “Biz” Mackey; born on July 27, 897 in Eagle Pass, Texas.The following is an excerpt from my book, Last Train in Cooperstown: The 2006 Baseball Hall of Fame Inductees from the Negro League Baseball Era, which contains a profile of the Hall of Fame catcher;
“Eagle Pass, Texas is a small town south of Del Rio near the
Mexican border. Here on July 27, 1897 James Raleigh “Biz” Mackey
opened his eyes the first time. This makes him another member of
the Texas fraternity of Negro League ballplayers from the Lone Star
state; that includes Andy Cooper, Willie Wells, Rube Foster, Louis
Santop, and others. Before becoming a teenager he moved with his
family to Luling which is east of San Antonio on the road to
Houston. The Mackeys were sharecroppers. Biz, along with his
brothers, worked on the farm most of the day and then played
baseball until dark. They used boards as bats and anything they
could find as a ball.. By 1916 the black amateur baseball team in
Luling, the Oilers, had three Mackey brothers on its roster; Ray,
Ernest, and Biz.”
To read more about “Biz” Mackey one of the best catchers in baseball history, Last Train to Cooperstown is available via http://www.blackrosewriting.com/sports/last-train-to-cooperstown or Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble.com, and all bookstores.
There were two other hall of Fame players along with Mackey on the 1921 Indianapolis ABCs? Name them.