This week we add the 1936 Negro National League to the Seamheads Negro Leagues Database. The season started with a major defection: the Chicago American Giants, founding members of the league back in 1933, and the oldest continuously existing professional club in black baseball (dating back to 1911), decided to go independent in 1936. Most of their best players jumped ship and signed with league teams: Turkey Stearnes, Larry Brown, and Jack Marshall went to the Philadelphia Stars, Willie Wells and Mule Suttles to the Newark Eagles, Alex Radcliff to the New York Cubans. To take their place, the American Giants brought in a number of younger players, including a 19-year-old Ted Strong. Along with the Kansas City Monarchs (still stubbornly independent), the Cincinnati Tigers, and a new version of the St. Louis Stars, the American Giants were laying the foundations for a new western league, one that would get started in 1937.
Meanwhile, back east the Negro National League suffered from even more instability, though it may have come out stronger in the end. The cellar-dwelling Newark Dodgers of 1935 folded, and the franchise was bought up by Abe Manley of the Brooklyn Eagles. He merged the two teams and created the Newark Eagles, which would become one of the best-known franchises of the later Negro leagues. The Elite Giants left Columbus for Washington, D. C ., their third home in three years. And in mid-season the Black Yankees, who had successfully resisted the lure of league play for five years, finally joined the Negro National League.
The 1936 season saw the swan song of the great Pittsburgh Crawfords. While the team would continue past 1936, this season would bring its last championship. Satchel Paige (6-1, 2.72, 57 Ks in 53 innings) was back in the fold. At first base manager Oscar Charleston started phasing in a promising youngster, Johnny Washington (.375/.435/.538), but Oscar could still swing the bat a little himself (.344/.459/.639) when he was needed. The bulk of the offense, of course, rested on the broad shoulders of Josh Gibson (.347/.455/.719).
The competition was actually quite tight. The Crawfords opened up an advantage on the rest of the league despite only outscoring their opponents by 22 runs. The previous year's runners up, the New York Cubans, dipped a little in 1936. Their standout player was (no surprise) player-manager Martín Dihigo (.346/.452/.705). The Homestead Grays fielded a very similar team to its 1935 edition, with very similar results (though young pitchers Edsall Walker and Roy Welmaker would pay dividends in the future). The Philadelphia Stars dropped to the bottom of the league, although they weren't that much worse than the 1935 team that had finished over .500. Stearnes (.327/.391/.500), Roy Parnell (.374/.414/.481), and Jud Wilson (.309/.392/.496) hit as well as they usually did, but the pitching was poor, as Slim Jones (2-2, 7.62) continued his slide into oblivion.
Next up for the DB: the 1926 Eastern Colored League, which should arrive pretty shortly.
The 1936 Cincinnati Tigers: gearing up for the Negro American League.