Negro League Right Fielders

This post details the careers of some Negro League right fielders who haven’t made the Hall of Fame.

Nicknamed “The Mirror,” Otto Briggs was a star outfielder for the Hilldale Club throughout the 1920s.  A mite of a player, Otto was a swift leadoff man with solid on-base skills.  An expert of the Deadball Era style of play, Briggs was adept at “accidentally” getting hit by pitched balls.  He often got on base and when he did, he didn’t hesitate to pilfer second base.  Otto managed at the end of his career and was successful after baseball as circulation manager of the Philadelphia Tribune.

Christopher Columbus “Crush” Holloway was a fleet-footed outfielder for the Baltimore Black Sox of the 1920s.  He ascribed to the Ty Cobb style of “baseball is war,” by playing all out.  Noted for keeping his spikes sharpened to remind infielders that he owned the basepaths, Crush used his feet to enhance his game.  He became an expert drag bunter and could chase down flyballs in right field well.  He posted a lifetime .290 batting average when he played in Cuba during the winters.

A terrific average hitter with exceptional speed, Terrible Ted Page was a nomadic outfielder who played for two of black baseball’s greatest dynasties: the Pittsburgh Crawfords and the Homestead Grays.  Page earned the nickname “Terrible Ted” for his excessive mean streak.  He once knocked out two of teammate/roommate George Scales’ teeth and the night of the fight, the two men stayed up all night, facing one another, concealing weapons for protection.  He was a batter of his times, able to hit for lofty averages.  After his playing days, he owned and operated a bowling alley but met with a grim demise when robbers beat him to death with a baseball bat.

 image of Ted Page

Herbert “Rap” Dixon was a star right fielder for the Harrisburg Giants of the 1920s and later with the Baltimore Black Sox.  A toolsy player, Dixon had the talent to excel in every facet of the game.  He was a solid defender with a terrific throwing arm and possessed an uncanny knowledge of the strike zone.  Dixon guarded the plate well and was considered a great two-strike hitter.  A gifted hitter for both power and average, Rap is credited with a lifetime average of .340 in league action.

An expert of the “Smallball” style of play, Jelly Gardner was the ideal leadoffman for Rube Foster’s Chicago American Giants of the 1920s.  A little fellow with blazing speed, Jelly wasn’t the type to sock the ball deep into the outfield but the man who beat out infield hits and bunted for safeties.  The little Arkansas native was one of the fastest players in the Negro Leagues and used his speed to excel in the outfield.  Noted for his exceptional range in right field, Jelly essentially gave Foster two center fielders.  Gardner was a feisty ballplayer who had a bad reputation around the league, but Rube Foster could control him.  After Foster suffered a nervous breakdown, new skipper Dave Malarcher, the Connie Mack of black baseball, had trouble controlling Jelly who was quite fond of the nightlife and the bottle.

A reliable .300 hitter for the Kansas City Monarchs of the 1920s, Hurley McNair was a solid switch-hitter who could play all over the outfield as well as pitch.  Hurley helped the Monarchs capture three straight pennants in the mid 1920s.  Noted for his clutch hitting, he was not easily shaken and is said to have prided himself on being a two-strike hitter.  After his playing days McNair umpired in the Negro Leagues.

A star player for the Memphis Red Sox and Chicago American Giants of the 1920s and 1930s, Nat Rogers excelled on the game’s biggest stage.  In 1927 he had a 31-game hitting streak which led the American Giants to the pennant.  In the 1932 and 1933 playoffs, Rogers hit .328 and .373 respectively.  Rogers was a spray-hitter with a devastating line-drive stroke.  Although not a large man, Nat was strong, having grown up driving spikes for the railroad.  By World War II, Nat was an old veteran but he played through the war while no longer resembling his old self.

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