Thursday, November 14, 2013

A 38 year old rookie

After seven years in Negro League baseball, Patrico (Pat) Athelstan Scantlebury lied about his age in order for a chance to pitch in the Major Leagues.  The left hander (6’1”, 180 lbs.), born November 11, 1917 in Gatun, Panama (Canal Zone); spent his entire Negro League career with the New York Cubans (1944 – 1950).  Scantlebury was not a power hurler, but was difficult for batters because of his arsenal of pitches; curve ball, slider, screwball, and change up.  In 1947, he was one of the top pitchers on the Cubans’ Negro League World Series Championship team.  Scantlebury also pitched in three Negro League East West All Star Games (1946, 1949, and 1950).
After two seasons in Latin America (1951 and 1952),  Scantlebury  began pitching in Major League baseball’s minor league system in 1953 claiming to be 28 years old.  However, in reality he was 35.  By 1956, he pitched his way onto the Cincinnati Reds roster; a 38 year old rookie.  He was the last of five players on the 1947 New York Cubans to play in the Major Leagues; Minnie Minoso, Ray Noble, Lino Donoso, and Jose Santiago were the others.  There were also four other former Negro League players on that 1956 Reds team; George Crowe, Bob Thurman, Chuck Harmon, and Joe Black.  In addition, as a sign of what would come, 18 year old Curt Flood (5 games) and 20 year old Frank Robinson were on the team.  They were part of the first wave of African American players in the Major Leagues not from Negro League baseball.  There would only be five more former Negro League players to make their debut in the Major Leagues after Scantlebury.

After playing the one season with Cincinnati (6 games, 29 innings, 0 – 1 record), Scantlebury was sent back to the minor leagues.  While white counterparts with the same talent were called “crafty left handers” and were given numerous opportunities in the Major Leagues as relief pitchers, he was not given another one.  Scantlebury finished with a career minor league record of 112 wins and 80 losses.      

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