Tag Archives: Sports History

2021 Baseball HOF Golden Days Committee Results

Last month on December 5, five former baseball players received the necessary votes to be a part of the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s Class of 2022. The Hall’s Early Baseball Era Committee, which considers candidates whose primary contributions to baseball came prior to 1950, elected former Negro League players/managers Bud Fowler and John “Buck” O’Neil. The Golden Days Era Committee, which considers candidates whose primary contributions to baseball came between 1950 – 1969, elected former Major League players Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Tony Oliva, and Saturnino Orestes “Minnie” Minoso. The induction ceremony will be July 24 at the Hall of Fame Museum in Cooperstown, New York.

The other candidates on the Golden Days Era Committee ballot not elected to the Class of 2022 were Dick Allen (who missed by one vote), Ken Boyer, Danny Murtaugh, Maury Wills, Billy Pierce, and Roger Maris.

The names on the Golden Days Era Committee’s ballot brings back memories of the 1964 Major League season. That year, the American and the National League pennant races went down to the last games of the season before a winner emerged. All ten of the candidates on the Golden Days Committee’s ballot were still active in the Major Leagues that season; five in the National League and five in the American League. Two were in their rookie seasons and two were at the end of their careers. One began the growing pains that would lead to being a successful manager, while one had a pause put on his role as a Major League manager. One played on a team in the last year of its dynasty, while another played on a team that would sandwich the season between two World Series championships. One reached the high mark of his career, while for another it would be year six of 25 years in the Major Leagues.

In the National League on September 20th of 1964, the Philadelphia Phillies were in first place leading the Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals by six and one-half games. One of the reasons for the Phillies’ success, newcomer third baseman Richie Allen. It would be a few more years before Allen would prefer to be called by the name which his mother and family addressed him; “Dick”.  Allen’s .318 Batting Average with 29 HRs and 91 RBI that summer earned him the honor of being 1964 National League Rookie of the Year. Highlights of his 15 years in the Major League include hitting 356 HRs, being a seven-time All Star, and being named 1972 American League Most Valuable Player while with the Chicago White Sox.  Despite Allen’s heroics in 1964, the Phillies lost ten straight games beginning September 21 and finished in second place on game behind the St. Louis Cardinals.

Richie/Dick Allen

The Cardinals clinched the National League pennant by beating the New York Mets 11 – 5 the last game of the season. Third baseman Ken Boyer, at the height of his 15 years Major League career in 1964, led the team. Boyer, a seven-time All Star who would finish with 282 HRs and 1,141 RBI, hit .295 that season with 24 HRs and 119 RBI.  Named the 1964 National League Most Valuable Player, Boyer also hit a home run to help the National League win the All-Star Game that season. He is considered one of the best third basemen in the Major Leagues during the late 1950s and early 1960s.

  

Ken Boyer

The San Francisco Giants were only two games out of first place on October 2, however, the team lost its last two games and finished fourth. It would be the last of the 18 years career for Giants’ lefthanded relief pitcher Billy Pierce (3 – 0, 34 game appearances, forty-nine innings pitched). The six-time All Star lefthanded ace of the Chicago White Sox pitching staff in the 1950s, Pierce won 218 games including 35 shutouts and two 20 game winning seasons.  He pitched the first four innings of the White Sox 5 – 3 win against the Kansas City A’s on August 20, 1961; the first Major League game I attended.

Billy Pierce

The 1963 World Series champions, the Los Angeles Dodgers, slipped to sixth place in 1964. Dodgers’ shortstop Maury Wills hit .275 and won the fifth of his six straight National League stolen base titles with 53. The Dodgers would rebound to be World Series champions in 1965.

Maury Wills

The Pittsburgh Pirates in 1964 tied with the Dodgers for sixth place. After the season Pirates’ manager Danny Murtaugh retired. He had been the team’s manager since 1957 and led the Pirates to be World Series champions in 1960. Murtaugh came out of retirement for another stint as Pirates’ manager in 1970 and led the team to another World Series championship in 1971.

Danny Murtaugh (left)

The candidate needed twelve votes (75%) for election to the Hall of Fame. Dick Allen received eleven while the other four each received less than four. I am surprised that Ken Boyer and Maury Wills did not receive more votes. But that is my generational bias speaking. To me, a 13 years old baseball super fan in 1964, the pennant races that season were the most exciting I had experience.

I will talk about the five other players on the Golden Days Era Committee ballot my next post.

Baseball HOF Voting for Negro League Players

Seven former players from the Negro League baseball era are on the ballot that will be considered by the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s Early Baseball Era Committee on this coming Sunday, December 5th. If any of the players receive a vote from at least 75% of the 16-member Committee (12 votes), he will be a part of the National Baseball Hall of Fame Class for 2022. The induction ceremony will be July 24 at the Hall of Fame Museum in Cooperstown New York.

This will be the first-time former Negro League players have been given Hall of Fame consideration since 2006. Prior to that year, 24 former players from the Negro Leagues were in the Hall of Fame. Realizing that number not being a true representation of Negro League baseball’s contribution to the game, Major League Baseball commissioned a group of Negro League historians to make recommendations for addition potential inductees. As a result, 12 ballplayers and 5 owners/executives were a part of the Hall of Fame Class for 2006: the Hall of Fame’s largest number of inductees from Negro League baseball in one year.

However, a concern arose as to whether the number inducted in 2006 indicated there were no others from the Negro Leagues worthy of Hall of Fame consideration. To address this and other issues concerning past eras, the Hall of Fame switched to an Era Committee format to select potential inductees. One of the Era Committees, the Early Baseball Era, considers candidates whose contributions to baseball were realized prior to 1950. This committee will vote on candidates for Hall of Fame induction once every 10 years.

The former Negro League players/managers this year on the Early Baseball Era Committee ballot for Hall of Fame induction are as follows:

John “Bud” Fowler (Infielder, Pitcher)

Bud Fowler

The first African American professional baseball player, Fowler played with several minor league white professional teams beginning in 1877. After the establishment of the “invisible color line” in the late 1880’s which barred African American and dark-skinned Latinos from white professional baseball, he played with many of the early African American professional baseball teams.

Grant “Home Run” Johnson (Shortstop)

Grant Johnson

One of the best hitters in black professional baseball during the dead-ball era (1900 – 1920), Johnson wore the uniform of top African American teams during that era such as the Philadelphia Giants, Brooklyn Royal Giants, and Chicago Leland Giants. He received the nickname from his clutch timing of hitting home runs, not the quantity.

Richard “Cannonball Dick” Redding – Pitcher

Dick Redding

One of the best pitchers in black professional baseball in the dead-ball era and the early 1920’s.  The blazing speed of his fastball made Redding a contemporary of Walter Johnson, Major League baseball’s ace during that period.

John Donaldson – Pitcher

John Donaldson

Starting in 1913, Donaldson spent over 20 years in black professional baseball.  The left-hander pitched for black independent teams that born-stormed through the country during 1913 – 1919.  He also pitched with the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro National League (1920 – 1924), the first African American professional baseball league.

George “Tubby” Scales – Infielder

George Scales

A career .319 hitter, Scales spent 27 years in the Negro Leagues (1921 – 1948) with teams including the New York Lincoln Giants 1923 – 29 and Homestead Grays 1925 – 26, 1929 – 31, 1935.  He also led the Baltimore Elite Giants as player/manager in 1938, 1943, and 1947.

Vic Harris – Manager

Vic Harris

A career .305 hitter, Harris spent most of his entire Negro League career as left fielder and then manager with the Homestead Grays (1925 – 1933, 1935 – 1948); one of the most renown franchises in Negro League baseball.  As manager, he led the Grays to nine consecutive Negro National League pennants (1937 – 1945). 

John “Buck” O’Neil – 1B/Manager

Buck O’Neil

The three-time All Star played first base for the Kansas City Monarchs, another of the most renown Negro League franchises, during the periods 1938 – 1943 and 1946 – 1955. He became the team’s manager in 1948. The first African American to become a Major League coach (Chicago Cubs 1962), O’Neil is one of the co-founders for the Negro League Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri.   

It will be 2032 before the Early Baseball Era Committee will next consider candidates for Hall of Fame induction.

The Hall of Fame’s Golden Days Era Committee considers candidates for induction who made contributions to the game from 1950 – 1969. Saturnino Orestes “Minnie” Minoso, who had a 17 year, nine-time All Star career in Major League baseball is on the ballot in which this committee will vote Sunday.  Minoso, who got his start in the Negro Leagues, played on the 1947 Negro League World Series champion New York Cubans.

Minnie Minoso

Course on Big Eight Christmas Basketball Tournament

This is a basketball history course I will teach via Zoom for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Kansas on October 29, November 5 & 12.

“Holiday College Basketball in Kansas City: History of the Big Eight Christmas Tournament”

Wilt Chamberlain

Bob Boozer

Before the Big 12 Conference, it was the Big Eight. Claiming Wilt Chamberlain as its greatest basketball alumnus, it was considered one of the most renown college basketball conferences in the country. From 1946 through 1978, the conference had its round robin holiday tournament at Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Missouri between Christmas and New Year’s Day. It was one of the best college basketball tournaments in the country. In the beginning, when only six, then seven, teams were in the conference, other non-conference teams were invited. Former pro basketball players such as JoJo White, Bob Boozer, Clyde Lovellette, Cliff Meely and Garfield Heard played in the tournament. There were also many who were part of this tournament’s history that never played professional basketball. What made the tournament exciting is when a team not predicted to finish high in the conference would “catch lightning in a bottle” for that week and win the tournament. The course will explore the history of the tournament and discuss factors which would lead to the tournament’s demise in 1978.

 Session Detail: OC22163O

Schedule:Every week on Friday, starting on 10/29/21 and ending on 11/12/21
Times:01:00pm – 02:30pm
  View Full Schedule  |     Add to my Calendar
Price:Single Osher Course : $50.00

Click on https://www.enrole.com/kupce/jsp/course.jsp?categoryId=10037&courseId=OSH472 to enroll

Course on Baseball During World War II

This is a baseball history course I will teach via Zoom for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Kansas on

July 14, 21, 28.

Baseball Goes to War: World War II and the National Pastime

After the United States entered World War II in 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt authorized the continued operation of both Major League and Negro League baseball. The president believed the “National Pastime” would help boost home front morale during the difficult war years lying ahead for the country. This course examines the results of President Roosevelt’s decision. It will explore the war’s affect on professional baseball; the fans, teams and individual players. Class participants will also learn how the “National Pastime” operated during the war and how the result of the international conflict would initiate post-war changes that occurred in professional baseball. Instructor Bio: Kevin L. Mitchell is the baseball history blogger of The Baseball Scroll (www.thebaseballscroll.blogspot.com) and author of Last Train to Cooperstown: The 2006 Baseball Hall of Fame Inductees from the Negro League Era. The Kansas City, Kan. native earned bachelors and master’s degrees from the University of Kansas.

 Session Detail: OC21341O

Schedule:Every week on Wednesday, starting on 07/14/21 and ending on 07/28/21
Times:03:00pm – 04:30pm
  View Full Schedule  |     Add to my Calendar
Price:Single Osher Course : $50.00

Baseball Goes to War: World War II and the National Pastime – Shopping cart (enrole.com)

MLB TIME CAPSULE 1950s: Tom Alston’s Big Day

The focus for my blog posts during this COVID 19 shortened 2020 Major League baseball season has been baseball time capsules from the 1950s.  During that decade, the pace of integration in the Major Leagues slowly, but steadily went forward.  As a consequence, due to the decrease in its talent pool, Negro League baseball had begun a journey towards extinction by the early 1960s.  All of this with the early Civil Rights movement as a back drop.

This week’s post is about Tom Alston, the first African American to appear in a Major League game for the St. Louis Cardinals.  On May 2, 1954, in a doubleheader against the New York Giants, the rookie first baseman had the best game of his short Major League career. In the first game Alston had four hits including a home run, his third of the young season, and two RBIs.  The second game he hit a bases loaded double (3 RBIs) in the Cardinals’ first inning.  He ended the day batting .313. 

Tom Alston

In 1947, Jackie Robinson of the Brooklyn Dodgers erased Major League baseball’s “invisible color line” that had kept out African American and dark-skinned Latino players since the end of the 19th century.  Over the next six years, along with the Dodgers, African American and/or dark-skinned Latinos would play with seven other teams; the Cleveland Indians, St. Louis Browns, New York Giants, Milwaukee Braves, Chicago White Sox, Chicago Cubs, and Philadelphia A’s.  In 1954, the color line would be erased on four other teams; the Pittsburgh Pirates, Cincinnati Reds, Washington Senators, and St. Louis Cardinals. 

The Cardinals, one of the Major League’s most renowned franchises, had been reluctant to accept the changing winds for racial diversity in professional baseball.  The progress of racial integration in St. Louis mirrored that of cities in southern states at that time.  Many stores and restaurants refused to serve African American customers.  Also, the Cardinals were the last Major League team to abolish racially segregated seating at their home stadium.  However after buying the team in 1953, new Cardinals’ owner August A. Busch, Jr. wanted the team to be reflective of the African American target market for his company’s product; Budweiser beer.

Born 1/31/26 in Greensboro, North Carolina; Thomas Edison Alston played baseball at North Carolina A & T following a stint in the military.   After two minor league seasons on teams coached by former Negro League pitcher Chet Brewer, he caught the Cardinals’ attention while playing for San Diego (Pacific Coast League) in 1953.  With Alston having a power hitters’ body (6’, 5” and 210 lbs.) along with showing agility playing first base, the Cardinals paid $100,000 to obtain his contract.

Tom Alston

For the first time in the franchise’s history, the 1954 Cardinal team would have African American players; Alston along with pitcher Brooks Lawrence and former Negro League pitcher Bill Greason.  The 28 years old Alston made his Major League debut on April 13 becoming the first African American to play in a game for the St. Louis Cardinals.  Although not as historic, his debut occurred a little more than a month before the 1954 landmark US Supreme Court Brown vs Board of Education ruling (May 17) that struck the first blow in making racial segregation against African Americans unconstitutional.   

Tom Alston

 After a slow start, hitting only .211 in April, Alston hit .411 the first 11 days of May which included that May 2 doubleheader against the New York Giants. But, National League pitchers discovered his weakness; the high inside fastball and Alston hit .181 in June with no homes runs. The Cardinals sent him to the minor leagues and moved Hall of Fame outfielder Stan Musial to first base.  Alston tried regaining his batting hitting 21 home runs with 80 RBI playing for AAA Omaha in 1956.  However, it never resurfaced for him at the Major League level.  In 1955 – 1957, he hit .139 in 25 games with the Cardinals.

Wally Moon, Stan Musial, & Tom Alston on May 2, 1954

Alston began a battle with mental illness during the 1957 season. Diagnosed as having schizophrenia in 1958, he would spend the next 11 years in a North Carolina psychiatric institution.  It is unclear if Alston’s mental condition played a role in his inability to handle the pressure of being the Cardinals’ first African American player his rookie season.   However, what happened on May 2, 1954 is forever clear. On that day, Tom Alston had the best day of his short Major League baseball career.

MLB TIME CAPSULE 1950s: Bob Thurman’s Big Day

The focus for my blog posts during this COVID 19 shortened 2020 Major League baseball season has been baseball time capsules from the 1950s.  During that decade, the pace of integration in the Major Leagues slowly, but steadily went forward.  As a consequence, the talent pool for the Negro Leagues decreased setting it on a journey towards extinction by the early 1960s.  All of this with the early Civil Rights movement as a back drop.

This week’s post is about former Negro League outfielder Bob Thurman.  On August 18, 1956 while playing for the Cincinnati Redlegs, Thurman hit three home runs.  The make-up of his team, still called Redlegs and not Reds in 1956, gave an indication of racial integration in the Major Leagues nine years after the color line had been erased.

Drafted into the military while playing in the semi-professional baseball leagues of Wichita, Kansas, Bob Thurman saw combat duty during World War ll in New Guinea and the Philippines.  After leaving military service in 1946, he played with the Homestead Grays during the last years of owner Cum Posey’s “long gray line”.  Long time Negro League veterans Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard, “Cool Papa” Bell and others were still with the Grays; however Posey died before the season started.  Signed as a left handed pitcher, Thurman proved to be a better power hitter and became the team’s regular centerfielder.  With the veteran players approaching the end of their baseball careers, Josh Gibson died in 1947, the Grays mixed in Thurman along with future Major League players Luke Easter and Luis Marquez to help the team remain competitive.  In 1948, the Grays defeated the Birmingham Black Barons in the last Negro League World Series.

With the Negro National League disbanding after the 1948 season, Thurman signed with the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro American League.  Monarchs’ manager Buck O’Neil had a team that included future Major League players Elston Howard, Connie Johnson, Gene Baker, Hank Thompson, and Curt Roberts.  The Monarchs were looking to sell their best players to Major League teams in order to remain operating profitably.  On July 29, 1949 the New York Yankees purchased Thurman’s contract and he became the first African American signed by the team.   

Bob Thurman

However, the Yankees were not serious about integration.  Although Thurman batted .317 at Triple AAA minor league Newark Bears for the remainder of that season, the Yankees traded him to the Chicago Cubs.  The Cubs were also slow embracing integration and released Thurman in 1952 despite him having respectable years in the team’s minor league system.  It would not be until 1954 before Ernie Banks became the first African-American to play for Chicago’s north side team. 

Thurman spent the next two years playing summer and winter Caribbean league baseball.  After a tremendous winter league season in 1955, he signed with the Cincinnati Redlegs mainly as a 34 years old reserve outfielder/pinch hitter and made his Major League debut on April 14, 1955; a little more than a month before his actual 38th birthday.

Bob Thurman

On August 18, 1956, the Redlegs hit eight home runs in a 13 – 4 victory over the Milwaukee Braves.  After hitting a double in the third inning, Bob Thurman hit home runs in the fifth, seventh, and eighth.

In addition to Thurman, the other former Negro League players on the Redlegs’ roster that season were George Crowe, Chuck Harmon, Joe Black, and Pat Scantlebury.  All were thirty-plus years old and nearing the end of their playing careers.  However, with Major League scouts draining the Negro League talent pool by 1956, more African-American and dark-skinned Latino players were being signed who never played Negro League baseball.  Twenty years old Frank Robinson hit two of the eight home runs for the Redlegs in that August 18 game.  The 1956 National League Rookie of the Year and 1986 Hall of Fame inductee did not play in the Negro Leagues. Neither had eighteen years old Redlegs’ outfielder Curt Flood.  He appeared in five games that season and later played 12 years with the St. Louis Cardinals.

If the New York Yankees in 1949 had known Bob Thurman’s real age of 32, they would not have signed him.  Neither would the Redlegs in 1955 had they known him being almost 38!  But finally given the opportunity to play in the Major Leagues, Bob Thurman certainly proved in that game on August 18, 1956 that his time for hitting a baseball had not passed him by.  He hit 35 home runs in his five seasons (1955 – 1959) with Cincinnati. 

All pictures via Google Images

For my daily historical notices go to Kevin L. Mitchell @Lasttraintocoop

MLB TIME CAPSULE 1950’s: Osvaldo Jose “Ozzie” Virgil

The focus for my blog posts during this COVID 19 shortened 2020 Major League baseball season is a baseball time capsule from the 1950s.  During that decade, the pace of integration in the Major Leagues slowly, but steadily went forward.  As a consequence, the talent pool for the Negro Leagues decreased setting it on a journey towards extinction by the early 1960s.  All of this with the early Civil Rights movement as a back drop.

This week’s post is about Ozzie Virgil, who accomplished two milestones in the integration of the Major Leagues during the 1950s.  Virgil became the first Dominican Republic born player in the Major Leagues (1956) and he broke through the Detroit Tigers’ color barrier in 1958.

Born Osvaldo Jose Virgil on May 17, 1933 in Monte Cristi, Dominican Republic, Ozzie moved to New York City (The Bronx) when 13 years old.  After two years in the US Marine Corp., he signed with the New York Giants in 1953.  Versatility became Virgil’s strength, he could play all infield positions including catcher and also in the outfield.  Virgil made his Major League debut on September 23, 1956.  The next season he made the Sporting News’ All-Rookie team as a utility player; seeing action when needed at four positions, including third base and catcher.

Ozzie Virgil

Of the dark-skinned Latinos who had played in the Major Leagues at that time, most were from Cuba or Puerto Rico.  Virgil would be the first of many Major League players from the Dominican Republic including Baseball Hall of Fame inductees Juan Marichal, Vladimir Guerrero, and Pedro Martinez. By the mid-1950s, talented young African American and dark-skinned Latino players were bypassing the Negro Leagues and directly signing with Major League teams.  Frank Robinson, Roberto Clemente, Bill White, Curt Flood and others in addition to Virgil who began their Major Leagues careers during that time did not play Negro League baseball. 

Ozzie Virgil

Before the 1958 season, the Giants moved to San Francisco and traded Virgil to the Detroit Tigers.   Eleven years after Jackie Robinson erased the “invisible color line” in professional baseball (1947), Detroit and its American League counterpart Boston Red Sox were the only Major League teams never to have an African American or dark-skinned Latino on the roster.  It had been a strong Negro League baseball city with the Detroit Stars in the 1920s and 1930s.  However, the Tigers’ previous long-time owner Otto Briggs (1935 – 1952) had a bad relationship with African Americans due to the prejudice many of them experienced working at his automotive body factory.  Also, African Americans were not allowed to sit in the box seats at Briggs Stadium.

The Tigers were World Series champions in 1945, but had finished no higher than fifth place since 1950 and efforts were being made to build the team around outfielder Al Kaline and pitcher Jim Bunning who would both have Hall of Fame careers.  Jake Wood, the first African American to make his way through Detroit’s minor league system, played at the Class B level in 1958 and would not become the Tigers’ starting second baseman until 1961.

On June 6, 1958, at Griffith Stadium against the Washington Senators, Ozzie Virgil became the first nonwhite player to appear in a Major League game for the Detroit Tigers.  He played third base and hit a double in the team’s 11 – 5 win.  Virgil hit .244 in 49 games.

Ozzie Virgil

For the majority of the 1959 season, the Tigers were again at their pre-integration level.  Virgil spent the entire season in the team’s minor league system (Double AA level).  Newly acquired 35 years old Larry Doby, the first African American or dark-skinned Latino to break through the American League’s color barrier in 1947, played only 18 games before being traded to the Chicago White Sox in July.  Also, the Tigers briefly promoted African American pitcher Jim Proctor, who appeared in only 2 games before being sent back to the minor leagues.

But, in 1960 Virgil appeared in 62 games as the Tigers used him as a key utility player. The Tigers traded him to the Kansas City Athletics In 1961 and he would spend the next seven years splitting time between the minor leagues and four major league teams.  Virgil finished his playing career with the team that first signed him, the San Francisco Giants. 

Ozzie Virgil

After retiring Ozzie Virgil coached 19 years in the Major Leagues and   his son, two-time All Star catcher Ozzie Virgil Jr, had an eleven year Major League career.

All pictures via Google Images

For my daily historical notices go to Kevin L. Mitchell @Lasttraintocoop

Centennial Anniversary – Negro League Baseball

Due to the current global COVID- 19 pandemic, I have been reluctant to post on my blog.  A blog post about baseball history seems very trivial when compared to the spread of the deadly virus that has at least for now changed our lives.  The voluntary and mandatory shelter in place and quarantines, recommended social distancing, and business shutdowns have been more than an inconvenience to everyone.  This is especially true for sports fans who have had to accept the cancellation of NCAA college basketball’s “March Madness”, the indefinite suspension of the both the NBA and NHL seasons, and the Masters Golf Tournament being postponed.  As for my favorite, baseball, the Major League Baseball season will not start until maybe June; if then.

However, I think a post about a milestone in baseball history would be a good change of pace from the constant serious life messages we are receiving about COVID-19 from MSNBC, CNN, FOX NEWS, and other media outlets.  The professional baseball historic milestone I am referring is the Centennial (100 years) Anniversary of organized Negro League professional baseball; the formation of the first Negro National League.

As the new decade of the 1920’s began, equality and justice for African Americans seemed an impossible dream.  African American soldiers returning from World War I battlefields did not receive a hero’s welcome, but instead a harsh slap of racial reality.  There were a number of African Americans lynched not only in the south, but throughout the country.  Racial violence prevailed in 1919 with deadly riots in East St. Louis, Tulsa, and Chicago.  This toxic national racial attitude spilled over into the sport of baseball, “the national pastime”.   Due to racial discrimination, African American and dark-skinned Latino baseball players were kept out of white professional baseball.

It is within this difficult racial environment that Andrew “Rube” Foster, African American team owner and manager of the Chicago American Giants birthed the Negro National League (NNL) on February 13, 1920 at the YMCA Building on 18th and The Paseo in Kansas City, Missouri.  The NNL has the distinction of being the first African American professional baseball league.

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Andrew “Rube” Foster

There had been a little more than a hand full of African American players in white professional baseball in the late 1880s.  However, by the beginning of the 20th Century, the racially discriminating “invisible color line” had been solidly formed.  In response to this, African Americans formed their own professional baseball teams.  The Cuban Giants, Cuban X Giants, Chicago Union Giants, Philadelphia Giants, and Pittsburgh Keystones were a few of the African American professional baseball teams at the dawning of the new century.  “Rube” Foster first gained fame as a star pitcher for the Philadelphia Giants.  Before 1920 there were a few Negro pro baseball leagues formed, but they either quickly folded or had no impact on the structure of black baseball.  However, the Negro National League (NNL) operated from 1920 – 1931.

The NNL consisted of eight teams its first year:  the Chicago American Giants, Kansas City Monarchs, Detroit Stars, St. Louis Giants, Chicago Giants, Dayton Marcos, Indianapolis ABCs, and Cuban Stars.  Due to the financial and racial obstacles African American pro baseball franchises faced, the league make up changed from season to season as some teams folded and new ones added.  Foster’s American Giants along with the Kansas City Monarchs, Detroit Stars, and the St. Louis Stars (new owners changed name from Giants to Stars in 1922) were the only teams in the league every NNL season.  At one time or another during its duration, the NNL showcased 14 members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.  In addition, it is acknowledged as the successful forerunner and blueprint for the leagues formed that kept Negro League professional baseball alive before finally ending in the early 1960s; the Negro National League (1933 – 1948) and Negro American League (1937 – 1962).

This past February 13, 2020, the centennial celebration of this baseball historic milestone began with Major League Commissioner Rob Manfred making a $1 million joint donation from Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players’ Association to the Negro League Baseball Museum in Kansas City.  The funds are to support the museum’s continuous effort to keep highlighting the historical impact Negro League professional baseball had on the sport and on American society as a whole.

Also, that ceremony included the unveiling of the Centennial Anniversary’s logo.

Print

Once the 2020 Major League Baseball season hopefully begins, the centennial celebration will continue to be recognized.  During all MLB games, the Negro League 100th anniversary logo will be worn on the uniforms of all players, managers, coaches, and umpires.  Also, many clubs have planned centennial anniversary activities such as Negro Leagues tribute games with throwback uniforms, pregame panels with special guests, and game day giveaways.  The timing of these activities is now pending on the adjustments that will be made to the MLB season based on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Remembering Those Who Played Their Last Inning in 2019 – Part Two

There were three former Major League baseball players I need to mention who died in 2019.

One is Hall of Fame (1986) outfielder Frank Robinson, the first African American baseball superstar who did not get his start in the Negro Leagues.  Robinson died on February 7 last year in Los Angeles, California.

Another is Elijah “Pumpsie” Green, the first African American to play for the Boston Red Sox.   He died on July 12 in San Leandro, California.

Finally, there is Jim Archer.  He has no place in baseball history as the previous two.  However, as one of the starting pitchers in the first Major League game I attended, Archer has a place in my personal history with baseball.   He died on September 9 in Tarpon Springs, Florida.

 

frc1

Frank Robinson

If you read my two March 2019 blog posts, you would know what I think about Frank Robinson; born August 31, 1935 in Beaumont, Texas.  I took his death from bone cancer personally.  When the first time I saw him on television circling the bases after hitting a home run in the second Major League Baseball All-Star Game in 1959, he became my favorite professional baseball player.

Frank Robinson’s autobiography is called “My Life is Baseball” (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group 1975).  That title reflects a true picture of his accomplishments in the game.  National League Rookie of the Year in 1956, he hit 38 home runs.  Robinson is the only one to receive the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award in both leagues; in the National  League with the Cincinnati Redlegs in 1961 (they went by the Redlegs, not Reds back then) and in the American League in 1966 with the Baltimore Orioles.  Hitting 586 career home runs, he played on five pennant winning teams and two World Series Champions; 1966 and 1970 Baltimore Orioles.

Robinson became the first African American Major League manager in 1974 with the Cleveland Indians; first of the four teams in his 16 year career as a manager (1,065 wins and 1,176 losses).  He had the reputation as having a “hardnosed”, “old school” approach, although he did mellow in the in the way he handled players as he got older.   During his career, he also served as a batting coach, an outfield coach, a consultant for club owners, and held positions in the Office of Major League Baseball.

frank3

I will miss my favorite baseball player.  However, I still have his 1959, 1960, 1964 Topps baseball cards (lost the 1965) and also the Post Cereal Frank Robinson cards for 1961 – 63.

 

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Elijah “Pumpsie” Green

On July 21, 1959 when he entered the game against the Chicago White Sox in Comiskey Park as a pinch runner, Elijah “Pumpsie” Green became the first African American to play for the Boston Red Sox.  Twelve years after Jackie Robinson broke into Major League baseball, the Red Sox were the last Major League team pre-expansion (existing before 1969) to have an African American or dark-skinned Latino player on the Major League roster.

Born on October 27, 1933 in Boley, Oklahoma, Green’s family moved to Richmond, California when he turned eight years old where he became a three sport star (baseball, football, and basketball) in high school.  At 6’ and 175 pounds, he became a switch hitting shortstop that played baseball in junior college.  While playing in the California League (Class C minor leagues) Green signed with the Red Sox in 1955.

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Ted Williams and Pumpsie Green

He made his Major League debut after four years in the team’s minor league system.  In his four years, (1959 – 1962) with the Red Sox, the team used Green as a utility infielder and outfielder.  In 1961, he played 69 games at shortstop and 41 at second base.  After the 1962 season, the Red Sox traded Green to the New York Mets.  After his one season with New York, Green played two more years in the minor leagues and then retired. In 344 Major League games, Green batted .246 with 13 home runs and 74 RBIs.

 

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Jim Archer

On August 20, 1961 I attended my first Major League baseball game at Municipal Stadium in Kansas City.  I saw the Kansas City A’s play the Chicago White Sox.  Seven-time All Star left-hander Billy Pierce started for the White Sox.  The starting pitcher for the A’s that game, Jim Archer.

Born May 25, 1932 in Max Meadows, Virginia, Archer signed with the New York Yankees in 1951.  In 1961, he came to the Kansas City A’s as a rookie southpaw in a trade with the Baltimore Orioles.  By that August, he had become one of the A’s front line pitchers.

On the field for the White Sox that day were two former Negro League players; outfielders Orestes Minnie” Minoso and Al Smith.  Also, the White Sox had Hall of Famers Luis Aparico at shortstop and Nelson Fox at second base.

Scoring three runs in the sixth, the White Sox won 5 – 3.  It would be the ninth of Archer’s fifteen losses for the season.  He won nine games and had a 3.20 ERA.  The A’s were 61 – 100, finishing in ninth place.  Problems developed in Archer’s left shoulder in 1962.  He pitched only 27 innings and the A’s sent him to the minor leagues.  He never again appeared in a Major League game.

Historical notices from week of January 5:  Birthday for Jim Pendleton former Negro League and Major League player born January 7, 1924 and Earl Battey former All-Star catcher for the Minnesota Twins (1960 – 1967); born January 5, 1935.

For my daily historical notices go to Kevin L. Mitchell@Lasttraintocoop

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

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