Negro League Catchers

This post details former Negro League catchers who have not been inducted in the Hall of Fame.

Ted Radcliffe earned the nickname “Double Duty” for his unique ability to start both games of a doubleheader: one as a pitcher and the other as a catcher.  With a rather squatty build, Radcliffe was remindful of Roy Campanella behind the dish even though Double Duty’s career ended before Campy made the Majors.  Radcliffe was a journeyman catcher who also pitched.  He spent the bulk of his career with the Chicago American Giants and Birmingham Black Barons around World War II.  Although there were many nomadic players in Negro League history, Double Duty seems to be the most footloose of the lot.  There were seasons in which he would play for multiple teams (he played with four teams in 1933) but he was considered a star in black baseball.  Radcliffe was named to six All-Star Games during his career.

The Cuban born Jose Fernandez was too dark-skinned to follow fellow countryman Dolf Luque to the Majors so he caught on in the Negro Leagues and enjoyed a lengthy career.  He was the longtime catcher of the Cuban Stars and later managed for many years with the New York Cubans.  A modest hitter, Fernandez was highly regarded for his ability to handle pitchers–a trait that served him well in later years as a skipper.  He would manage the New York Cubans to a Black World Series title in 1947 at the time many Negro League stars were signing with Major League clubs.

Joe Greene was a big receiver from Georgia who could hit for power and was noted for a strong throwing arm.  He caught for the Kansas City Monarchs around World War II but the backstop left the game to join the military.  Greene was as deep in combat as any man in sports.  He served in the European Theatre and entered Milan after the murder of Benito Mussolini and his mistress.  He returned to the Monarchs after the war and helped them make the World Series.  At the end of his career he joined integrated ball and played a season in the low-level Mandak League when he was pushing his fortieth birthday.

Widely regarded as the top catcher in black baseball during the Deadball Era, Petway was an exceptional defender with a terrific throwing arm.  He could be likened to the Major League’s Jimmy Archer, who also was highly regarded for his arm and possessed modest offensive skills.  Petway was maddeningly unreliable offensively however.  He could hit .300 one season and then fall off to .180 the next, but even with his inconsistent stickwork, he was a valuable source given his amazing catch-and-throw skills.  He spent the bulk of his career with the Chicago American Giants where he played under Hall of Famer Rube Foster.

 image of Bruce Petway

Like Joe Greene, Quincy Trouppe was a big-bodied catcher from Georgia.  Trouppe was noted as a terrific power-hitting catcher who could draw walks, much in the vein of Major Leaguer Stan Lopata.  A solid if not spectacular defender, Trouppe made his rounds in the Negro Leagues, never staying in one place for too long a time.  The switch-hitting receiver spent a good deal of his career playing south of the border in Mexico during the war years.  He was a member of the Cleveland Buckeyes team in 1945 after returning from Mexico and led the team to a World Series title.  Quincy had a brief trial in the Majors with the 1952 Indians.

Wabishaw Wiley, who was nicknamed “Doc” on account of his dental practice, was the personal caddy for Hall of Famer Smokey Joe Williams during the Deadball Era.  A half-Indian from Oklahoma, Wiley was a solid defender who was good enough with the bat to hit in the heart of the order.  He left baseball during World War I to join the Army Dental Corps but after the war he returned to baseball.  However, Wiley spent more time working at his dental office in East Orange, New Jersey and gave up baseball in 1924. 

Iron Man Larry Brown was one of the best catchers in the Negro Leagues during the Lively Ball Era.  With a short, squatty build, Brown made an ideal target for pitchers.  He was widely regarded as the top defender in black baseball in the years after the Deadball Era.  Larry nullified the running game with his cannon-like arm and was noted to have such a feel for where popups would drop that he never removed his mask when catching them.  Although he played in the Lively Ball Era, Brown was not noted for his hitting and is credited with a lifetime .259 career average in black baseball.  There were rumors that several white baseball players who played against Brown tried to get the light-skinned catcher to join the Major League ranks.  To accomplish this he would have had to pass himself off as Cuban, but Larry refused.

Chappie Johnson got his start in black baseball in the 1890s.  A smart, durable receiver, Chappie caught the legendary Rube Foster during his career.  If one were to compare Johnson with a Major League peer, the best comparison would probably be White Sox catcher Billy Sullivan Sr.  Both men were astute handlers of pitchers but weak hitters who batted at the back-end of the lineup.  Despite his less than stellar batting skills, Chappie was highly regarded as a teacher of baseball fundamentals and spent many years coaching and managing at various levels after his playing days.

Satchel Paige once said that Bill Perkins was his favorite catcher to throw to.  A chunky receiver with a keen sense of humor, Bill is credited with wearing a chest protector with the phrase “Thou Shalt Not Steal” written across it.  Although he had a good arm, Perkins was known as a very slow receiver, much in the vein of Hall of Famer Ernie Lombardi, who, like Lombardi, was a capable hitter for both average and power.  He was once blocked by the great Josh Gibson but his owner was too persnickety to deal him so he kept Bill on the roster as a reserve and part-time outfielder.  Perkins got away from Josh when he jumped the club.

1 comment
  1. John E. Price said:

    Bill Perkins aka Bro. Perkins was born andraised at Dawson, Georgia. Heentred the Negro Leagues in 1927 witrh the Birmingham Black Barons

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