Monday, June 30, 2014

The Negro League baseball history fact for today - Willie Grace

Born on June 30, 1918 in Meridian, Mississippi, William “Willie” Grace spent eight of his nine years in Negro League baseball (1942 – 1950) with the Cleveland Buckeye organization.  The 6 foot, 170 pound light-hitting outfielder played on the 1945 and 1947 Buckeye teams that won the Negro American League (NAL) pennant.  In 1945, he hit .313 to help the Buckeyes beat the heavily favored Homestead Grays for the Negro League World Series Championship.  He hit .245 in Cleveland’s 1947 Series lost to the New York Cubans.   Grace also played in both 1946 Negro League East West All Star Games getting four hits in eight at bats.
The New York Giants had him in their minor league system for one year, 1950, but Willie Grace never made it to the Major Leagues like his former Cleveland Buckeye outfield teammates Sam Jethroe and Al Smith.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Negro League baseball history fact for today

Born on June 24, 1930 in Fort Smith, Arkansas; Neale “Bobo” Henderson was exposed to Negro League baseball at an early age.  On the Kansas City Monarchs’ frequent trips to Fort Smith, a favorite Negro League barnstorming stop in the late 1930s, Henderson was the team’s batboy.  This allowed him to see Josh Gibson, “Cool Papa” Bell, and other Negro League stars up close.  After moving to San Diego, California and becoming a football and baseball star in high school, Henderson signed in 1949 with the Kansas City Monarchs.  He played shortstop for the team until 1953.

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Negro League Baseball history fact for today

Cumberland Willis Posey, born June 20, 1891 began his baseball career playing with a black team in his hometown of Homestead, Pennsylvania; the Homestead Grays.  The year was 1911.  In 1920, he bought the team.  By the time he died in 1946, Posey had turned the Homestead Grays into one of the most renown and successful Negro League Baseball franchises.
From 1937 – 1945, the Grays finished first in the Negro National League eight times and played in four Negro League World Series, winning two:  1943 and 1944. 

Hall of Famers Buck Leonard, Josh Gibson, James “Cool Papa” Bell, Oscar Charleston, Judy Johnson, “Smokey” Joe Williams, Jud Wilson, Martin Dihigo, Willie Wells, Willie Foster, and Raymond Brown all wore a Homestead Gray uniform at one time or another in their careers to play for Posey.  

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Today's African American fact from baseball's "Golder Era" - Ossie Virgil

On June 17, 1958 Ozzie Osvaldo Jose Virgil became the first African American/ Hispanic to play for the Detroit Tigers.  Despite having over 400,000 African Americans living in Detroit at that time, the Tigers were the next to last team to integrate their roster since Jackie Robinson broke through Major League Baseball’s “invisible color line” in 1947.   
Virgil came to the Tigers through a trade earlier in the year with the San Francisco Giants who had originally signed him in 1953.  He was one of the many players from the Dominican Republic (Monte Cristi) that   the owner of former Negro League baseball’s New York Cubans, Alejandro “Alex” Pompez, discovered for the Giants.

A versatile addition to the team, Virgil could play in the infield or outfield, and also was a catcher.  On his debut for the Tigers against the Washington Senators at Briggs Stadium, he played third base and contributed to the team’s 9 – 2 win with five hits, including one double, and scoring one run.

Despite his hot start, Virgil was used mainly as a utility player the second half of the season.  He played in only 49 games and batted .244.  He remained with the Tigers until 1961 when he was traded to the Kansas City Athletics.

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Negro League baseball history fact for today

Hector Rodriguez, born June 13, 1920 in Alquizar, Cuba, played Negro League baseball with the New York Cubans in the early 1940s.  After playing in the Mexican League, Rodriguez signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers at the start of the 1951 season.  The Dodgers sent him to their Triple AAA farm team in Montreal, same as they did Jackie Robinson in 1946, and Rodriguez was named the league’s 1951 Rookie of the Year.
The Dodgers then traded Rodriguez, some say because they feared negative reaction from their white players for having too many African Americans on the team, to the Chicago White Sox.  As the team’s starting third baseman in 1952, Rodriguez hit .265 with one home run and 40 RBI.  Former New York Cuban and fellow countryman Minnie Minoso also played on the team. 

The White Sox sent Rodriguez to the minor leagues after the season where like many other former Negro League players over 30 in the 1950s, he spent the remainder of his career.    

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Negro League baseball history fact for today

Born on June 12, 1904 in Calvert, Texas; Willie Hendrick Foster is regarded to have been the best left handed pitcher in Negro League baseball history.  Playing for his half- brother Andrew “Rube” Foster’s Chicago American Giants (1923 – 1930), Willie baffled hitters with a variety of pitches; a fastball that supposedly tailed smoke, a slider, a side armed curve, and a change-up that kept batters off balanced.  With Foster as their leading pitcher, the American Giants were Negro League World Series champions in 1926 and 1927. 

Foster received 40,637 votes to participate in the inaugural Negro League Baseball East-West All Star Game (1933); surpassed only by Oscar Charleston’s 43,793.  The lefthander pitched the entire game for the West All Stars, a feat accomplished by no other pitcher in Negro League All Star game history, and they won 11 – 7.  

Although not a part of Negro League baseball lore as the legendary Satchel Paige, Willie Foster received the honor of being inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame (Cooperstown, NY.) in 1996.