Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Negro League baseball history fact for today

Born on February 25, 1925 in Ambler, Pennsylvania; Jimmy Dean began pitching in the Negro Leagues about the time the racial barriers that kept African Americans out of Major League baseball came down.  After coming out of the military in 1946, Dean played first with the Philadelphia Stars (1946).  The next year he was with the New York Cubans and then the New York Black Yankees, before returning to the Stars in 1948 (1948 – 1950).  A power, strikeout pitcher with a sinker and curveball; he pitched against Willie Mays, Roy Campanella, Larry Doby, and other Negro Leaguers that went on to play in the Major Leagues.  But Dean did not get stuck in the minor leagues or make a brief appearance in the big leagues in the 1950’s as some Negro League players of his time.  He left baseball after 1950, obtained a college degree in chemistry, and worked for Merck Pharmaceutical for 33 years.   

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Negro League baseball history fact for today

On February 18, 1943; New York businessman William Cox bought the Philadelphia Phillies Major League franchise for $46,850 from the National League.  However, what is said to be the real story behind the purchase was the attempt of Bill Veeck to buy the team and stock it with African American players from Negro League baseball.
Veeck believed he had negotiated a deal to purchase the financially ailing franchise from former Phillies owner William Nugent.  Planning to use the team to integrate the Major Leagues and win the National League pennant, Veeck supposedly lined up Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard, Ray Dandridge, Willie Wells, and others to play for his team.

To get ahead of any premature leak of what he thought was a closely guarded plan; Veeck explained it to Major League Baseball’s Commissioner Landis in New York and then took either an overnight train to Chicago or went back to Philadelphia depending on different versions of the story.  However; wherever he was the next day, Veeck was shocked to discovered the Phillies had been sold to the National League!  The team was then sold to Cox for half of the purchase price Veeck had offered.  The sale killed Veeck’s reported plan.  It would be another four years, 1947, before the Major Leagues are finally integrated.

What Major League franchises did Bill Veeck own in the 1940’s – 1980’s?

Monday, February 17, 2014

Today's African American fact from baseball's "Golden Era" (1947 - 1960)

NEW FOR 2014!  Blog posts titled “Today’s African American fact from baseball’s golden era (1947 – 1960)” will highlight, young, non-Negro League, African American players who broke into the Major Leagues during the period called “baseball’s golden era”; 1947 – 1960.  Although the color line had been broken, integration was still a slow process and these players still had to overcome racial discrimination (quota systems, segregated spring training accommodations, etc.) to make it in Major League baseball. 
Although born on February 17, 1934 in Siluria, Alabama; Willie Charles Kirkland had moved to Detroit by the time he was signed by the New York Giants as a nineteen year old teenager in 1953.   In three minor league seasons, Kirkland displayed himself as a speedy, strong-armed outfielder that hit with power.  After one year in the military, he started alongside Willie Mays in the 1958 Giant outfield; the team’s first year in San Francisco.  In three seasons with the Giants, 1958 – 1960, Kirkland hit 57 home runs.  However, by 1960 the Giants began to have a surplus of African American and Hispanic outfielders.  Along with Mays and Kirkland were Leon Wagner, the Alou brothers (Felipe and Matty), and even Orlando Cepeda was moved to the outfield making way for Willie McCovey; an African American at first base.  Saying Kirkland never matched his 30+ minor league home run power; the Giants traded him to the Cleveland Indians.

Kirkland hit 63 home runs in three seasons (1961 – 1963) with the Indians, the team leader with 27 in 1961.  However, his batting average declined; .200 in 1962 and .230 in 1963.  The team traded him to the Baltimore Orioles after the 1963 season and he was then traded to the Washington Senators early in 1964.  After his last Major League season in 1966, Kirkland played six years in Japan hitting 126 home runs.

Who was the former American League Batting Champion the Giants received in the Kirkland trade with the Indians?

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Negro League baseball history fact for today

On February 13, 1920; the first officially organized African American professional baseball league was formed in Kansas City, Missouri.  The brainchild of black baseball team owner/manager Andrew “Rube” Foster, the Negro National League (NNL) was patterned after the two Major Leagues who at that time did not allow African American players to participate.   Foster’s Chicago American Giants along with the Kansas City Monarchs, Dayton Marcos, Indianapolis ABC’s, St. Louis Giants, Detroit Stars, Cuban Stars, and Chicago Giants were the initial teams in the league.  The NNL dissolved following the 1931 season due to team financial problems caused by the “Great Depression” which rocked the country beginning in 1929 and the death of Rube Foster from mental illness.  However, the league was the precursor for both the Negro National League (NNL) and Negro American League (NAL) which   were in operation during Negro League baseball’s most prosperous time; late 1930’s to the mid 1940’s.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Negro League baseball history fact for today

A left handed batting outfielder with base stealing speed, Leslie “Chin” Green was born on February 8, 1914 in St. Louis, Missouri and began his Negro League career with the St. Louis Stars in 1939.  In 1940, he played in the Negro League’s East-West All Star game ; getting one hit in five at bats.  When the Stars went out of business in 1942, Green became the staring center fielder for the New York Black Yankees.  However, after one season the chance to make more money and face less racial discrimination lured him to play in the Mexican League; as it did many other Negro League players.  Green returned to Negro league baseball in 1946 with the Memphis Red Sox.     

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Negro League baseball history fact for today

In 1971, the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York created a committee to identify players from Negro League baseball deserving induction.  At that time, Jackie Robinson (1962) and Roy Campanella (1969) were the only African American Hall of Fame inductees.  The Committee on the Negro Leagues consisted of former Negro League players and executives, and African American sportswriters of the Negro League baseball era. It was tasked with giving long overdue recognition and honor to those who could not display their God given baseball talents in the Major Leagues due to racism.
Based on the committee’s selection, the following Negro league players were inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame:

Satchel Paige – 1971
Josh Gibson – 1972
Walter “Buck” Leonard – 1972

Monte Irvin – 1973

James “Cool Papa” Bell – 1974

William Julius “Judy” Johnson – 1975
Oscar Charleston – 1976

On February 3, 1977; Martin Dihigo and John Henry “Pop” Lloyd were selected for induction.  This would be the Committee’s last action as it was disbanded and the Hall of Fame’s Veterans’ Committee was then given the responsibility of identifying former Negro League players for possible enshrinement into the Hall of Fame.

Who is your favorite player from the Negro League baseball era?