Jud Wilson was born on this date in Remington, Virginia; 1897 or 1899. “Boojum”! That was the nickname given Jud Wilson. It was the sound Negro League players said they heard when balls launched off Wilson’s bat whacked the outfield fence; Jud “Boojum” Wilson. In his time “Boojum” Wilson was considered one of the best hitters in Negro League baseball, but he also had an explosive temper that was legendary. A third baseman, Wilson played for the Negro National League pennant winning Philadelphia Stars in 1934. The latter part of his career was with the Homestead Grays (1940 – 1945), who won six Negro National League pennants and a Negro League World Series championship during that period. Wilson played in three Negro League East-West All Star Games, getting two hits in the initial event in 1933. In 2006, Jud “Boojum” Wilson was elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Thursday, February 28, 2013
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Hilton Smith was born on this date in Giddings, Texas; 1907. Although the most well-known pitcher in Negro League baseball was the great Satchel Paige, many former Negro League players have said the toughest hurler they faced was Hilton Smith. With his quiet and reserved nature, Smith did not attract as much media attention as the boisterous and flamboyant Paige. However, the six foot two Texan got the respect of Negro League batters because of the variety of pitches he threw with precision control; including what was considered the best curve ball in Negro League baseball. From 1937 -1948, Smith was a part of the Kansas City Monarch pitching staff; which including Satchel Paige, that led the team to six Negro American League pennants and a Negro League World Series Championship. Hilton Smith pitched in seven Negro League East-West All Star Games and was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2001.
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
While their team was fighting to win the 1938 National League pennant, the management of the Pittsburgh Pirates received a telegraph wire from the sportswriters of the city’s African-American newspaper; the Pittsburgh Courier. The wire suggested the Pirates could capture the pennant if they signed five players from the two Negro League baseball teams in Pittsburgh at that time. The players suggested were Satchel Paige and “Cool Papa” Bell, both played for the Pittsburgh Crawfords in 1937, and Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard, and Raymond Brown of the Homestead Grays. The Pirates ignored the suggestion and only finished in second place.
Monday, February 25, 2013
Monte Irvin was born on this date in Columbus, Alabama; 1919. Irvin was a four time All-Star with the Newark Eagles and considered by many the best player in Negro League baseball before he went into the Army in 1943. Returning from military service in 1946, Irvin helped the Eagles win the 1946 Negro League World Series Championship defeating the Kansas City Monarchs. He had a successful eight year Major League career starting in 1949 with the New York Giants when he was 30 years old. For the first time in World Series history, the Giants’ starting outfield in 1951 was all African-American players: Willie Mays, Hank Thompson, and Monte Irvin. He was an important part of the Giants 1954 World Series Championship team and worked in the Major League Baseball Commissioner’s office after he retired. Monte Irvin was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973.
Sunday, February 24, 2013
On yesterday’s date (February 23rd), Raymond Brown was born in Alger, Ohio; 1908. Brown was the ace pitcher for the Homestead Grays from 1937 -1945 when the team won eight Negro National League pennants and two Negro League World Series championships. He had the highest winning percentage for league games of all Negro League pitchers, including the great Satchel Paige. Married to the daughter of Homestead Grays owner Cum Posey, Brown spent 14 of his 15 year Negro League career with the team. He was selected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the Special Committee on the Negro Leagues in 2006.
Saturday, February 23, 2013
Elston Howard was born on this date in St. Louis, Missouri; 1929. A four sport star in high school, Howard began his Negro League baseball career with the Kansas City Monarchs in 1949. After the 1950 season, he was purchased by the New York Yankees. In 1955, Howard became the first African-American to wear the famed Yankee pinstripes. From 1955 – 1964, he was part of the Yankee team nucleus that won nine American League pennants and four World Series championships. In 1963 Howard became the first African-American to be named American League Most Valuable Player (MVP).
Friday, February 22, 2013
The Pittsburgh Crawfords were the only Negro League baseball team that played in its own stadium. Owner Gus Greenlee built Greenfield Field for his team in 1932. New York Cubans’ owner Alex Pompez leased a vacant ball field in Harlem and made $60,000 in improvements. Dyckman Oval Park was the Cubans’ home field from 1935 until Pompez closed down the team in 1950. The other Negro League teams had to play their league games in Major League stadiums which they had to lease from promoters and Major League team owners. The Negro Leagues teams were allowed on the field, but could not use the locker room facilities at some of the stadiums.
Thursday, February 21, 2013
William (Bill) “Ready” Cash was born on this date in Round Oak, Georgia; 1919. Cash, a catcher who was known for his strong throwing arm, played his entire Negro League baseball career (1943 – 1950) with the Philadelphia Stars. He played in the 1948 and 1949 East-West All Star Game, hitting two doubles in the latter to help the East squad to a 4 – 0 victory. He spent two seasons in the Chicago White Sox minor league system (1952 -1953), but was past his prime (33 and 34 years old) and did not play in the Major Leagues..
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
It is clear that Negro League pitcher William Barnes was born in Birmingham, Alabama. The date of his birth is not clear. Some sources indicate it was February 20, 1921. Barnes began playing with the Baltimore Elite Giants in 1940, but in 1944 his career was interrupted by military service. He returned to Elite Giants in 1946 and in his best pitching performance hurled sixteen scoreless innings against the powerful Homestead Grays.
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Henry Kimbro was born on this date in Nashville, Tennessee, 1912. Spending most of his Negro League baseball career with the Baltimore Elite Giant playing with such teammates as Roy Campanella, Joe Black, and Junior Gilliam, Kimbro was considered one of the best league centerfielders in the 1940s. A good lead-off hitter who had some power, he gained the reputation as being a doggedly determined competitor who was not friendly with opponents when on the field. In 1941 through 1947, Kimbro played in six East-West All-Star games.
Monday, February 18, 2013
The Southern California Winter League was the first United States professional baseball league in the 20th Century that allowed competition between white and African-American teams. Starting in 1910, Negro League players would form teams to play winter league baseball in California. Attempting to make extra money during the off season, many white Major League players would play on teams in the California League. The seasons were short, 10 – 20 games and some years there would be only one African-American team. Before the league folded in 1946, white Major League stars such as Bob Feller, Ted Williams, Jimmie Foxx, Dizzy Dean, and Stan Musial played against Negro League stars such as Buck Leonard, Satchel Paige, “Bullet” Joe Rogan, “Cool Papa” Bell, and Hilton Smith; something Major League Baseball would not allow them to do.
Sunday, February 17, 2013
Before the formation of African-American professional baseball leagues began in the 1920s, there were independent black professional teams that made their living playing against low level white minor league teams, white amateur and semi-pro teams, and other black teams. One of those black teams was the Page Fence Giants. Formed in 1894 and sponsored by the Page Woven Wire Fence Company of Adrian, Michigan; the Giants were one of the premier black teams in the upper Midwest. Traveling to games by private railroad car, the Giants would parade down the main street of towns on bicycles inviting people to come see them play. On the field they mixed baseball talent with showmanship to entertain the fans. Legend has it the team won eighty-two consecutive games in 1897; it’s next to last year of operation.
Saturday, February 16, 2013
The Negro National League (NNL) was formed the second week in February, 1920; in Kansas City, Missouri. It was the first, officially organized African-American professional baseball league. The eight teams in the initial league were the Chicago American Giants, Kansas City Monarchs, Indianapolis ABCs, Dayton Marcos, St. Louis Giants, Detroit Stars, Cuban Stars, and Chicago Giants. Rube Foster of the American Giants was named League President and CI Taylor of the ABCs was Vice-President. The Chicago American Giants were the league’s first champion.
Friday, February 15, 2013
Six of the first seven winners of the National League Rookie of the Year award were former Negro League players. Jackie Robinson (Kansas City Monarchs) in 1947, Don Newcombe (Newark Eagles) in 1949, Joe Black (Baltimore Elite Giants) in 1952, and Jim Gilliam (Baltimore Elite Giants) in 1953 all won playing with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Sam Jethroe (Cleveland Buckeyes) won the award with the Boston Braves in 1950. Willie Mays (Birmingham Black Barons) won it playing for the New York Giants in 1951.
Thursday, February 14, 2013
Joe Caffie was born on this date in Ramer, Alabama; 1931. A seedy outfielder, Caffie’s only season in Negro League baseball was 1950 when at nineteen years old he played for the Cleveland Buckeyes. He was signed by the Cleveland Indians in 1951, but was kept mainly in the team’s minor league system for eleven years. Used as a utility outfielder and pinch hitter, Caffie played in only two Major League seasons with the Indians (1956 and 1957). In 1956, he hit .342 in twelve games and in 1957 he hit .270 in thirty-two.
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Some historians say the first African-American professional baseball team was the Cuban Giants, organized in 1885. The original team consisted of black waiters from the Argyle Hotel, a popular summer resort on Long Island in New York. The baseball games were entertainment for the hotel guests. It was rumored the team was so good because the waiters were really players from black amateur teams out of Philadelphia. The name “Cuban Giants” was used to decrease the potentially negative reaction from it being an all-black team.
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Marvin Williams was born on this date in Houston, Texas; 1923. A power hitter who was an infielder, Williams spent his seven year Negro League baseball career mostly with the Philadelphia Stars and played in the 1944 East-West All-Star game. Together with Jackie Robinson and Sam Jethroe, he participated in the “token” tryout given by the Boston Red Sox for African-American players in 1945; none were signed by the team. Both Robinson and Jethroe made it to the Major Leagues a few years after that tryout (Robinson in 1947, Jethroe in 1950), but Williams because of a hurt arm played only in the minor leagues.
Monday, February 11, 2013
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the 1943 Negro League World Series championship for the Homestead Grays. For nine straight years (1937 – 1945), the Grays won the Negro National League pennant. After a sixteen year absence, the Negro League World Series was recommenced in 1942. The Grays won back to back Negro League World Series championships in 1943 and 1944. The franchise is considered one of the most successful in Negro League baseball history.
Sunday, February 10, 2013
Wesley Dennis was born on this date in Nashville, Tennessee; 1918. He was a first baseman that played in the Negro Leagues from 1942 – 1955 with the Baltimore Elite Giants, Philadelphia Stars, and Birmingham Black Barons. With the Barons, Dennis played in three East-West All-Star games (1951, 1952, and 1953) getting four hits.
Saturday, February 9, 2013
Of the eleven African-American professional baseball teams that were formed in Cleveland during the Negro League baseball era, the Cleveland Buckeyes were the most successful. It was the only Cleveland Negro League franchise to exist for more than two years (1943-1948, 1950). The Buckeyes won two Negro American League pennants (1945, 1947) and won the Negro League World Series in 1945. In that series, they defeated the Homestead Grays who had Hall of Fame players Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard, “Cool Papa” Bell, and Jud Wilson. Former Buckeyes who went on to play in the Major Leagues include Sam Jethroe (1950 National League Rookie of the Year), Sam Jones, Al Smith, and Quincy Trouppe.
Friday, February 8, 2013
Joe Black was born on this date in Plainfield, New Jersey; 1924. He pitched with the Baltimore Elite Giants of the Negro National League (1943 -1950) while finishing college (Morgan State) and then was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers. As a 26 years old Major League rookie, Black won 15 games for the Dodgers in 1952 and was named National League Rookie of the Year. Also that year, he became the first African-American pitcher to win a World Series game beating the New York Yankees 4 – 2. After a six year Major League career in which he was 30 – 12, Black worked in business becoming a vice president at the Greyhound Corporation.
Thursday, February 7, 2013
The Negro League baseball history fact for today - February 7, 2013Al Smith was born in Kirkwood, Missouri on this date; 1928. Smith spent two years in Negro League baseball (1947, 1948) with the Cleveland Buckeyes who the Negro American League pennant in 1947. He was one of eight Negro League players that made their Major League debut in 1953. An outfielder and third baseman, Smith had a 12 year Major League career which included playing on the 1954 American League champion Cleveland Indians and the 1959 American League champion Chicago White Sox.
Rookie class of 1963Spring training for Major League baseball teams will be in full swing by the end of this month. Baseball fans will be watching to see if any young players will have a breakout spring and make their Major League debut this summer.
In the spring training camps fifty years ago, there were young players who would get their first taste of the Major Leagues in 1963. Baseball’s all-time hits leader Pete Rose, 21 years old, was the 1963 National League Rookie of the Year. A 20 year old Joe Morgan played in the first eight games of his Hall of Fame career that year with the Houston Colt 45’s. Dick Allen, who was also 21 and would be the 1964 National League Rookie of the Year, got his first two career RBI’s in the ten games he played in 1963. Three members of the Detroit Tigers 1968 World Series champion made their debut; Willie Horton (played in 20 games and hit his Major League career home run) was 20 years, Mickey Lolich (won his first five Major League career games) was 22, and Denny Mclain (won his first two Major League career games) was 19.Who was your favorite Major League rookie player?
Wednesday, February 6, 2013
There were fifty-three ballplayers from Negro League baseball that made it to the Major Leagues. The last was Henry Mason who pitched for the Kansas City Monarchs from 1951 -1953 and was sold to the Philadelphia Phillies the next year. Mason did not make his Major League debut in a Phillies uniform until 1958. In his only 2 big league seasons (1958, 1960), Mason pitched in four games (10.2 innings) with seven walks, six strikeouts, and a 0 – 0 record.
Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Henry (Hank) Aaron was born on this date in Mobile, Alabama; 1934. Aaron began his professional baseball career as a shortstop with the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro American League in 1952, but by mid-season he was sold to the Major League’s Boston Braves. Aaron’s rookie season with the Braves, who had moved to Milwaukee, was 1954 and the team would eventually move to Atlanta in 1966. Aaron finished his 23 year Major League career second in home runs (755), third in all-time hits (3,771), and first in RBI’s (2,297). A twenty-two time All Star, Aaron was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982.
Monday, February 4, 2013
Sixty years ago, 1953, eight former Negro League players made their Major League Baseball debut. Only in 1951 did as many players from Negro League baseball go through the door into the big leagues Jackie Robinson had broken down six years (1947) previously. Gene Baker, Ernie Banks, Jim “Junior” Gilliam, Dave Hoskins, Connie Johnson, Jim Pendleton, Al Smith, and Bob Trice all were former Negro League players who were Major League rookies in 1953. Banks went on to have a nineteen year Hall of Fame career with the Chicago Cubs. Gilliam was named 1953 National League “Rookie of the Year” and went on to have a fourteen year playing career with the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers, winning four World Championships.
The Eastern Colored League (ECL) which was formed 90 years ago in 1923. The ECL was the second Negro professional baseball league, formed three years after the Negro National League. It consisted of six teams: Hilldale (Philadelphia), Cuban Stars, Brooklyn Royal Giants, Bacharach Giants, Lincoln Giants, and Baltimore Black Sox. The league folded due to financial problems before the 1929 season.