This might be among the least-noticed of my work at the Seamheads Negro Leagues Database, but I’m personally very happy about being able to identify some minor Indianapolis players from the 1910s.
1) Jack Hannibal was a middleweight boxer who moonlighted as a professional baseball and football player in the 1910s and 1920s. As I tried to track him down in official records, it soon became clear that “Jack Hannibal” was a boxing pseudonym. Eventually it turned out that his real name was Porter Lee Floyd. He was born in Campbellsville, Kentucky, in 1891, and moved to Indianapolis with his parents when he was five. A high school track star, Floyd first entered the ring professionally in 1912, and he boxed, mostly locally, until 1928. Supposedly out of 100 fights in his career he lost only five. As a professional ballplayer he appeared intermittently in the outfield for local Indianapolis teams in the 1910s, appearing under four names: Porter, Lee, Floyd, and Hannibal. Against the best black professional competition from 1913 to 1916, he batted 28 for 65 in 17 games, .431/.456/.600. He continued to be active and popular on the local sports scene until his death in 1949 at the early age of 58. According to the Indianapolis player and journalist Tiny Baldwin, Jack Hannibal was
“a quiet man, who always managed to talk at the right time, and only the right time. Jack put each player on a high pedestal and made him feel he was on top of the world, and that way gave the players that little extra something which made each give his everything every time he strode onto the diamond. His famous words were: ‘Every time I get out of Indianapolis, I like Indianapolis that much more’.” (Indianapolis Recorder, August 20, 1955, p. 11)
2) It was previously thought that Clarence Coleman, a longtime catcher for the Union Giants and other barnstorming teams, also pitched for several Midwestern teams from about 1916 to 1921. As I compiled stats for the late 1910s and early 1920s, it soon emerged that there must have been two Colemans active at the time: the catcher Clarence, who was a fairly well-known figure, and another Coleman who was a left-handed pitcher. In 1920, for example, the southpaw Coleman pitched for the Dayton Marcos while Clarence Coleman was catching for the Union Giants. Julius Culpepper observed the “big south paw” doing mound duty for the Marcos:
“A bird by the name of Coleman was put in to do the hurling…The chap had a strange kind of delivery, the like of which has never been before. It fooled both the batter and the umpire as well for a while but at least it faded and did not last long” (Chicago Whip, July 24, 1920).
Coleman was only a marginal pitcher, and for a long time I assumed I would never found out anything else about him. But I recently ran across this letter, printed in Tiny Baldwin’s “Passing Sportinalities” column in the Indianapolis Recorder:
“Mr. Tiney –
I can’t place you but read your column every week. Indianapolis is my native home – born on the Southside, raised on the Eastside. Played with the Marion Ramblers from their start until they disbanded. Played with Bowser’s or Jewell’s ABC’s after they split from C. I. Taylor, with such players as Todd Allen, Cat Francis, Puggie Hutchinson, George Board, Jack Hannibal, Blackwell, Rogers, Jack Watts and Joe ‘45’ Scotland.
George Abram and Warner Jewell were managers. I was a left-handed pitcher. About Elvis Holland – he used to ask me about holding the ball. It has been 40 years since I saw him. He and Paige are about the same age. I am 60 years old and Holland is younger than I.
Yours truly –
(Indianapolis Recorder, April 12, 1958, p. 14)
“Elvis Holland” is of course the great pitcher, and Indianapolis native, Bill Holland (full name Elvis William Holland), who was Arthur Coleman’s teammate on the 1919 Jewell’s A.B.C.s.
3) A player of a similar vintage, a pitcher/outfielder named Brewer, had been identified in some reference works as “Luther Brewer.” I concluded that this was a mistake resulting from the omission of a comma in the summary section of a box score in a 1919 issue of the Indianapolis Freeman; Luther Farrell, who went by the name of Al Farrell early in his career, had pitched for the 1919 Jewell’s A.B.C.s alongside Brewer (and Arthur Coleman). “Luther” and “Brewer” were listed side by side in the box score without a comma between them, and I think it’s possibility that a researcher thought this meant there was someone named “Luther Brewer,” rather than two different players.
Anyway, I was able to confirm this, again via a Tiny Baldwin article, this one from 1955 (see the bottom of the first column):
Brewer passed away on September 23, 1955, just six weeks after his words were published in the Recorder.