Monday, August 26, 2013

The Negro League baseball history fact for today

Born August 26, 1928 in Longwood, Mississippi; Frank Barnes began his baseball career in 1947 as an 18 year old pitcher for the Negro American League Indianapolis Clowns.  While playing with the Kansas City Monarchs in 1950, he was sold along with Elston Howard to the New York Yankees.  Howard went on to become the first African American to play in the Major Leagues for the Yankees (1955) and eventually one of the team’s star players.  But Barnes was kept in the minor leagues where he mostly stayed the remainder of his career despite having winning seasons.  At twenty-nine years old in 1957, Barnes made his Major League debut with the St. Louis Cardinals.  In three seasons with the team, Barnes pitched in only 15 games and finished with a 1 – 3 career Major League record. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Negro League baseball history fact for today

Photo of Curt Roberts

After bringing the first African-American ballplayers into Major League Baseball while President/GM for the Brooklyn Dodgers; Jackie Robinson and Don Bankhead in 1947, Roy Campanella in 1948 and Don Newcombe in 1949, Branch Rickey went on to become Vice-President/Board Chairman for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1950.  On October 22, 1953, Rickey signed the first African-American player for the Pittsburgh Pirates; Curt Roberts.  Born on August 16, 1929 in Pineland, Texas; Curtis Benjamin Roberts had played three years in Negro League baseball with the Kansas City Monarchs from 1947 – 1950. 
In Rickey’s desperate efforts to improve his team, the Pirates finished last four of the five years of his tenure, he did not give the 5’8” and 165 lbs. Roberts a season to get prepared in the minor leagues as was done for his African-American players on the Dodgers/. Instead, Roberts played 135 games at second base in his 1954 Major League rookie season and he hit .232.  Roberts was used as a utility infielder the next two seasons, playing in only 37 games.  He was sent back to the minor leagues after the 1956 season when Bill Mazeroski, elected to National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2001, became the Pirate second baseman for the next 15 years.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Born during the Giants' 1951 pennant run

Although I was born the summer of the 1951 New York Giants’ famous run to capture the National League pennant; the only games played on the actual day I came into this world, Monday August 6, were both in the American League.  The New York Yankees beat the Washington Senators 4 – 0 and the Chicago White Sox beat the Detroit Tigers 10 – 1.
On August 6th, the Giants were in second place (59 – 47), trailing the Brooklyn Dodgers by nine and a half games.  The Dodgers were the “Boys of Summer” team led by Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, Roy Campanella, and Duke Snider.  The Giants had a 20 year old rookie in center field named Willie Mays, former Negro League star Monte Irvin in left field, and were managed by fiery Leo Durocher.

Two days after I was born, the Giants lost a doubleheader to the Dodgers at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn.  They lost again the following day to the Dodgers and then dropped the opener of their weekend series against the Phillies in Philadelphia.  On August 12th, the Giants had fallen 13 games behind the first place Dodgers.
However, the Giants won 37 out of the next 44 games; which included a 16 game winning streak from August 12 to August 27.  Meanwhile, the Dodgers were only 22 – 20 after August 12 and the Giants were tied for first place with them by the end of the season; both teams were 96 – 58.  

A best two out of three playoff was held to determine who would go against the New York Yankees in the 1951 World Series.  After the teams split the first two games, the Giants won Game 3 on October 3rd by what was called, “the shot heard around the world”.  Trailing 4 -2 at the Polo Grounds in the bottom of the ninth inning, the Giants’ Bobby Thomson hit a three run home run off the Dodgers’ Ralph Branca to win the National League pennant.  I was not quite 2 months old at that time and so was not aware of Thomson’s game winning blast.  However, long time Dodger fans painfully still remember it today.
That summer was also the rookie season for the Yankees’ Mickey Mantle and the last one for Yankee great Joe DiMaggio.  Willie Mays was the third former Negro League player named National League Rookie of the Year and Roy Campanella was the second former Negro League player named National League Most Valuable Player.  It was a good baseball season for those born that year, which will be turning 62 this year.
What happened during the baseball season the year you were born?