Tag Archives: Negro League Baseball

The Last Negro League World Series Champions -Part Two

A major mews media story line about the Washington Nationals’ 2019 World Series is the team’s ending of a 95 year drought of no World Series championship for Washington D. C. baseball fans. However, as I discussed in my previous blog post, the 1924 Washington Senators were not the last professional baseball team in Washington, D. C. to win a World Series.  The last professional baseball champions from Washington D. C. were the 1948 Homestead Grays.

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Buck Leronard

The 1948 Negro League World Series pitted the Homestead Grays against the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro American League, a third Series re-match.  The Grays had defeated the Black Barons in the 1943 and 1944 Series.

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Birmingham Black Barons

The teams played the 1948 Series as aftershocks from the racial integration of Major League baseball were just beginning.  Jackie Robinson’s 1947 successful season erased the “invisible color line” opening the door for the initially slow but eventual flow of African American and dark-skinned Hispanics into the Major Leagues.  The erasing of the color line had come too late for 40 years old Homestead Grays first baseman Buck Leonard and the Grays’ power-hitting catcher Josh Gibson who had died in early 1947.  However, 1948 Grays’ players first baseman Luke Easter, pitcher/outfielder Bob Thurman, pitcher Bob Trice, and outfielder Luis Marquez, all went on to play in the Major Leagues.  For the 1948 Birmingham Black Barons infielder Artie Wilson, pitchers Bill Greason and Jehosie Heard would briefly play in the Major Leagues.  But the Black Barons’ 17 years old center fielder, Willie Mays, would have a Hall of Fame Major League career.

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Willie Mays

Having to rent playing facilities for their games, Negro League teams had to adjust game schedules to field rental availability.  Griffith Stadium had been booked for Washington Redskins football games, so the Grays did not play any home games in the Series.  Three of the games had to be played at Rickwood Field in Birmingham, home of the Birmingham Barons Southern League team.

Not all the Negro League World Series games were played in the cities of the participating teams.  World Series games were played also in other cities with a large population of African Americans.  Negro League officials saw playing the Series in multiple cities would afford more African American baseball fans the opportunity to see the games and hopefully maximize ticket sales.  For the 1948 Series in addition to the games played in Birmingham, Kansas City and New Orleans also hosted games.

The Grays won the first two games of the Series, 4 – 3 and 5 – 3.  The Black Barons rebounded to win Game Three. The Grays outscored the Black Barons 25 – 7 to win the final two games of the Series.

The shift in the interest of African American baseball fans clearly revealed itself during the 1948 Series.  The fans were more interested in following the few African American players in the Major Leagues.  They saw the integrated Major League games as racial and social progress.  African American baseball fans were focused on the 1948 Major League World Series contest between the Cleveland Indians and the Boston Braves.  Former Negro League players Larry Doby and Leroy “Satchel” Paige played for the Indians.

The October 16, 1948 issue of the Baltimore Afro American, one of the leading national black newspapers at that time, is an example of the fan interest shift. The weekly paper’s front page headline that day:  “DOBY SERIES HERO, Young Fielder Is Brilliant.  Single in Sixth Game Beats Boston.  Slams First Homer Over CenterField.”  The adjoining front page article highlights Larry Doby’s contributions, his leading .318 Series Batting Average with 1 home run, in the Cleveland Indians’ four games to two games victory over the Boston Braves.  Also on the front page, the photo of teammates Doby and Cleveland pitcher Steve Gromek in a smiling embrace after the Indians’ 2 – 1 win in Game 5.  The photo of Doby whose third inning homer broke a 1-1 tie and Gromek the winning pitcher sent a new visual message across the country of racial harmony in Major League Baseball.  On the front page also, an article questioning  “Satchel” Paige’s role with the Indians for 1949.  He had only pitched two-thirds of an inning in the Series.

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On the Sports Page, buried under additional headlines, articles, and pictures about Doby, and Paige, the paper had a brief article about the Homestead Grays’ 11 – 6 win over the Birmingham Black Barons in Game Five to be the 1948 Negro League World Series champion.             

The Negro League World Series ended after 1948.  The Negro National League disbanded before the next season began.  The Homestead Grays stopped functioning as a professional baseball team.  Negro League baseball limped through the 1950s selling their best players to the Major Leagues before fading away in the early 1960s.

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Luke Easter

In 2009 the Washington Nationals paid tribute to the Homestead Grays by placing a statue of Grays’ Hall of Fame catcher Josh Gibson in the Center Field Plaza at Nationals’ Park.  Negro League baseball operated in the shadow of the Major Leagues for nearly half of the 20th Century.  However, the Washington Nationals’ 2019 World Series triumph shined a larger spotlight on the Homestead Grays.  The Nationals’ 2019 World Series championship brought the Homestead Grays from behind that shadow to show the teams’ place in Washington D. C. professional baseball history.

The Last Negro League World Series Champions – Part 1

Congratulations to the Washington Nationals, the 2019 Major League Baseball World Series Champions! With their 6 – 2 win in Game Seven over the Houston Astros, the Nationals become the seventh team qualifying for the playoffs as the “Wild Card” to win the World Series; the last being the 2014 San Francisco Giants.

Also, as one of the 2019 Fall Classic’s story lines, with their victory the Washington Nationals ended a 95 year drought of having a World Series championship for Washington D. C. baseball fans.  Fox Sports announcer Joe Buck mentioned this as the Nationals took command of Game Seven Wednesday night.   The 1924 Washington Senators were World Series champions after defeating the New York Giants 4 games to 3.   Hall of Fame pitcher Walter “Big Train” Johnson (23 – 7 with a 2.72 ERA) and Hall of Fame outfielder Goose Goslin (12 HRs, a league leading 129 RBIs, .344 BA.) lead that Senators’ championship team.  However, the 1924 Washington Senators were not the last professional baseball team in Washington, D. C. to win a World Series before the Nationals won this year.  That distinction had belonged to the Homestead Grays, one of the most renowned franchises in Negro League professional baseball.  The Grays were Negro League World Series champions in 1943, 1944, and 1948.

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After losing the 1933 World Series to the New York Giants, the Washington Senators finished .500 or above only once more in the 1930s, twice in the 1940s, and twice in the early 1950s.  Despite showing signs of improvement in 1960, the team finished below .500 for the seventh straight year.  The franchise then moved to Minneapolis and became the Minnesota Twins.

In 1961 the American League placed a new Washington Senators franchise in D.C., an expansion club, but it finished near or at the bottom in the league’s standings from 1961 – 1968.  Hall of Fame slugger Ted Williams became manager in 1969 and led the Senators to an 87 – 75 record.  However, after finishing below .500 for the 1971 season the Senators’ owner moved the franchise to the Dallas-Fort Worth area and the team became the Texas Rangers.  Major League Baseball would not return to Washington, D. C. until 2005 when the Montreal Expos National League franchise moved to the nation’s capital and became the Washington Nationals.

For nearly the first half of the 20th Century, the “invisible color line” in white organized professional baseball kept African Americans and dark-skinned Hispanic players out of Major League baseball.  In the face of this racial prejudice, Homestead Grays owner Cumberland Posey created a winning tradition in Negro League professional baseball.  At one time or another ten Negro League players enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame wore the uniform of the Homestead Grays, including long time Grays’ first baseman Buck Leonard and catcher Josh Gibson.  Beginning in 1937, the Grays won eight consecutive Negro National League pennants.  The Grays originated out of Homestead, Pennsylvania across the Monongahela River from Pittsburgh.  However, in 1940 it began playing half of its home games in Washington, D. C. to tap into the increasing African American population in the city.  The city previously had been the home of two other Negro League teams; the Washington Pilots briefly in 1932 and the Washington Elite Giants in 1936 – 1937.  The Grays leased the Senators’ home ballpark, Griffith Stadium, for their home games.  In 1943, Washington became the home base for the Homestead Grays.  As the Senators continued to struggle on the field, many considered the Grays the best professional baseball team in the nation’s capital from 1940 – 1948.  Despite being mainly a second division team during this period, the Senators remained profitable due to the fees charged to the Grays for leasing Griffith Stadium.

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Cumberland Posey

The Washington Nationals being in this year’s World Series helps to shine the spotlight on the Homestead Grays, who played in the shadow of the Washington Senators.   Part two of this post will tell more of the 1948 Homestead Grays, the playing of the last Negro League World Series, and the beginning of the end for the Negro League baseball era.  Stay tuned!

Negro League Baseball Managers – Part 2

Following are the remaining 10 of my Twitter posts, Kevin L. Mitchell @Lasttraintocoop, I began this past spring on Negro League baseball managers.  Three were catchers when they played, two pitchers, and one played both positions.  Three played on Negro League Baseball World Series champions, two managed their teams to World Series championships, and four were inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.  They all made outstanding contributions in building the legacy of Negro League baseball,  a forgotten sports institution.

Negro League Baseball Managers:  Frank Duncan, C, playing career included Kansas City Monarchs 1922 – 1934, 1937, catcher on Monarchs’1924 WS champs, player/mgr. Monarchs 1941 – 1947, won 2 NAL pennants 1942 & 1946, WS champs 1942.

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Frank Duncan

 

Negro League Baseball Managers: Raleigh “Biz” Mackey, catcher, playing career 1920 – 47, player/mgr. Newark Eagles 1941, 1945 – 47, Negro League World Series Champions 1946 (team included Monte Irvin & Larry Doby), elected HOF 2006.

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Biz Mackey

 

Quincy Trouppe, career 1930 – 48, player/mgr. Cleveland Buckeyes 1945 – 47, World Series champs 1945, Chicago American Giants 1948, signed Cleveland Indians 1952, MLB debut 6/3/50, played 6 games

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Quincy Trouppe

 

Ted “Double Duty” Radcliffe, catcher & pitcher, career 1928 – 1946, player/manager Cincinnati Tigers 1937, Memphis Red Sox 1938 – 1941, Chicago American Giants 1943

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Ted Radcliffe

 

Sol White, born 6/12/1868, Bellaire, OH., inf, white organized baseball before solid color line & teams early beginnings Negro Leagues 1880 – 1900 Cuban Giants, Cuban X Giants, etc, player/mgr Philadelphia Giants 1902 – 07, HOF 2016

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Sol White

 

Negro League Baseball Managers: Andy Cooper, 2006 Hall of Fame LHP, Manager Kansas City Monarchs 1937 – 1940, won 3 Negro American League pennants, 2-time manager of Negro League All-Star game west squad

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Andy Cooper

 

Negro League Baseball Managers: Felton Snow, 2-time Negro League All-Star 3B, player/manager Baltimore Elite Giants 1939 – 1947, manager East squad 1940 East-West All-Star Game

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Felton Snow

 

Negro League Baseball Managers: Grant “Home Run” Johnson, 1897 – 1912, mainly Cuban X Giants 1903 – 1905, Brooklyn Royal Giants 1906 – 1909, 1912, Philadelphia Giants 1911

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Grant “Home Run” Johnson

 

Lorenzo “Piper” Davis, born 7/3/17, Piper, AL., 4-time Negro League All-Star INF., Birmingham Black Barons 1942 – 1949, player/mgr. Black Baron’s 1948 Negro American League pennant winner, played in minor leagues of 4 MLB teams

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Piper Davis

 

Wilber “Bullet” Rogan, born 7/28/1893, Oklahoma City, OK., P/OF, Kansas City Monarchs 1920 – 1938, no wind-up motion, hard thrower, 1924 World Series champs, 2-1 with 2.57 ERA & .325 BA, Monarchs’ player/mgr. 1928 – 34, HOF 1998

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“Bullet” Rogan

 

Again, you can find me on Twitter at Kevin L. Mitchell@Lasttraintocoop

 

All photos for this post the courtesy of numerous internet sites via Google Images

Negro League Baseball Managers – Part 1

This past spring on Twitter, follow me at Kevin L. Mitchell @Lasttraintocoop, I began posting a series of tweets about Negro League baseball managers.

Starting their careers first as players themselves, then player/managers, and then just managers after their playing days; they each developed an insight into baseball from their many years of involvement in the game.  Not included in my series of tweets, former pitcher Andrew “Rube” Foster, the most well-known Negro League owner/manager.  The 1981 National Baseball Hall of Fame inductee managed his Chicago American Giants from the 1910s through 1920s into one of the most renowned franchises in Negro League baseball history.

Of the managers in my tweets, some are more famous than others.  There were also many others not in my series such as Jose Mendez, Ben Taylor, John “Pop” Lloyd, Willie Wells, and John “Buck” O’Neil.  Negro League managers made outstanding contributions in building the legacy of Negro League baseball as a forgotten sports institution.

Following are 10 of my Twitter posts on Negro league baseball managers:

 

Frank Warfield, Hilldale Club 1923 – 1927, Eastern Colored League pennant 1924 & 1925, 1925 World Series champs, Baltimore Black Sox 1929 – 1931, American Negro League pennant, Washington Pilots 1932

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Frank Warfield

 

 

William “Dizzy” Dizmukes, went to Talladega College, managed various Negro League teams including Indianapolis ABCs 1923 – 1924, Memphis Red Sox 1925, St. Louis Stars 1937, Birmingham Black Barons 1938

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Dizzy Dismukes

 

 

Charles Isham (CI) Taylor, Birmingham Black Barons 1904 – 09, West Baden Sprudels 1910 – 13, Indianapolis ABCs 1914 – 21, mgr. contemporary to Andrew “Rube” Foster, VP Negro National League 1920

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CI Taylor

 

 

Dick Lundy, best SS Negro Leagues 1920s, SS/mgr. Bacharach Giants 1926 – 28, ECL pennants 1926 & 1927, Philly Stars 1933 & Newark Dodgers 1934, All-Star 1933 – 34, mgr. 1934 East All Stars, mgr. Newark Eagles 1938 – 40

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Dick Lundy

 

 

“Candy” Jim Taylor, managed in NL 3 decades including St. Louis Stars 1923 – 28, Chicago American Giants 1937 – 39, 1941 – 42, 1945 – 47, Homestead Grays 1943 – 44, started as 3B Birmingham Black Barons 1904 – 08 bro. CI Taylor mgr

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Candy Jim Taylor

 

 

Vic Harris, 7-time Negro League All-Star OF, player/mgr. Homestead Grays 1937 – 1942, 1946 – 1948, won NNL pennant 1937 – 42, Negro League World Series champs 1948, 6-times named All-Star Game mgr.,

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Vic Harris

 

 

Jose Maria Fernandez, C/1B, 30+ years Negro League with Cuban teams beginning 1916, except 1930 Chicago American Giants, player/mgr. New York Cubans 1939 – 48, 1947 Negro League World Series champs

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Jose Fernandez

 

 

Oscar Charleston, OF/1B, one of best players baseball, 1915 – 41, teams he was manager Pitts. Crawfords 1932 – 38, Philly Stars 1941 – 44, 1946 – 50, Bklyn Brown Dodgers 1945, Indy Clowns 1954, HOF 1976

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Oscar Charleston

 

 

Negro League Baseball Managers: Winfield Welch, Birmingham Black Barons 1942 – 1945, Negro American League pennant winner 1943 & 1944, 4-time manager West squad Negro League All-Star Game, mgr.  Chicago American Giants 1949

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Winfield Welch

 

 

Negro League Baseball Managers: Fred “Tex” Burnett, C/1B, playing career 1922 – 1941 including New York Black Yankees 1931 – 1932, 1941, Homestead Grays, 1934, Newark Eagles 1937, manager Newark Eagles 1937, NY Black Yankees 1940 – 1943

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Tex Burnett

 

Again, you can find me on Twitter at Kevin L. Mitchell@Lasttraintocoop

 

All photos for this post the courtesy of numerous internet sites via Google Images

 

Negro League Second Basemen – Part 2

Last fall I had a series of Twitter posts, Kevin L. Mitchell@Lasttraintocoop, listing Negro League Second Basemen.  In last week’s blog I listed ten of those posts.  Following are ten more.

Two of them listed were multiple time Negro League All-Stars, three were on Negro League World Series championship teams, and one broke through the color barrier of a Major League team.  Each of them exemplified the high quality of talent that played the position during the Negro League baseball era:

Curt Roberts, Kansas City Monarchs 1947 – 50, 1st African American to play Pittsburgh Pirates, signed 1953, Pirates 1954 – 56, MLB debut 4/13/54, 1954 hit .232 in 134 games, 1957 – 63 in AAA minor league

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Curt Roberts

 

Elwood “Bingo” DeMoss, considered 1 of best defensive 2nd baseman in Negro Leagues 1910s and early 1920s, mainly Chicago American Giants 1917 – 1925

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Bingo DeMoss

 

McKinley “Bunny” Downs, teams include Hilldale 1917 – 22, Brooklyn Royal Giants 1923 – 24, Harrisburg Giants 1925, as exec Indianapolis Clowns signed high school prospect Henry Aaron early 1950s

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Bunny Downs

 

Barney Serrell, Chicago American Giants 1941, Kansas City Monarchs 1942 – 1945, 10 hits vs Homestead Grays 1942 Negro League World Series won by Monarchs, late 1940s & 1950s in Mexican League

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Barney Serrell

 

John Henry Russell, known for his defense, Memphis Red Sox 1923 – 1925, St. Louis Stars 1926 – 1930, DP combo with HOF SS Willie Wells and HOF 1B Mule Suttles, Pittsburgh Crawfords 1931 – 1933

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John Henry Russell

 

Sammy T. Hughes, 5-time Negro League All-Star, good fielder, consistently solid #2 hitter , speedy base runner, Nashville/Columbus/Washington/Baltimore Elite Giants 1933 – 1940, 1942, 1946

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Sammy T. Hughes

 

Johnnie Cowan, Birmingham Black Barons 1940, Cleveland Buckeyes 1942 – 1947, starting second baseman for Buckeyes’ 1945 Negro League World Series championship team, Memphis Red Sox 1948

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Johnnie Cowan

 

Pat Patterson, 4-time Negro League All-Star, played on various teams, member 1935 Negro National League champion Pittsburgh Crawfords , KC Monarchs 1936, Philadelphia Stars 1938 – 39, 1941 – 42

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Pat Patterson

 

Frank “Weasel” Warfield, Negro League career 1914 – 1932, including Hilldale of Darby, Pennsylvania 1923 – 1928, on Hilldale’s 1925 Negro League World Series Championship team

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Frank Warfield

 

Wilson Connie Day, Indianapolis ABCs 1921 – 1923, Baltimore Black Sox 1924 – 1926, Harrisburg Giants 1927

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W. Connie Day

 

All photos for this post the courtesy of numerous internet sites via Google Images

Negro League Baseball 2B: Part 1

Last fall on Twitter, follow me at Kevin L. Mitchell @Lasttraintocoop, I posted a series of tweets about Negro League baseball second basemen.

Frank Grant, inducted in 2006, is the only former Negro League baseball second baseman with a plaque in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. However, that does not indicate a lack of talent existed at the position in Negro League baseball.  Listed below are Twitter posts for 10 Negro League second basemen.  At a point in their careers, seven were chosen by fans as to be a Negro League All-Star.  One had a successful AAA minor league career after the integration of white professional.  One has a plaque in the Hall of Fame as an outfielder after changing positions when playing Major League baseball.

Dick Jackson, Atlantic City Bacharach Giants 1921, New York Bacharach Giants 1922, Brooklyn Royal Giants 1923, Harrisburg Giants 1924 – 25, Baltimore Black Sox 1926 – 28, Hilldale 1930, good hitter, hot-tempered

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Dick Jackson

 

Herberto Blanco, New York Cubans 1941 & 1942, Negro League All-Star 1942, also played in the Mexican League, Canadian Provincial League, and US minor leagues, brother Carlos played 1B for Cubans in 1941

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Herberto Blanco

 

William “Billy” Horne, 2B/SS, Chicago American Giants 1938 – 1941, Negro League All-Star 2B 1939 & 1941, Cleveland Buckeyes 1942 – 1944, 1946, military service 1945, good defense, base-stealing speed

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Billy Horne

 

Chester Williams, 2B/SS, multiple teams, 1931 – 1942, Pittsburgh Crawfords 1931 – 1938, Philadelphia Stars 1939 – 1940, Homestead Grays 1941 – 1942, Negro League All-Star 1934 – 1937, solid defense, aggressively competitive attitude

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Chester Williams

 

Lorenzo “Piper” Davis, Negro League All-Star multiple times, Birmingham Black Barons 1943 – 49, Boston Red Sox minor league system 1950, integrated Triple AAA minor leagues (PCL) 1951 – 57

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Piper Davis

 

Dick Seay, 2-time Negro League All-Star 2b, career 1926 – 47, mainly Newark Eagles 1937 – 40, part of 1938 Eagles’ “million dollar infield”, New York Black Yankees 1940 – 42, 1945 – 47, good defense, light hitter

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Dick Seay

 

Walter Cannady, 1921 – 45 Negro League career, INF/OF but 2B best position, played with various teams including New York Black Yankees 1933 – 39, 1-time Negro League All-Star 1938

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Walter Cannady

 

Jimmy Ford, various Negro League teams 1933 – 1945, including Memphis Red Sox 1937, 1944 – 1945, 1941 Negro League All-Star while with St. Louis/New Orleans Stars

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Jimmy Ford

 

Larry Doby, Newark Eagles 1942 – 44, 1946, Negro League All-Star 1946, Negro League World Series champs 1946, signed Cleveland Indians 1947, switched to OF, 7-time MLB All-Star, elected HOF 1998

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Larry Doby

 

Jesse Warren Douglass, Chicago American Giants, 1937, 1944 – 45, Kansas City Monarchs 1940, Birmingham Black Barons 1941, also played shortstop and outfield, independent minor leagues & Mexican League 1950s

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Jesse Douglas

 

BUT WAIT!  I will have a list of others who played the position in Negro League baseball next post.  STAY TUNED!

All photos for this post the courtesy of numerous internet sites via Google Images

Negro League Baseball Catchers – Part Two

From March through June on Twitter, follow me at Kevin L. Mitchell @LastTraintocoop, I wrote about Negro League Baseball catchers.

Currently there are four former Negro League catchers in the National Baseball Hall of Fame:  Roy Campanella (1969), Josh Gibson (1972), James Raleigh “Biz” Mackey (2006), and Louis Santop (2006).  However, there were others who developed the skills necessary to handle the responsibilities of the position and who made outstanding contributions to the success of their teams.

I listed ten of my Negro League catcher Tweets in the May 28th blog post, “Negro League Baseball Catchers – Part One”.  Following is listed another ten.  They all came before the erasing of the “invisible color line” and did not play Major League baseball.  But, they helped to build the legacy of the Negro Leagues.

 

John Hines, Chicago American Giants 1924 – 1930, 1932, 1934. Negro League World Series champs 1926 and 1927, attended Wiley College.

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John Walter Burch, Negro League baseball 1934 – 1946, teams included Atlantic City Bacharach Giants 1931, Homestead Grays 1936, Cleveland Buckeyes 1943 – 1944, 1946.  Buckeyes manager in 1942.

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Leon “Pepper” Daniels, Detroit Stars 1921 – 1927, battery mate of Hall of Fame pitcher Andy Cooper, Chicago American Giants 1931.

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Bob Clarke, Negro League career 1923 – 1948.  Played mainly with Baltimore Black Sox 1923 – 1928, New York Black Yankees 1933 – 1940, Baltimore Elite Giants 1941 – 1946.

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Pete Booker, Negro League 1905 – 1919, teams included Philadelphia Giants, Leland Giants, New York Lincoln Giants, Brooklyn Royal Giants, Chicago American Giants, Indianapolis ABCs, Also played 1B

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Lloyd “Pepper” Bassett, Negro League career 1935 – 1946, played with several teams including Pittsburgh Crawfords and Birmingham Black Barons (1943 & 1944 Negro American League champions)

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WG “Bill” Perkins, Negro League career 1928 – 1948, 2-time Negro League All-Star, best years 1931 – 1936 Pittsburgh Crawfords, frequent battery mate of Satchel Paige.

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Joe Greene, Kansas City Monarchs 1939 – 1943, 1946 – 1947.  Handled pitching staff that included “Satchel” Paige, Connie Johnson, Hilton Smith, Jack Matchett, etc.

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Frazier Robinson, Kansas City Monarchs 1942 – 1943, New York Black Yankees 1943, Baltimore Elite Giants 1943, 1946 – 1950.

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Bill “Ready” Cash, 2-time Negro League All-Star, Philadelphia Stars 1943 – 1949.  Briefly played in Chicago White Sox minor league systems 1950s.

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All photos for this post the courtesy of numerous internet sites via Google Images

Negro League Baseball Catchers – Part One

Since the beginning of March on Twitter (follow me at Kevin L. Mitchell @Lasttraintocoop) I have been tweeting about Negro League baseball catchers.

If you have been reading my blog posts any length of time, you are aware of my journey through playing Little League and high school baseball handling the so-called “tools of ignorance”.  That is the nickname given to a catcher’s protective equipment:  catcher’s mask, chest protector, shin guards.  Supposedly coined by Major League catcher “Muddy” Ruel who played in the 1920s and 1930s, the phrase ironically points out the so called smarts needed by a catcher to handle the responsibilities of the position and the foolishness needed to play a position where such protective equipment is required.  My less than stellar performance at times questioned if I had the smarts to required for the position, but the pain experienced from being hit by foul tips and from base runners crashing into me trying to score (catchers could block home plate back then) showed my foolishness in playing it.

The catchers I mention in my tweets have not gotten the recognition as the four former Negro League catchers currently in the Baseball Hall of Fame:  Roy Campanella (1969), Josh Gibson (1972), James Raleigh “Biz” Mackey (2006), and Louis Santop (2006).  However, some did briefly play Major League baseball.  Others were outstanding contributors to the success of their team.  They all developed the skills necessary to handle the responsibilities of the position and helped to build the legacy of Negro League baseball.

Following are a few of my Twitter tweets on Negro League baseball catchers:

Bruce Petway, best defensive catcher in Negro League baseball in early 1900s.  Cuban X Giants, Philadelphia Giants, Chicago American Giants 1911 – 1919, Detroit Stars 1920 – 1925.

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Larry “Iron Man” Brown, Negro League career 1921 – 1946, teams included Memphis Red Sox and Chicago American Giants, 7-time Negro League All-Star, Memphis player/manager 1942 – 1944.

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Frank Duncan, Kansas City Monarchs 1921 – 1934, 1937, 1941 – 1947.  Played on both of Monarchs’ Negro League World Series champions 1924 and 1942.  Monarchs’ manager 1942 – 1947.

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Ted “Double Duty” Radcliffe, Negro League All-Star, 3-times catcher and 3-times pitcher, 1931 Homestead Grays, Pittsburgh Crawfords 1932, Memphis Red Sox 1938 – 39, 41, Birmingham Black Barons 1942 – 1946.

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Quincy Trouppe, 5-time Negro League All-Star, St. Louis Stars 1930 – 1931, Indianapolis Clowns 1938, Cleveland Buckeyes 1944 – 1947, signed Cleveland Indians 1952, Major League debut 4/30/52.

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Joshua Johnson 1934 – 1940  Homestead Grays 1934 – 35, 1940 back up to Josh Gibson, also played with New York Black Yankees 1938.

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Albert “Buster” Haywood, most productive years Cincinnati/Indianapolis Clowns 1943 – 1953, Negro League All-Star 1944, named manager of Clowns 1948, first manager for Henry Aaron 1952.

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Sam Hairston, Indianapolis Clowns 1945 – 1948, Signed Chicago White Sox 1950, MLB debut 7/21/51, 1952 – 1960 mainly in White Sox minor league system, 2 sons and 2 grandsons played MLB .

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Ray Noble, New York Cubans 1946 – 1948, played on team’s 1947 Negro League World Series champion, New York Giants 1951 – 1953, MLB debut 4/18/51.

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Otha “Little Catch” Bailey, Negro League career 1950 – 1959, Cleveland Buckeyes, Houston Eagles, Birmingham Black Barons, 5’6’’, 150 pounds, One of the best catchers in talent diluted Negro Leagues in 1950s.

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All photos the courtesy of a variety of internet sites via Google Images

 

Negro League Baseball and HBCUs

I watched the film documentary “Tell Them We Are Rising” on my local Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) station February 19th.  It detailed the history of Historically Black College and Universities (HBCUs) beginning from after the Civil War.  They had an undeniable and immeasurable impact on the education of African-Americans during times when the doors of white institutions of higher academic achievement were mainly closed to people of color.  From the end of the Civil War to over halfway through the 20th Century, the vast majority of African-American doctors, lawyers, nurses, teachers, accountants, and others in professional occupations were educated at HBCUs.  A number of players in Negro League baseball also attended HBCUs.

Based on information currently established, an estimated 40% of Negro League baseball players were college educated.  The majority, other than a few exceptions, were products of  HBCUs.  Six (6) are listed below:

Frank “Doc” Sykes   –   Morehouse College/Howard Medical

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While still in medical school, Sykes started his Negro League baseball career pitching for the New York Lincoln Giants in 1914.  Between 1914 and 1919, the 6’2” right handed hurler also played with the New York Lincoln Stars, Brooklyn Royal Giants, Philadelphia Giants, and the Hilldale Club of Darby, Pa.  His longest tenure, 1920 – 1926, came with the Baltimore Black Sox.  After the 1926 season, Sykes retired from baseball became a dentist in his hometown of Decatur, Alabama.

 

Grady “Dip” Orange   –   Wiley College

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Called “Dip”, short for diploma, Orange began his Negro League baseball career in 1925 with the Birmingham Black Barons.  He had the talent and versatility to play any infield position. After the Black Barons, his career included stints with the Kansas City Monarchs (1926 – 1927, 1931), the Cleveland Tigers (1928), and the Detroit Stars (1929 – 1931).  Orange graduated from Meharry Medical College after his baseball career ended.

 

Jimmie Crutchfield   –   Lincoln University (MO.)

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A 5’7”speedy center fielder, Crutchfield played in the Negro Leagues   from 1930 – 1945.  After short stints with the Birmingham Black Barons (1930) and Indianapolis ABCs (1931), the 4-time Negro League All-Star had his best years with the Pittsburgh Crawfords (1931 – 1936).  He teamed with “Cool Papa” Bell and Ted Page to give the Crawfords one of the best outfields in the Negro Leagues at that time.  The final years of his career (1941 – 1945) with the Chicago American Giants were interrupted by military service in 1943 – 1944.  After retiring from baseball, Crutchfield worked in the postal service 26 years.

 

Pat Patterson   –   Wiley College

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A standout in football and baseball in college, Patterson played infield with mainly Negro National League (NNL) teams.  He had a 13 season career that began in 1934, interrupted by military service from 1943 – 1945.  The 4-time All-Star had stints with the Homestead Grays, Kansas City Monarchs, Philadelphia Stars, Newark Eagles, and New York Black Yankees.  He also played 2nd base on the 1935 Pittsburgh Crawfords, considered by many one of the best Negro League teams ever assembled.  Patterson became a high school teacher, coach, and school administrator in Houston, Texas.

 

James Buster Clarkson    –   Wilberforce College

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Wherever Clarkson played, he demonstrated an ability to hit a baseball.  First in Negro League baseball with the Pittsburgh/Toledo Crawfords (1938 – 39), Newark Eagles (1940), and Philadelphia Stars (1942), he established the reputation as a hard-hitting shortstop/third baseman.  In 1941, he followed the same script playing in the Mexican League.

After returning from military service (1943 – 1945), Clarkson re-established his reputation in the Negro Leagues (Philadelphia Stars 1946, 1949), in Mexico (1946 – 47) and in the Canadian League (1948).  The Boston Braves signed him in 1950 and he tormented pitchers in the leagues of their minor league system.  On April 30, 1952 with the Braves, at 37 years old, Clarkson became the first from a HBCU to play in the Major Leagues.  Ironically however, he got off to a slow start hitting .200 and played in only 25 games.  Pushed aside in favor of younger white players (Ed Mathews, Johnny Logan, and Jack Cusack), Clarkson went back to the minor leagues where he spent the rest of his career hitting close to .300 with double digits in home runs (42 HRs in Texas League 1954).

 

Joe Black   –   Morgan State Univ.

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Winning all Central Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (CIAA) honors in football and track (hurdler & javelin throw), Black is in Morgan State’s athletic Hall of Fame.  While serving in the military, 1943 – 1945, he became a starter in the Baltimore Elite Giant’s pitching rotation.   The 3-time participant in the Negro League East-West All-Star Game signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1950.  In his first Major League season, Black had a record of 15 – 4 and national baseball writers voted him 1952 National League Rookie of the Year.  On October 1, 1952 Black defeated the New York Yankees to become the first African-American pitcher to win a World Series game.  After retiring from baseball in 1957, he went back to college and received a Masters’ Degree, became a high school teacher, and then worked in an executive position with the Greyhound Corporation.

There are many more that could be added to this short list such as David Malarcher (Dillard/Xavier), Monte Irvin (Lincoln Univ. in Pa.), Bill Foster (Alcorn A & M), and Hilton Smith (Prairie View A & M).

The racism of the times contributed to Bus Clarkson’s short stay in the Major Leagues after Jackie Robinson erased the color line.  However, a number of HBCU products have had excellent Major League baseball careers. Lou Brock (Southern Univ.) and Andre Dawson (Florida A & M) are in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.  Also, George Altman (Tennessee A & I), Ralph Garr (Grambling), Hal McRae (Florida A & M), Danny Goodwin (Southern Univ.), Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd (Jackson State), and others from HBCUs have had well established Major League careers.

Baseball and Civil Rights 1956 – Part 1

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Roberto Clemente

Jackie Robinson’s erasing of the color line in 1947 to become the first African-American to play Major League in the 20th Century began the process of racially integrating professional baseball.  A slow and reluctant process, it coincided with the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s.  Overcoming racial discrimination and prejudice in a sport did in no way compare to facing physical harm and even death in fighting for equal rights given under the Constitution of the United States.   However due to baseball’s prominence as the “national pastime”, many saw the integration of Major League baseball symbolically as one of the first steps in social progress for African-Americans.   The racial integration of Major League baseball and the Civil Rights Movement were both a part of the massive seismic shift in racial relations occurring after World War II that would forever change the nation.  How they coincided is shown in the story of the scheduled exhibition games in the spring of 1956 between the Kansas City A’s and the Pittsburgh Pirates to be played in Birmingham, Alabama.  On February 15, 1956; they were cancelled.

 

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Vic Power

It had been a tradition for Major League teams at the close of spring training to play exhibition games as they traveled north to begin the season.  The spring “barnstorming circuit” mostly consisted of cities in the southern United States.  These games were an economic boom for them as baseball fans from the surrounding areas came, for what would be the only opportunity for some, to see Major League players.  When Major League teams began to become racially integrated in the 1950s, this tradition clashed with the “Jim Crow” laws that forbade interracial sports competition.  The municipal government of these cities had to choose between receiving the commercial benefits from the games versus upholding their racial separation law.  Most chose the former.  Despite threats of violence from the Ku Klux Klan, Atlanta officials overrode the laws to allow the Brooklyn Dodgers who had Roy Campanella, Don Newcombe, and Jackie Robinson to play the all-white Atlanta Crackers a three game series in the spring of 1949.

 

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Harry Simpson

The city of Birmingham, Alabama initially made a different choice and maintained its ban of interracial athletic competition.  However, after being eliminated from the spring exhibition circuit for years due to the ban, the city commissioners lifted it on January 26, 1954.  That spring, the Brooklyn Dodgers played an exhibition game in Birmingham against the Milwaukee Braves.  But the city racial hardliners used the fear that the desegregation of sports would lead to desegregation in other aspects of life in Birmingham (schools, department stores, public accommodations, etc.) to force a voter referendum to reestablish the ban.  On June 1, the referendum passed stating, “It shall be unlawful for a negro or white person to play together or in company with each other   any game of cards, dice, dominoes, checkers, baseball, football, softball, basketball, or similar games”.  It was City Ordinance 597, named the “checker ordinance”.

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Hector Lopez

With the ordinance reinstated banning interracial athletic competition in June 1954, how did the two exhibition games between the Kansas City A’s and Pittsburgh Pirates get scheduled for the spring of 1956?  The A’s at that time had American League All-Star and former Negro League outfielder Harry “Suitcase” Simpson, first baseman Vic Power who was from Puerto Rico, and outfielder Hector Lopez from Panama.  Power’s friend and fellow islander future Hall of Fame outfielder Roberto Clemente and former Negro League infielder Curt Roberts both played for the Pirates.  The games would have been a violation of the ordinance.  Were they scheduled while the ban had been lifted in 1954?  Had there been talk of overriding or ignoring the ban to play the game? What if any part did the racial tension caused by the bus boycott by African-Americans in Montgomery, 92 miles down state, going on at that time play in the decision to cancel the games?  Come back for Part Two!

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Curt Roberts

*Information for this blog was provided from the book “Carry Me Home:  Birmingham, Alabama:  The Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution” by Diane McWhorter (Simon & Schuster 2001)

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