Monday, March 31, 2014

The Negro League baseball history fact for today

Teammates said when Negro League power hitter George “Mule” Suttles swung his bat at a pitch they could feel the earth shake.  “Kick Mule, Kick Mule”, is what fans and teammates would chant when “Mule” can up to bat.  The fifty ounce bat he swung was a testament to his strength. 
There is contrary information as to the origin of George Suttles’ nickname “Mule”.  It comes from a dispute about his birthplace.  Some information says Suttles was born in Brockton, Louisiana on March 31, 1900 or 1901.  It says the nickname came from raising mules while growing up on a farm.  Other information says he was born in Blocton, Alabama and the nickname was due to the strength he developed working in coal mines as a teenager.  In either case “strong as a mule”, was the opinion others had of him throughout his Negro League career.

One thing was not in dispute, other than Josh Gibson; no other power slugger was feared by Negro League pitchers more than “Mule”.  Suttles may not have hit more home runs than Gibson, but he could hit them as far.   

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

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

On March 25, 1959; the San Francisco Giants traded infielders Bill White along Ray Jablonski to the St. Louis Cardinals for pitchers Sam Jones and Don Choate.
Despite their third place National League finish in 1958, the Giants were 16 games behind the first place Milwaukee Braves and needed more starting pitching.  “Toothpick” Sam Jones could give the immediate help they desired.  Although the Cardinals did not give him a lot of run support in 1958, he still won 14 games with a 2.88 ERA.  At 32 years old; Jones also struck out 229 batters, leading the league for the third time.  The Cardinals had finished fifth and were looking to improve their overall lineup.
Bill White hit 22 home runs for the Giants in 1956 as a first baseman/outfielder.  He missed 1957 due to military service and upon return to the team had more competition for playing time.  Orlando Cepeda, the National League’s 1958 Rookie of the Year was the Giant first baseman and top prospect Willie McCovey was ready to come up from the minor leagues.  The outfield alongside Willie Mays was also crowded with Willie Kirkland, Leon Wagner, Jackie Brandt, and Felipe Alou.  The 24 year old White played in only 26 games in 1958. 
The Giants received the immediate benefit they desired from Jones as he became their best starting pitcher winning 21 games in 1959 and 18 in 1960.  However, they never won a pennant with him; finishing a close third in 1959.

The Cardinals received more long term benefit from the younger White.  From 1959 – 1965, his time with the Cardinals, he hit over .300 four times; never hitting below .280.  A six time Gold Glove inning fielder at first base, White made five All-Star Game appearances and was one of the leaders on the Cardinals’ 1964 World Series Championship team.
What are your favorite memories of “Toothpick” Sam Jones and Bill White?

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Negro League baseball history fact for today

Pitching in the 1941 East-West All-Star Game was the highlight of Jacksonville Red Cap Leo “Preacher Henry’s Negro League baseball career.  The only pitchers to have more than his 172,906 votes from fans that year to participate in the game were Satchel Paige and Hilton Smith; both in the Hall of Fame.  Pitching for the Negro American League All-Stars, “Preacher” entered the game during the Negro National League All-Stars’ six run explosion in the top of the sixth inning.  With two outs, he gave up an infield single; but then struck out Roy Campanella to end the inning.  “Preacher” also pitched a scoreless top of the seventh, despite giving up to hits.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Negro League baseball history fact for today

On March 18, 1942; Jackie Robinson and Nate Moreland requested a tryout with the Chicago White Sox during the team’s spring training in Pasadena, California.  Reluctantly, Jimmy Dykes allowed both to go through a workout on the field, but neither was offered a contract.  Everyone knows that Robinson went on to sign with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1945 and in 1947 became the First African American since the 20th Century began to play Major League baseball.

But what happened to Nathaniel Edmund Moreland?  Before the tryout with the White Sox, the 6’1’’ right hander pitched in the Negro Leagues for the Baltimore Elite Giants (1940) and also in the Mexican League (1941).  After the White Sox tryout, he spent the remainder of his career in the Mexican League and the Class C minor leagues; except in 1945 when he played once again with the Elite Giants.  

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Negro League baseball history fact for today

Born on March 14, 1915 or 1916 in Charleston, Mississippi; William (Bill) Hoskins had a ten year Negro League baseball career.  He stared in 1937 playing with three teams; the Detroit Stars, Memphis Red Sox, and St. Louis Stars.  But the longest period of the 6’3’’, 190 -210 lbs. power hitter’s time in baseball was with the Baltimore Elite Giants; eight seasons (1939 – 1946).  He was a long time teammate of Hall of Famer Roy Campanella, Henry Kimbro, and “Wild” Bill Byrd.  In the 1941 East-West Negro League All-Star Game, Hoskins went one for five with one RBI.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

A Hall of Fame career launched by a broken ankle

On March 3, 1954 during an exhibition game in Florida; Milwaukee Braves outfielder Bobby Thomson broke his ankle sliding into second base on a force play.  Three years after his pennant clinching home run for the New York Giants, Thomson had come to the Braves in a trade to add power to their line-up.  It was a forgone conclusion when spring training began that the Braves’ opening day outfield would be Thomson along with Billy Bruton, and Andy Pafko.  But with Thomson out for with a triple fractured ankle, the Braves had to change their plan.

Twenty year old Henry Aaron had doubts about making it on the Braves roster that spring.  Purchased from Negro League baseball’s Indianapolis Clowns in 1952, Aaron had spent two years destroying pitchers in the Braves’ minor league system.  While one of the first African Americans in the Southern Atlantic League (Sally League) in 1953, he hit .362 with 22 home runs and won the league’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) award.  However, Aaron thought at best he would be assigned to the Braves’ Triple A team in Toledo, Ohio.

But, with Thomson breaking his ankle and reserve outfielder Jim Pendleton not reporting to spring training in an effort to get a salary increase, the Braves’ turned to Aaron.  The next day in his first time in the starting outfield, he hit a home run.  Exceeding his expectations, Aaron left spring training as the Braves opening day left fielder. 

He went hitless in five at bats during the season opener in Cincinnati on April 13, but got two hits in the Braves home opener on April 15.  In St. Louis on April 23 against Cardinal pitcher Vic Raschi, Aaron hit his first Major League home run.  He finished 1954, his rookie season, batting .282 with 13 home runs and 59 RBIs.

Which year of Henry Aaron’s Hall of Fame Major League career is your favorite?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Negro League baseball history fact for today

In his seven year Negro League baseball career (1936 – 1942), Curt Henderson’s versatility made him a valuable asset for his team.  He was a smooth fielder that could play second base, third base, shortstop, and in the outfield; but was not a consistently good hitter.  Starting with the Homestead Grays in 1936, Henderson played with seven teams; including two stints with the New York Black Yankees (1937, 1942).  In 1940 as a shortstop with the Indianapolis Crawfords, Henderson was selected to play in the East-West Negro League All-Star Game.

Friday, March 7, 2014

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

Born on March 6, 1940 in Earlsboro, Oklahoma; Wilver Dornell “Willie” Stargell had moved to Alameda, California by the time he was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1958.  His Major League career began in the early 1960’s along with Joe Morgan, Lou Brock, Dick (Richie) Allen, high school classmate Tommy Harper, and others in a group of young African American ballplayers as the National League continued its integration pace faster than the American League. 

After surviving racial discrimination and segregation that still existed where he played in the Pirates’ minor league system, Stargell made his Major League debut on September 16, 1962.  The Pirates had fallen out of contention since winning the World Series in 1960.  Using Stargell and their established star, future Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente, the team created a nucleus from which it built a consistent winner by the 1970’s and included several other black and Hispanic players.  For the first time in Major League baseball history, the Pirates fielded an all-black line up (exclusively African American and dark skinned Hispanic ballplayers) in a game against the Philadelphia Phillies on September 1, 1971.  Playing left field and batting fourth that day, Stargell got two hits and drove in two runs in the Pirate’s 10 – 7 victory.
Willie Stargell played on two Pirate World Championship teams (1971, 1979) and hit 475 career home runs;  29th place on the Major League’s all-time home run list.  The all-time Pirate home run and RBI leader (1,540), he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1988.




Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Negro League baseball history fact for today

After being a three sport star athlete (baseball, basketball, and football) at Clark University (Atlanta, Ga.), Donald Reeves began his Negro League baseball career with the Atlanta Black Crackers in 1937; the team’s first of only two years in the Negro American League.  The 6’2”, 190 lbs. outfielder was a power hitter more known for what he could do in the batter’s box than his defensive capabilities in the field.  Reeves remained in the heart of the Black Cracker’s batting order after the team moved to Indianapolis in 1939 and became the ABCs.  However, in 1940 he was with the Chicago American Giants and received the third highest number of votes (69,968) from fans to play in that year’s East-West Negro League All Star game.  After playing the 1941 season with the American Giants, Reeves left baseball for a teaching career in the Atlanta school system.