This is the first entry in a new category called “Forgotten Negro Leaguers,” about players who appear sketchily or incorrectly in the usual reference works (say, with only a last name, or with the wrong first name), who have been mistaken for or conflated with other players, or who don’t appear at all in any guise.
For the first entry it seemed appropriate to choose Moses L. Herring, the 25th Infantry sergeant and athlete I identified here as the “Herring” who played third base for the 1920 St. Louis Giants. The case, I should note, is still circumstantial, in that I haven’t found any positive statements in the contemporary press that give Herring of the Giants a first name or identify him as an Army ballplayer. But it is nevertheless a powerful case, at least in my opinion. Herring, it appears, passed up a chance at the Olympic trials in 1920 (his event was the running hop, step, and jump) to play baseball in the Negro National League.
Unfortunately Herring was not a brilliant ballplayer. He appeared in 16 of the St. Louis Giants’ 60 games against NNL opposition in 1920, batting .171/.237/.229 in 41 plate appearances, with a single extra-base hit (a triple), two walks, and two stolen bases. He played 15 games (103 innings) at third base, fielding at an .850 clip and compiling a range factor of 2.97 (corresponding figures for all the Giants’ third basemen were .919 and 3.44). He appeared once as a pinch-runner. 1920 would be Herring’s first and last season with a top-flight Negro League team, and may have been his last in professional baseball at any level.
Courtesy of Kevin Johnson, I now have Herring’s record from the Missouri State Archives Soldiers Database:
Name: Herring, Moses L.
Residence: St. Louis, Missouri
Inducted at: Jefferson Barracks, St. Louis, Missouri, on July 12, 1915
Place of birth: Abbeyville, South Carolina [probably Abbeville]
Age at induction: 21 5/6 years [putting his birth in August or September, 1894]
Served in: Company E, 25th Infantry
Promoted to sergeant: February 1919
Honorably discharged: (no date)
(The missing discharge date is unfortunate, as it could more definitively establish Moses Herring as the ballplayer.)
In the 1930 census, there is a “Mose Herring,” 35, working as the manager of a dance hall in St. Louis; he is listed as a World War I veteran. He is, however, listed as born in Missouri, though it should be noted that he was boarding in someone’s house, and it’s quite possible that whoever was interviewed by the enumerator didn’t know where he had been born.
Lastly, here is his record in the U.S. Veterans Gravesites database:
Name: Moses L. Herring
Service Info: Sgt U.S. Army World War I
Death Date: 12 January 1931
Cemetery: Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, St. Louis, Missouri