Negro League Third Basemen

This post details the careers of some third basemen from the Negro Leagues who haven’t made the Hall of Fame.

A switch-hitting third baseman from Mississippi, Howard Easterling was a fixture at third base in the Negro League All-Star Games of the 1940s.  Howard manned the hot corner for the Homestead Grays.  He was an integral member of the Grays World Champion team of 1943 but after the season he was drafted for duty in the military during WWII.  Although a fine player, he was also crafty and cunning.  When he learned of his draft notice, he swindled Grays owner Cum Posey out of some money when he requested advance pay for the upcoming ’44 season, which he knew he wasn’t going to play in.

A four-time All-Star in the Negro League ranks, Parnell Woods played for a number of teams before settling in with the Cleveland Buckeyes during WWII.  The team leader of the Buckeyes, Woods helped the club sweep the Grays in the 1945 World Series.  Although a fine ballplayer with good skills, one can liken him to former Cardinals shortstop Marty Marion in that both men were fine players who played through World War II.  Both men added to their numbers when the level of play was greatly diminished.

Best known for having his nose bitten off by teammate Frank Warfield when he couldn’t pay his debt in a dice game, Oliver Marcelle was an exceptional hot corner custodian–with or without a nasal instrument.  In a poll by the Pittsburgh Courier in 1952, Oliver was selected over Hall of Famer Ray Dandridge and Judy Johnson as the Negro League’s best third baseman.  A delight to watch on the field, Marcelle excelled with the leather and was remindful of Frankie Frisch of the Major Leagues.  The sketchy stats kept by the Negro Leagues show Marcelle as a lifetime .305 hitter.

image of Oliver “The Ghost” Marcelle

Like Howard Easterling, Pat Patterson was a switch-hitting third baseman who played around World War II.  Noted as a good contact hitter with just modest power, Pat was a heady infielder who played for the Philadelphia Stars before the war and the Newark Eagles afterwards.  Like the great Cecil Travis of the Senators, Patterson missed the better part of four seasons to the war effort.  When he returned from the military, he hit .321 to help the Eagles defeat the Kansas City Monarchs in the World Series. 

A Renaissance Man, Dave Malarcher had nicknames like “Preacher” and “Gentleman Dave.”  After his days in baseball, he published some poetry.  However, before channeling Walt Whitman, Malarcher was considered one of the top third basemen of the Lively Ball Era.  Dave became the perfect pupil for Negro League godfather Rube Foster and was named the team captain of Foster’s American Giants dynasty of the 1920s.  A deft defender, the switch-hitting Malarcher was adequate offensively and did his best hitting in the clutch.  It is said that he earned the nickname “Gentleman Dave” because he would apologize to opponents after spiking them.

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