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Negro Leagues

This post further details pitchers of the Negro Leagues who have not been inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Jess “The Mountain” Hubbard was a star pitcher for the Brooklyn Royal Giants in the years after World War I.  A light-complected half-Indian, Hubbard once pitched in the Giants farm system but never made it to the Majors because of his half-black heritage.  Hubbard instead joined the Negro Leagues and made a name for himself as a stellar pitcher.  Like Orlando Hernandez of modern times, Jess liked to keep batters off-balance by throwing from a number of different arm angles.

Although Terris McDuffie was a solid pitcher in the Negro Leagues throughout the 1930s, he is best remembered as Effa Manley’s man-on-the-side.  Abe Manley was technically the owner but Effa took a greater interest in the team and a much greater interest in McDuffie, an illiterate man who hid this fact to the public.  The flamboyant right-hander won 19 games for Manley’s club in 1936 but when Abe found out about his wife’s affair with Terris, Abe traded the pretty boy to the New York Black Yankees for two bats and some worn-out gear. 

Connie Rector was a Texan but found New York to his liking.  He spent the bulk of his career bouncing around New York based teams because he couldn’t get enough of the Big Apple nightlife.  Not an overpowering pitcher, Rector possessed terrific control and his best offering was his change of pace.  Connie had a 20-win season with the Lincoln Giants in 1929 and once pitched in perhaps the greatest rotation in black baseball history with Smoky Joe Williams and Cannonball Dick Redding.  Rector, of course, was the number three hurler in that trio.

Sam Streeter was a little southpaw from Alabama who started the first ever Negro League All-Star Game.  A master of the spitball, Streeter pitched with the Pittsburgh Crawfords during the 1930s and was regarded as their staff ace until they signed Satchel Paige.  Sam was also a solid hitter who often hit above .300.

In a career in the Negro Leagues that spanned 24 years, Chet Brewer was a solid pitcher who spent the bulk of his career with the Kansas City Monarchs.  Although Brewer possessed a decent fastball he is regarded as more of a finesse pitcher.  Chet threw an assortment of pitches, some illegal in the Majors, to make him a winning pitcher,  With the Monarchs in 1926, Chet is credited with 20 wins against all levels of competition.  Brewer was a bit of a rambler and is sometimes listed as the first black American to have pitched in Mexico.  Chet also pitched in the Orient as well as Panama and other locales.

A star pitcher for the Hilldale Club of the 1920s, Phil Cockrell mixed in a spitball to go with his above average fast one.  He helped Hilldale capture three straight pennants from 1923 through 1925 and is credited with records of 10-1 and 14-2 in the latter two pennant-winning seasons.  Nicknamed “Fish,” Cockrell won the deciding game in the 1925 Negro League World Series.  After his playing days he became an umpire.

John Donaldson, was a legend during the Deadball Era who excelled after World War I with the Kansas City Monarchs.  The flame-throwing southpaw would be a sure bet for the Hall of Fame had he pitched in the east rather than out west.  A star with J.L. Wilkinson’s All Nations team from 1913 to 1917, the club typically played teams of very low caliber and Donaldson often mowed them away with little effort.  After his stint in the military during World War I, Donaldson finally ventured out east and pitched briefly in Brooklyn and Indianapolis before settling in with Wilkinson’s Kansas City Monarchs.  Born in Glasgow, Missouri, Donaldson has the stigma of being a barnstorming pitcher and not a legitimate Negro League hurler.  Be that as it may, Wilkinson often referred to Donaldson as the greatest pitcher he had ever seen, and he once owned Satchel Paige.  Giants skipper John McGraw once stated that he would have paid the princely sum of $50,000 for Donaldson had he been white.

Holsey Scranton Scriptus “Scrip” Lee was a submarine pitcher who excelled for the Hilldale Club of the 1920s.  Scrip is credited with 24 wins in 1923 and he pitched Hilldale to a championship over the Kansas City Monarchs in the 1925 World Series, taking their revenge for having been beaten by the same outfit the year prior.  Lee was a curveball pitcher first and foremost, and given his submarine delivery, made his breaking pitches hard to pick up for batters.  A former Army man, Lee served in the military before WWI under General Pershing.

Southpaw Dan McClellan is credited with throwing the first perfect game in Negro League history when he accomplished the feat in 1903 with the Cuban X-Giants.  He later joined the Philadelphia Giants where he had his greatest success in a rotation with Hall of Famer Rube Foster.  Although he lacked a good fastball, Dan kept batters off-balance with his solid assortment of off speed pitches.

Cannonball Dick Redding is arguably the greatest pitcher not in the Hall of Fame.  One of the top pitchers during the Deadball Era and on through the 1920s, Redding was a hard worker and tough competitor which, with his blazing fastball, made him an instant star.  Dick never worked out of the windup–he just slung his heat by dazed batters.  Over the course of his career, Cannonball is credited with an unheard of total of 30 no-hitters.  He had all the attributes of Washington Senators legend Walter Johnson, who was without a peer in the Majors.  Dick, however, had a peer in Smokey Joe Williams who he often pitched with in the same rotation.  Many observers couldn’t tell who was the better pitcher.  They were generally regarded as both great pitchers.  A big, good-natured man, Redding saw combat action during World War I and used his military leadership skills in baseball as a respected veteran and later manager.

 image of Cannonball Dick Redding

Considered the ace of the Hilldale Club during their powerhouse years of the 1920s, Nip Winters was a large southpaw with good speed and a solid curve.  Although wild at times, Nip was effectively wild, keeping batters on guard.  He is credited with a 32-6 record in 1923 and tossed a no-hitter in 1924.  In that season’s World Series, against the Monarchs of Kansas City, Nip posted a 1.16 ERA.  But Nip was an excessive drinker and many on the Hilldale Club complained of his lazy, careless style of play.  He was traded to the Lincoln Giants but his career fizzled out quickly.

Like Schoolboy Rowe of the Major Leagues, Laymon Yokely was an easy-going man with great pitching skills who was a solid gate attraction.  Like Rowe, Yokely was overworked due to his fan appeal and his arm went south mid-career.  Also like the Schoolboy, Yokely made a valiant comeback after his initial success with the Black Sox.  Yokely, who was nicknamed “Corner Pocket,” was credited with six no-hitters before his arm troubles.  Afterwards he rebounded after a few seasons with lesser teams to win 25 games with the Philadelphia Stars in 1939.

This post details the careers of some Negro League hurlers who haven’t been inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Little Dave Barnhill was one of the best pitchers in the Negro Leagues in the years just prior to integration.  He started two All-Star Games against Satchel Paige in the 1940s.  A strikeout pitcher, Barnhill was just five-feet-seven-inches tall and didn’t even weigh 150 pounds.  Despite his less than imposing build, he was a fastball machine who racked up large strikeout totals.  He seemed destined for the Major Leagues but his tenure in the minors was beset by inconsistency.  He once had a 1.19 ERA at Miami Beach under former Cardinals great Pepper Martin but also had an ERA close to 6.00 while pitching for the higher class Minneapolis Millers.

Dizzy Dismukes had a long career in the Negro Leagues.  Initially a submarine pitcher in the vein of Carl Mays, Dizzy later managed, coached and worked in the front office.  He had a lengthy career with the Kansas City Monarchs where he tutored Buck O’Neil as the Monarchs’ traveling secretary.  As a pitcher, Dismukes excelled with the Indianapolis ABCs in the years around World War I.  A heady pitcher, Dizzy didn’t have blazing speed but was known for his assortment of breaking pitches.  He was a master at keeping batters off balance.

One of the top picthers in the Negro Leagues during the Deadball Era, Big Bill Gatewood stood at six-feet-seven-inches and tipped the scales at 250 pounds.  A mountain of a man, Gatewood was a rambler who pitched with a great many teams.  He is best associated with the St. Louis Stars.  He would manage the Stars and is credited with tutoring Cool Papa Bell as well as giving Bell his famous nickname.

A star pitcher during thr 1920s, Webster McDonald was a footloose hurler who made his rounds through black baseball after WWI.  Like Dizzy Dismukes, McDonald utilized a submarine style delivery and was nicknamed “56 Varieties” for his assortment of pitches.  Noted as one of the most polite men in the Negro Legaues, Webster was well-liked by everyone who came into contact with him, but it must be reasoned that batters didn’t care much for him.  He was a strikeout pitcher and is credited with tossing three no-hitters in 1933 with the Philadelphia Stars.

George Stovey is regarded as the first pitching star in the ranks of black baseball.  His time came during the 1880s and 1890s, before the Negro Leagues was established.  A Canadian, Stovey pitched in northern cities and was once rumored to have signed with the New York Giants of the National League but racial tensions prohibited him from ever taking the mound in a league contest.

Steel Arm Johnny Taylor was the brother of Negro League managerial legend C.I. Taylor.  Johnny was a terrific pitcher during the Deadball Era.  He once outdueled Smoky Joe Williams, widely regarded as the best pitcher in black baseball before Satchel Paige, with a 1-0 shutout.  Although a fine pitcher, Johnny was also a respected coach who demanded a clean-living lifestyle from his players.

Frank Wickware was perhaps the greatest gate attraction in the Negro Leagues during the Deadball Era.  The “Red Ant” supplanted Rube Foster as the staff ace of the Leland Giants as a youngster with his exceptional velocity and unusual poise for such a young pitcher.  He was in such demand during his prime that he would often sell his services to other teams while under contract with the American Giants.  His “ringer” tendencies didn’t sit well with management, but “The Black Walter Johnson” was such an extraordinary talent that his free-spirited ways were tolerated.  But later in his career, his contract-jumping became too much to tolerate when his skills began to erode.  A noted alcoholic, Wickware’s career didn’t pattern that of the Senators great and he was through at a relatively young age. 

A master of the screwball, Barney Brown was an angular left-hander remindful of Giants legend Carl Hubbell.  A five-time All-Star, Barney spent the bulk of his career with the Philadelphia Stars.  Brown was one of the top hitting pitchers in the Negro Leagues who was often saddled to losing clubs.  Given his association with teams that weren’t typically among the leaders, Brown’s career record wasn’t as sterling as it otherwise might have been.

Bill Byrd was a solid pitcher for the Elite Giants of the 1940s.  Although he played at the time the game was integrated, Byrd wasn’t a Major League prospcet because his best pitch was the spitball, which the Negro Leagues didn’t outlaw when the Majors made the pitch illegal.  Bill liked to mix in a knuckleball with his spitter to give batters fits.  A swell man with a generous nature, Bill was looked upon as a father figure in his latter years in the Negro Leagues and was nicknamed “Daddy” by Hall of Fame catcher Roy Campanella.

 image of Bill Drake

Perhaps the meanest pitcher in Negro League history, Bill Drake was nicknamed “Plunk” because he got a kick out of low-bridging batters.  Drake, who was born in Sedalia, Missouri, played with the All Nations teams, a club of men from many nationalities, before he became a success in black baseball with the St. Louis Stars.  Plunk excelled with some outlawed pitches, like the emery ball, which weren’t illegal in the Negro Legaues.  Given his background in integrated baseball, Bill had little trouble playing against whites.  He once played against Babe Ruth and he liked the great slugger because Babe shared a plug of tobacco with him.

This post details the careers of a few Negro League left fielders that haven’t been inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Bernardo Baro was one of the most gifted Cuban athletes to star in the Negro Leagues.  He made his debut during the Deadball Era and excelled with a well-rounded game.  A toolsy player, Baro had all the natural talent to excel but a serious leg injury midway through his career sapped his speed.  Despite a loss of speed, Baro was one of the best average hitters in the Negro Leagues–he typically hit around .350 in his prime.  But Baro was often referred to as a violent man with no control of his emotions.  He died in 1930 while still an active player in his native Cuba.

A star of the Deadball Era, Jimmie Lyons played with numerous teams before World War I.  He served in France during the war and a couple years after his discharge he found a home with the American Giants.  He teamed with Spot Poles in the outfield for the American Giants and they were credited as the fastest outfield duo in the Negro Leagues.  Lyons, who led the league in stolen bases on occasion, was a very aggressive base runner who took the extra base with little effort.

A star with the legendary Homestead Grays, Vic Harris was their left fielder throughout the late 1920s and early 1930s and later managed the club.  Although a good player, Harris is best remembered as the skipper that won nine consecutive pennants (1937 to 1945) with the club.  A spray-hitter with limited power, Harris is credited with a career .299 batting average.  Never one to be pushed around, Harris was often called “Vicious Vic” for his tough exterior, but despite his mean streak, or perhaps because of it, he was one of the most successful managers in baseball history.

 image of Vic Harris

A legend in his native Dominican Republic, Tetelo Vargas was a swift outfielder who could hit for both average and power.  An All-Star during the 1940s, Vargas batted in the heart-of-the-order with the Cuban Stars of New York.  The right-handed hitter was a terrific ballhawk who played baseball all year round.  When the Negro League season ended, he went back home and played in the Dominican.  He was still playing in his mid 40s south of the border in the Mexican League after the Negro Leagues folded.

This post details the careers of a few Negro League center fielders who have not made the Hall of Fame.

A poor man’s Cool Papa Bell, Jerry Benjamin was the center fielder for the Homestead Grays from 1935 until the waning years of the Negro Leagues.  While Jerry manned the middle pasture for the Grays, they won nine consecutive pennants.  Both Benjamin and Bell played together for a time and when they did, Jerry was in center.  Exceptionally swift, Benjamin was a switch-hitter with only modest offensive skills.  When his numbers started to dip just before World War II, they skyrocketed during the war when many stars were in the service.

Referred to as “The Black Lloyd Waner” during his playing days, the Moberly, Missouri raised Jim Crutchfield was a gifted line-drive hitter with above average speed and determination.  Noted more for his hustle than off-the-charts tools, Crutchfield started in two All-Star Games.  Associated with the Pittsburgh Crawfords of the 1930s, Jim was a terrific defender and a bit of a hotdog.  He is often credited with catching balls behind his back when the game wasn’t a close affair.

One of the best Cuban players to have starred in the Negro Leagues, Critobal Torriente was the slugging star for Rube Foster’s American Giants dynasty after World War I.  Like Yogi Berra and Vladimir Guerrero, Torriente was a famous bad-ball hitter who could put his bat on any pitch, regardless where it was thrown.  Strong and compactly built, Cristobal was one of the few power threats on Foster’s club.  The Cuban star wasn’t too well-liked and his temperament forced him off the American Giants and to the Kansas City Monarchs where he lasted half a season due to his less than admirable behavior.  Torriente died in squalor, a penniless drunk, but was a member of the initial Cuban Hall of Fame class.

A fixture in the All-Star Game, Neil Robinson was a stellar power hitter in the years surrounding World War II.  Neil played everyday throughout the 1940s as the Memphis Red Sox center fielder.  Although a serviceable outfielder, Robinson earned his bread with his bat.  He could club prodigious homeruns but was a free-swinger at the plate who frequently struck out.  But his high total of whiffs came with the realization that he could break a game wide open with one swing of the bat.

One of the most complete stars of the Negro Leagues, Clint “Hawk” Thomas earned his nickname for two reasons: his exceptional ballhawking abilities and his supreme batting eye.  Sometimes listed as the “Black Joe DiMaggio,” Thomas made his debut in the Negro Leagues well before Joltin’ Joe made the Yankees.  However, while DiMaggio was establishing himself as a star with the Yankees, the veteran great Thomas was patrolling center for the Black Yankees.  Born and raised in the small town of Greenup, Kentucky, Clint is credited with 367 career homeruns.

Perhaps the best Negro League player currently left out of the Hall of Fame, Spottswood Poles was often referred to as the “Black Ty Cobb.”  Both men excelled during the Deadball Era by utilizing blazing speed and hitting for extremely lofty batting averages.  Although he was often called a “Black Cobb,” Poles resembled Hall of Famer Billy Hamilton in that both were exceptionally swift despite their compact, almost chunky builds.  Spot was an exceptional leadoffman for the Lincoln Giants during the Deadball Era who once had a three-hit game against Hall of Fame Major Leaguer Grover Alexander.  Poles had an unusual appearance in that he was bowlegged and had big arms for a small man.  But like the awkward looking Honus Wagner, Poles too was a great player.  Outside of baseball Poles was a man of character who earned the Purple Heart during the First World War.  He retired in comfort as a manager of a taxi fleet.

 image of Spottswood Poles (www.mlb.com)

Quiet and unassuming off the field, the gentlemanly Chaney White had that Jekyll and Hyde complex.  He was regarded as one of the dirtiest players in the Negro Leagues during the 1920s who wasn’t just unopposed to spiking the opposition but seemed to relish the opportunities.  A right-handed hitter and left-handed thrower, Chaney had a large, strong build but was quite swift.  White could play anywhere in the outfield and Pop Lloyd, when making out his all-time Negro League team, chose White as his left fielder.

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.

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.

This post details the careers of a select few Negro League shortstops who have not made the Hall of Fame.

Cuban born Pelayo Chacon was a Deaball Era shortstop noted for his superior defensive skills.  A member of the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame, Pelayo came to the States in 1909 and played in the Negro Leagues because his skin color was a bit too dark for the Majors.  Chacon was an adequate offensive player better suited for the number two slot given his knack for the hit-and-run.  But it was with the glove where Pelayo excelled.  Quick and agile, he had excellent range afield and his swiftness allowed him to steal an ample amount of bases.

Grant “Homerun” Johnson was an early star of black baseball who played for the Page Fence Giants of the late 1890s and in Brooklyn and New York afterwards.  Johnson was a terrific hitter who excelled in the Deadball Era and was noted for refraining from vices and leading a humble life.  Always in terrific condition, Homerun played into his fifties–although not at the highest level.  He was widely considered to be the best shortstop in the Negro Leagues in the years before Pop Lloyd.

When the best shortstops of Negro League history are discussed, the two most prominent names are Hall of Famers Willie Wells and Pop Lloyd.  Dick Lundy is often listed as the third best.  A switch-hitter, Lundy was dubbed “King Richard” on account of his well-rounded game.  He hit for both average and power and possessed a rifle arm that allowed him to play a deep short and still retire the fleetest of runners.  Lundy played throughout the 1920s with the Bacharach Giants.  When Dick and a veteran Pop Lloyd played together in 1924, Lloyd was the skipper and he acknowledged that the younger Lundy had superior skills and thus moved himself out from shortstop to allow King Richard to play there.

 image of Dick Lundy

Bus Clarkson was an unusual shortstop in that he was a big, thick-bodied man.  Most men who excel at short are of lighter build–Aparicio and Reese come to mind–but Bus was built for blasting and didn’t look the part of a nimble middle infielder.  Clarkson had the typical slugger traits: he hit plenty homeruns but he also whiffed a lot.  He did offset his strikeouts with a higher than average amount of walks drawn however.  Bus made it to the Majors in his mid 30s but by that time he was no longer able to handle short.  He played mostly at third and since he was with the Braves, he rarely played since the legendary Eddie Mathews was entrenched there.

Like the Delahantys of the Major Leagues, the Bankhead clan sent a number of their sons to the Negro Leagues.  The best of the family was clearly shortstop Samuel Howard Bankhead.  A solid ballplayer, Sam did everything well and was a consummate team player, willing and able to play any position.  A star with the Pittsburgh Crawfords of the late 1930s and the Homestead Grays of the 1940s, Sam was a bit too old to make the Majors when the color line was leveled.  His kid brother Dan however pitched briefly with the Dodgers. 

Like Bus Clarkson, John Beckwith was a large shortstop.  Beckwith was even bigger than Clarkson and was known for his prodigious homeruns.  His power was more impressive than Clarkson’s but he was a free-swinger who rarely walked and amassed high strikeout totals.  Although not a great defender he was serviceable and when he aged he was shifted to third base.  Beckwith hit for amazing power and despite his swing-at-anything approach to hitting, maintained a high batting average.  His batting kept him around even though his defense was suspect and his character unbecoming.  He had a reputation for careless, lazy play and wasn’t fond of his teammates when they offered criticism.  He once beat teammate Bill Holland unconscious after he showed disgust when Beckwith made a costly error. 

Country Jake Stephens looked the part of a shortstop.  A nimble little fellow, he had the traits of a Maranville or Rizzuto and wasn’t the brawny blaster that Clarkson and Beckwith were.  Country Jake played 17 years, mostly with the Hilldale Club, and was noted for his agile work around second base.  Although a gifted defender, breaking balls gave Stephens plenty trouble throughout his career and he never developed into a solid offensive player.  A pepperpot, Stephens resembled a lesser-hitting version of the Major League’s Rowdy Dick Bartell.

This post profiles the careers of some Negro League second basemen who have not been inducted into the Hall of Fame.

An anomaly in the Negro Leagues, Newt Allen spent most of his career with one team: the Kansas City Monarchs.  A gifted table-setter for the Monarchs, Allen possessed well above average  speed and used this to his benefit in a number of ways.  Quick afield, Newt was an expert on the double-play pivot and offensively he used his wheels to take extra bases when others couldn’t.  He played just over twenty years in the Negro Leagues, almost exclusively with the Monarchs.  A number of sources list Newt as a switch-hitter but he is remembered to have batted just from the right-hand side.  Given his swift style of play and expert bat handling skills–Allen excelled at the hit-and-run–as well as his underrated status, Allen is quite comparable to former Washington Senators great Buddy Myer, who should be in the Hall of Fame.

Built along the lines of Rabbit Maranville, Bunny Downs had modest tools who hustled his way through a solid career in black baseball.  Downs was only a serviceable hitter whose chief asset was his glove.  He and Dick Lundy were widely regarded as one of the top double-play duos in the Negro Leagues.  But Bunny had a troubled life off the field and once killed a woman, which he claimed was self defense.  He had a long life in baseball and worked in the Indianapolis Clowns’ front office when they signed a young Hank Aaron. 

An early star of the Negro Leagues, Bill Monroe was one of black baseball’s first stars.  Monroe could easily slide into the “hotdog” category of ballplayers given his penchant for pleasing fans with behind-the-back catches and circus plays.  Despite his excessive showmanship, Bill was a superior defender at both second and third base and gained the attention of the legendary Rube Foster who bought him for his American Giants club.  He batted in the heart-of-the-order of Foster’s dynasty and was considered the backbone of a team that also boasted Hall of Famer Pop Lloyd.

A longtime second baseman for the Lincoln Giants, George Scales was a solid second baseman who could fill in anywhere on the diamond.  Scales got his start at the close of the Deadball Era and proved to be a solid line-drive hitter.  Defensively he wasn’t of the same ilk as Newt Allen, but the chunky Scales was serviceable and made up for his inferior range with a quick and accurate arm.  An All-Star, Scales managed in both the Negro Leagues and in Latin America after his playing days.

Bingo DeMoss is widely regarded as the top second baseman of early black baseball.  A star for Rube Foster’s American Giants, Bingo was a gifted defender who made plays with ease at second base.  DeMoss was the captain of the American Giants in the years directly after WWI as he did all the things necessary for a team leader.  He was a clever batsmen who was a natural opposite field hitter and quite gifted at the hit-and-run.  Bingo was a natural leader who led by example and made for an obvious choice as a skipper after his playing days.  A perfect player for the strategy-minded Deadball Era, Bingo did all the little things right.

Dick Seay was hands down the best defensive second baseman in black baseball during the 1930s.  In an era when players typically hit .300 with their eyes closed, Seay struggled to hit above .200.  He was an all-field-no-hit second baseman who made up for his offensive deficiencies by playing a flawless defense.  Dick was the forerunner for such splendid glove men like Mark Belanger in the Major Leagues. 

A star player for the Hilldale Club of the 1920s, Frank Warfield was a fiery ballplayer regarded as an outstanding fielder and solid batter.  Although not a hitter for power, Warfield was a solid number two hitter that excelled at sacrifice bunting and legging out infield hits.  As a player/manager, Frank guided Hilldale to pennants in the mid 1920s.  He stayed well passed his usefulness as a player while engaged as a player/manager late in the 1920s, but he was a respected field general despite his quick temper.  Warfield plays a prominent role in one of Negro League’s most bizarre cases when he and star third baseman Oliver Marcelle were engaged in a dice game.  Marcelle didn’t have enough money to pay-up after the game so like Shylock in the Merchant of Venice, Warfield took his pound of flesh by biting off the tip of Marcelle’s nose.

Charlie Grant was one of black baseball’s first great stars and given his light-complexion, attracted attention from the Major Leagues.  John McGraw, legendary skipper of the New York Giants, signed Grant and changed his name to “Chief Tokahoma” in order to pass him off as an Indian.  The plan worked until some of Grant’s friends came out to the Polo Grounds to watch Charlie practice.  When people began to wonder why black folks took such a keen interest in Grant, it was found out that he was black and not Native American, and McGraw’s attempt to play a black man in the Majors failed.

Unusually tall for a second baseman, Sammy T. Hughes was nevertheless a solid defender who had well above average range given his stature.  Hughes was a star second baseman for the Elite Giants just before WWII.  A solid doubles hitter, Sammy was elected to numerous All-Star Games but the war ended his career prematurely.  A fixture in the All-Star Games, Hughes spent time in New Guinea during the war and after his layoff he wasn’t quite the same player.

This post profiles the careers of some Negro League first basemen who have not been inducted in the Hall of Fame.

Bill Pettus was a strong Texan who excelled during the Deadball Era.  Able to play behind the dish as well, Bill typically batted in the heart of the order.  His career was rather nomadic.  Most seasons he would play for at least two teams since he often jumped clubs in the middle of a season.  Despite his footloose ways, Pettus was a valuable man on a club because of his batting skills and his ability to speak Spanish.  Bill is noted for stealing signs when his club would play Spanish-speaking teams.

A clever defender, George Giles was another nomadic Negro Leaguer who played all over the nation.  He was with St. Louis when they won pennants in the early 1930s and he played off and on with his hometown Kansas City Monarchs throughout the 1920s and 1930s.  A decent hitter for average but with minimal power, Giles earned a reputation with his glove.  He was adept at digging balls out of the dirt and covered more ground than most first basemen of his time.

Longtime Monarchs first baseman Buck O’Neil gained national fame when Ken Burns used him quite liberally in his documentary titled Baseball.  Buck had a full life in baseball.  He starred at first base for the Monarchs through their powerful years, he won a batting title after missing three seasons to World War II, he was a fixture in the Negro League All-Star Games as a first baseman and manager and he became the first black coach in the Major Leagues.  Mister O’Neil was baseball’s greatest ambassador until his death a few years back.  There was a big push to get Buck inducted into the Hall of Fame but he fell a vote shy of election.  The Hall of Fame decided to honor Buck nonetheless and created a Buck O’Neil Award and placed a bronze statue of him at Cooperstown.

 image of Buck O’ Neil

Born George Henry Carr, the large Californian was known to black baseball simply as “Tank” Carr.  Big and heavy, Tank was a powerful switch-hitting first baseman for the Hilldale club of the 1920s.  A gifted natural hitter, Carr could hit for high averages and true to his stout build, walloped his share of homeruns.  Carr was uncommonly fast for a man his size as he could steal 30 bases a season.  Like most big men however, Tank excelled for a handful of years but his stardom didn’t last as long as it could have had he been in better condition. 

Lou Dials made his rounds in the Negro Leagues.  A first baseman who could play anywhere in the outfield as well, Dials was a high average hitter during the 1920s.  He starred with the American Giants in the mid to late 1920s but after a few years of bouncing around from team to team, he went to Mexico and played there four years.  When he returned to the States, World War II was underway and Lou spent the entire war on a war plant job and played ball in an Industrial League.

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.