adventures in baseball archeology: the negro leagues, latin american baseball, j-ball, the minors, the 19th century, and other hidden, overlooked, or unknown corners of baseball history...with occasional forays into other sports
Probably the most iconic image from these tours is this, from 1927, usually identified as Biz Mackey with an unnamed Japanese player:
I should have known this, but as this article explains, the photo actually shows Japanese player and manager ShinjiHamazaki, a member of Japan’s Baseball Hall of Fame, standing alongside a different Royal Giants catcher—O’Neal Pullen. (The 1927 team, by the way, took three catchers with them—Mackey, Pullen, and Duncan. I’m thinking Mackey probably spent a lot of time as an infielder.)
Here’s a detail of a Royal Giants panoramic photo, showing both Pullen and Mackey, along with AjayJohnson standing between them, and Lon Goodwin, organizer of both the Royal Giants and the Los Angeles White Sox:
He was a childhood friend of Frank Capra and appeared as John Wayne’s sidekick in Haunted Gold (1932), but it wasn’t always clear he was headed for Hollywood. He played professional baseball in the 1910s and 1920s for two of the most glamorous African American teams in existence, and for a time it must have seemed obvious that this was his vocation. In the end he chose a different path. It certainly wasn’t easier—Hollywood at that time was only marginally more accepting of black contributions than the white major leagues.
It is frankly hard to know what to make of Blue Washington and his legacy. He was, in many ways, a walking contradiction—the same man who served as the first baseman and cleanup hitter for the Kansas City Monarchs in their very first Negro National League game also acted in both Birth of a Nation and Gone with the Wind.
Washington grew up in Los Angeles as a neighbor and friend of the young Frank Capra, and it was Capra who actually nicknamed him “Blue.” He first came to prominence as a teenaged boxer, but found greater success on the diamond. As a young pitcher, Washington was signed by Rube Foster in 1916 during the American Giants’ spring training tour on the west coast; the Chicago Defender called him “the most promising youngster that Foster has picked up in years.” Only 18, he was mentioned as a possible opening day starter, but didn’t make it back to Chicago with the team: he was caught, the Defender reported, “with a couple of questionable characters (white, at that), and too much King Alcohol under his belt.” Foster immediately released him.
One result of Washington’s short tenure as an American Giant was the only known photograph of him in a baseball uniform, from a team photo taken in Vancouver in April, 1916, spotted by Mark on the Robert Edward Auctions site.
L to R: Pete Hill, Harry Bauchman, Steven Dixon, Tom Johnson, Judy Gans, Bruce Petway, Rube Foster, Leroy Grant, Edgar Washington, unknown (possibly C. Bernice Wood), John Henry Lloyd, unknown (possibly Clarkson Brazelton), Frank Duncan. C. Bernice (pronounced “Burnis”) Wood was an L.A. White Sox pitcher who was released by Foster along with Washington, and spent his baseball career on the west coast.
Returning to California, Washington continued as an outfielder and pitcher for the White Sox until he joined his sometime teammates George Carr (also an actor), José Méndez, and John Donaldson on the Kansas City Monarchs in 1920. According to the Kansas City Sun, Monarchs manager Méndez called him “a find, a hard hitter and a player with lots of pep” (May 1, 1920, p. 12). He spent about five weeks in the Negro National League, hitting fairly well in just 24 games. The Defender called him “a grand fielder” and “one of the heaviest batters in the game today” (May 22, 1920).
Even as Washington played for the Monarchs, he was already becoming known for his screen work. One of his films, a Harold Lloyd short called Haunted Spooks in which Washington portrayed a butler, was released on March 14, and was in theaters during the first weeks of the NNL season. Aside from one more interlude with the Los Angeles White Sox and Alexander Giants (another L.A. club) in the 1920/21 winter season, he had decided to cast his lot with Hollywood.
Over the next several decades he appeared in dozens of movies, including several Tarzan and Charlie Chan films and a number of westerns, usually in peripheral, stereotyped roles (cooks, slaves, porters). He received favorable notices for his “vivid and spontaneous acting” in The Blood Ship (1927), and landed what the Baltimore Afro-American called “the most important Negro screen role of the year” in Beggars of Life (1928). According to some accounts he had to endure hazing and practical jokes from white co-workers, and often appeared in the credits as “handyman” instead of actor.
Edgar Washington’s best-known role was opposite a young John Wayne in Haunted Gold (1932); Mark writes that in this film he portrayed “one of only two black cowboy sidekicks ever featured in B-westerns” (image courtesy of Mark V. Perkins).
His son Kenny was born in 1918, but Edgar, often absent on movie shoots, did not play much of a role in his upbringing. Instead Edgar’s brother, Roscoe “Rocky” Washington, the first black lieutenant in the Los Angeles Police Department, took responsibility for the boy. (Kenny did, however, follow in his father’s footsteps both as an athlete and as an actor.)
Though it’s impossible to say for sure how good a baseball player he was, Blue Washington certainly had talent. Maybe he could have carved out a brilliant career—both Rube Foster and the Kansas City Monarchs thought he could play for them. Apparently the man could act, too. But in a sad irony, as his movie career wound down Washington found himself playing a doorman in the original Angels in the Outfield (1951) and a railroad porter in The Kid from Left Field (1953).
*—Blue Washington’s birthday has been given as February 6, February 12, and February 26; although February 12 is on his death certificate and has thus been canonized as the official date, I’ve chosen to go with February 26, since it’s on the earliest document known to be signed by Washington himself, his World War I draft registration card, filled out in September, 1918.
A while back I received a voice mail message. Okay, I’ll admit it: it was more than a year ago—I think it was around Christmas 2011 (!). The person who left it said that the ballplayer Tim Samuel Strothers, a catcher for the Leland Giants and Chicago Giants in the first two decades of the 20th century, was her husband’s grandfather (if I remember correctly). She had seen Strothers’s page at the Seamheads Negro Leagues Database, and noticed that he’s listed as having been born in Clay Center, Kansas, and was wondering where we got that information.
Well, I wrote this down, deleted the message, and promptly forgot about it. Oh, and I also failed to write down her number. I ran across these notes recently, and figured I would give my answer here, so it’s on the internet, and she will at least have the theoretical chance of googling it at some point.
These are my biographical notes on Tim Strothers (also known as Sam Strothers):
•1880 census: Samuel Strather [sic], born August 1879 (9 months old), “mulatto,” born in Kansas; living with parents Wallace (28) and Kati[e], 23, both born in Mississippi, and sister Eulah [?], 5, born in Mississippi; living at 300 Fifth Street, Clay Center, Kansas.
•1885 Kansas State Census: Sammie Strothers, black, 5, living with parents Wallace (engineer) and Katie Strothers in Clay Center, Clay County, Kansas.
•1900 census: Samuel Strothers, black, single, born March 1879 in Kansas; no occupation; lodging with Talbot family in Concordia, Cloud County, Kansas.
•1930 census: Samuel Strothers, “negro”, 58, born in Kansas, married since age 33; steam fitter, stock yards; living with wife Rachel, 48, born in Kansas, at 5300 State St., Chicago, Illinois.
•“Tim Strothers, Former Ball Player, Is Dead,” Chicago Defender, 5 September 1942, 22. “Tim Samuel Strothers, 74, retired baseball player, died at the County hospital on Wednesday, August 26….He was born in Kansas.” Includes photo.
•Illinois Statewide Death Index: Tim S. Strothers, “Negro,” 74; died August 26, 1942, Chicago, Illinois.
•Illinois Deaths: Tim Samuel Strothers, born 1868; died August 26, 1942, Chicago, Illinois.
•State of Illinois Certificate of Death: Tim Samuel Strothers, born [unknown date] in [unknown], Kansas; “about 74 years old”; “laborer”; died December 26, 1942, Chicago, Illinois; buried Restvale Cemetery, Worth, Illinois.
As far as his birthplace goes, the key document is the 1880 census, showing the “Strather” family, listed as “mulatto,” living in Clay Center, Clay County, Kansas.
Little Samuel is here 9 months old (as of June 10 & 11, when the family was counted) and born the previous August in Kansas. Here is the right side of the census page, which shows the family’s states of birth (Mississippi for the two parents and older sister, Eulah; Kansas for Samuel).
So while we don’t have a birth record, we do have him living in Clay Center at the age of 9 months. He could well have been born elsewhere in Kansas, but this is the best information available at the moment.
Twelve years after HippoGallowayplayed five games for the Woodstock Bains of the Canadian League, an African American catcher named Bill Thompson spent most of the 1911 season with the Bellows Falls, Vermont, club of the Twin State League. Was Thompson, and not Galloway, the last player before Jackie Robinson to appear openly as a black man in Organized Baseball?
Let’s give Thompson himself a little attention first. Seamus Kearney wrote a great article about him in The National Pastime back in 1996 (p. 67). In addition here’s a piece that was published in several newspapers in 1910, about Thompson signing for George “Andy” Lawson’s outlaw United States League (which, as far as I know, never got off the ground). It gives a few additional details about Thompson’s career.
(Boston Herald, January 17, 1910, p. 5)
I don’t have anything like a satisfactory account of how much and when Thompson played for the Cuban Giants and Philadelphia Giants, but “William Thompson, Cuban Giants” was reported to be joining what was evidently an otherwise all-white independent club in Concord in 1908 (Nashua Telegraph, March 17, 1908).
Thompson couldn’t be found in the 1900 census for sure, but a 31-year-old black man named “William T. Thompson” appears in the 1910 census in Concord, New Hampshire. He was employed by a “pool room,” a fairly common off-season job for ballplayers, and lived with his mother Kate E. Thompson and his wife Margaret J. Thompson. I was also able to find a World War I draft card for William Penn Thompson, “Negro,” born January 14, 1874 (it was not uncommon for registrants to add a few years to their age during World War I), working as a “shoe-cutter,” and living in Concord, New Hampshire with his wife Margaret.
Anyway, as Kearney describes in The National Pastime, Thompson signed with the Bellows Falls, Vermont, team in the new Twin State League (the twin states being Vermont and New Hampshire). He was generally popular, and hit well before suffering a season-ending injury in August. There was no doubt that he was known to be black; newspapers in the league’s towns referred to him as “dusky Thompson” and recalled his past as a Cuban Giant.
So was the Twin State League a part of Organized Baseball? The Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball says yes, it was Class D; and according to Kearney, Vermont baseball historian Merritt Clifton also concludes that the league was party to the National Agreement.
Certainly, after 1911 it was an independent league, according to contemporary sources—there seems to be little dispute about this. I haven’t found a clear statement about the league’s 1911 status in any newspaper accounts at the time. But it’s worth noting the Twin State League is not on this list of member leagues of the National Association of Professional Base Ball Leagues for 1911, published in the 1912 Spalding’s Official Base Ball Record:
“An African-American catcher named Bill Thompson spent the entire season in the Twin State League in 1911 without encountering problems. While the Twin State League had not signed the National Agreement that would have made it a part of organized baseball, the circuit did maintain a good working relationship with the leagues that had signed, making the lack of controversy over Thompson’s presence noteworthy. Two years later another team in the same league tried to use an African-American pitcher, only to be met with their opponent’s refusal to take the field.” (p. 272)
That pitcher was FrankWickware, and he was actually supposed to pitch for Bellows Falls, the same team that Bill Thompson had played for. The team that forfeited the game rather than face him was the Northampton Larks. As Morris points out, here is a clear instance of the color line being drawn—in the Twin State League between 1911 and 1913, between Bill Thompson and Frank Wickware. Even if he wasn’t strictly speaking part of Organized Baseball, Thompson’s tenure with Bellows Falls remains a milestone, if only for this reason.
On July 17, 1903, DannyMcClellan of the Cuban X Giants faced the semipro Penn Park Base Ball Club of York, Pennsylvania, and set them down on no hits and no runs, with not a batter reaching first base. It’s the first known case of an African American pitcher throwing a perfect game.
(Philadelphia Inquirer, July 18, 1903, p. 6)
Sixteen years later, a tall, gangling young pitcher named Reuben Curry, working for Gilkerson’s Union Giants, did the same thing against the Wellsburg, Iowa, team, hurling a perfect game as his teammates cruised, 10 to 0.
(Chicago Defender, September 20, 1919, p. 9)
McClellan’s perfect game is pretty well-known—it appears in every bio of him, and there’s even somebody who wants to commemorate it with a historical marker. But Curry’s feat, unlike McClellan’s, remains almost completely unknown. In part, this is probably because the Wellsburg team was completely anonymous, consisting mostly or entirely of amateurs.
The Penn Parks, by contrast, were a pretty solid semipro team—the day after McClellan’s gem they even brought in the St. Louis Browns’ Red Donahue to try to bring down the X-Giants, to no avail:
(Philadelphia Inquirer, July 19, 1903, p. 14)
This made three straight shutouts of the Penn Parks by the X-Giants (Rube Foster had whitewashed them on July 16).
In 1898 Cuban independence fighters, allied with the U.S., ended Spanish sovereignty over Cuba; in 1900 the Cuban X Giants became the first African American team to play professional baseball in Cuba, inaugurating a long tradition of Negro league visits to the island. The U.S. lifted its occupation of Cuba in 1902, and by the winter of 1906/07, black American players were being signed by Cuban League teams.
Although this is mostly an excuse to post the above photo (which I just ran across recently), I’ve also noticed that reference sources online don’t seem to have Jimmie Newberry’s death date. I’ve got his death certificate (which still lists him, at the age of 64, as a “Baseball Player”), which shows that he passed away at Oak Forest Hospital, Bremen Township, Cook County, Illinois, on June 23, 1983. His remains were cremated at Oak Woods Cemetery in Chicago. And for what it’s worth, both his death certificate and his Social Security record give “Jimmie,” spelled “ie,” as his formal name.
Also, here’s another update to that old post on “Negro Leaguers in Japan”: “Rufus Gaines” was in fact JonasGaines, full name Jonas George Gaines, born January 9, 1915, in New Roads, Pointe Coupee Parish, Louisiana. He died on August 6, 1998, in Baker, East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana. He’s buried at Port Hudson National Cemetery in Zachary, Louisiana. (Biographical Information from Social Security and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs records.)
Thanks to James Tate, who wrote to ask about these guys and motivated me to get up to speed on them.
UPDATE 3:10 pm Thanks to Mark. A. in the comments: Jet also published a picture of Jonas Gaines and LarryRaines inspecting a globe with Abe Saperstein in 1953 as they prepared to follow Newberry and Britton to the Hankyu Braves. Looks like they got the names a little mixed up, understandably I guess.
The magnates: J. L. Wilkinson (Kansas City), Tenny Blount (Detroit), Rube Foster (American Giants), C. I. Taylor (Indianapolis), at the 1922 Negro National League meeting.
Writing about the meeting that established the Negro National League, the Chicago Defender claimed that “[t]he newspaper men had the day at the meeting. No manager had aught to say about players. They were selected on account of their RELATIVE STRENGTH to each team.”
So, did it work? Did the newspaper men succeed in their attempt to balance the league? Their task was complicated by the fact two of the most important clubs in the NNL, the Kansas City Monarchs and the Indianapolis ABCs, hadn’t fielded teams in 1919, and had to be put together from scratch. For C. I. Taylor, this basically meant assembling a collection of former ABCs players (with a few additions). The Monarchs, on the other hand, were a brand-new club, with only a tenuous relationship to J. L. Wilkinson’s old All Nations teams (plus, the All Nations were not actually a black team, featuring many white players who probably wouldn’t have been much interested in joining the Negro leagues).
Players who moved during the 1920 season will appear in multiple groups. I haven’t attempted to adjust the win shares for number of games counted for each team, which varies in the 1920 NNL from 40 to 95, so don’t take the figures too seriously as precise evaluations of the players’ performances. (For example, Oscar Charleston earned the most win shares, but the real MVP was probably Cristóbal Torriente.) The idea here is just to get a rough estimate of where talent was flowing, especially within the league, and how the teams were put together.
CHICAGO AMERICAN GIANTS
•RETAINED: Cristóbal Torriente (23.8 win shares), Dave Brown (18.6), Bingo DeMoss (14.5), Tom Johnson (14.2); Dave Malarcher (9.0), George Dixon (8.7), Judy Gans (4.9), Jim Brown (4.7), Bobby Williams (4.2), Leroy Grant (3.1). +105.7
•IN from NNL teams: Jelly Gardner (3.7) from Detroit (via Dayton). +3.7
•IN from non-NNL teams, or rookies: Tom Williams (19.5) and Johnny Reese (0.9) from Hilldale; Jack Marshall (8.2) from Gilkerson’s Union Giants; Frank Wickware (4.6) from Bacharach Giants. +33.2
•OUT to NNL teams: Oscar Charleston (25.7) to Indianapolis; Bill Riggins (7.0) to Detroit; Tom Johnson (1.7) loaned to Detroit midseason. -34.4
•OUT to non-NNL teams: Richard Whitworth (7.7) and Jesse Barber (7.2) to Hilldale; String Bean Williams (6.7) to Bacharach Giants. -21.6
Balance with NNL: -30.7
The American Giants donated the most wins to other Negro National Leagues, mostly by giving Oscar Charleston to Indianapolis. Foster also participated in an exchange of players with the east, losing Whitworth and Barber to Hilldale, and String Bean Williams to the Bacharachs, while getting Tom Williams from Hilldale, and Frank Wickware from the Bacharachs. It’s not clear whether these were trades or reciprocal raids. I’d suspect the latter, as Charleston was originally reported to be on his way to Hilldale, too, only to change his mind. The value of the players lost to the east is greatly understated here, since Hilldale and the Bacharachs played fewer top-flight games than the American Giants.
•RETAINED: Willie Green (3.2), John Beckwith (2.7), Horace Jenkins (1.7), Bobby Winston (1.2); Harry Jeffries (0.3), Thurman Jennings (0.2), Joe Green (0.1), Walter Ball (0.1). +9.5
•IN from NNL teams: Frank Duncan (outfielder; 0.8) from Detroit; Luther Farrell (0.8) and Harry Bauchman (0.2) from St. Louis Giants midseason. +1.8
•IN from non-NNL teams, or rookies: John Taylor (2.8), Butler White (1.4), Bobby Anderson (0.6), and Frank Duncan (catcher; 0.4). +5.2
•OUT to NNL teams: Harry Bauchman (0.1) to St. Louis. -0.1
•OUT to non-NNL teams: none
Balance with NNL: +1.7
The Chicago Giants gained the outfielder Frank Duncan from Detroit and signed the young catcher Frank Duncan (no relation). They won only 6 games against top-flight opposition in 1920, so these figures are almost meaningless.
CUBAN STARS OF HAVANA
•RETAINED: José Leblanc (15.1), Bernardo Baró (14.1), Bienvenido Jiménez (6.5), Matías Ríos (5.3), Eustaquio Pedroso (3.2); Eufemio Abreu (2.1), Prudencio Martínez (1.6; last played for Cuban Stars in 1918). +47.9
•IN from NNL teams: none.
•IN from non-NNL teams, or rookies: Valentín Dreke (10.1) from New York Cuban Stars; José Hernández (14.9), Ramón Herrera (7.4), Marcelino Guerra (5.3), Faustino Valdés (4.8), and José López (2.5) didn’t come to U.S. in 1919. +45.0
•OUT to NNL teams: Bartolo Portuondo (13.4) to Kansas City. -13.4
•OUT to non-NNL teams: José Junco (1.9) and Tatica Campos (0.8) to New York Cuban Stars; Manuel Villa and Abraham Tolosa didn’t come to U.S. in 1920. -2.7
Balance with NNL: -13.4
The Cuban teams always occupied a peculiar place in the Negro leagues, due to their semi-exclusive access to a foreign source of talent. They did lose Portuondo to the Monarchs, and Junco and Campos to Pompez’s eastern Cubans. They brought a number of new/newish Cubans to the U.S. to make up the deficit.
•RETAINED: Koke Alexander (8.2), George Britt (6.9), Candy Jim Taylor (4.6), George Brown (3.0), John Cunningham (0.7). +23.4
•IN from NNL teams: Boots McClain (1.3), Mitchell Murray (0.2), and Samuel Dewitt (0.1) acquired from Indianapolis midseason. +1.6
•IN from non-NNL teams, or rookies: Bruce Hocker (2.5) and William Webster (1.3) from Jewell’s ABCs of Indianapolis; Slim Branham (2.8), Isaac Lane (2.7), David Wingfield (2.0), and Charley Wilson (1.6). +12.9
•OUT to NNL teams: Dizzy Dismukes (10.6), Ed Rile (3.4), Samuel Dewitt (0.8), and Mitchell Murray (0.7) to Indianapolis; Lee Hill (4.0) to St. Louis; Charley Hill (3.5) and Mack Eggleston (3.1) to Detroit. -26.1
•OUT to non-NNL teams: none
Balance with NNL: -24.5
The Marcos lost Dizzy Dismukes and the promising Ed Rile, without really getting much in return.
•RETAINED: Edgar Wesley (10.2), Frank Warfield (8.7), Pete Hill (8.3), Joe Hewitt (4.7), Bruce Petway (2.3). +34.2
•IN from NNL teams: Jimmie Lyons (20.2) and Bill Gatewood (16.3) from St. Louis; Bill Riggins (7.0) from American Giants; Chick Harper (3.5), acquired from KC mid-season; Charley Hill (3.5) and Mack Eggleston (3.1) from Dayton; Tom Johnson (1.7), loaned from American Giants midseason. +55.3
•IN from non-NNL Teams, or rookies: Bill Holland (14.8) and Eugene Moore (1.0; loaned to St. Louis midseason) from Jewell’s ABCs of Indianapolis; Charley Hill (3.5), Andy Cooper (2.9), Gunboat Thompson (2.3), Smith (pitcher; 1.4), and Alonzo Longware (0.8). +23.2
•OUT to NNL teams: John Donaldson (14.7), Sam Crawford (14.4), José Méndez (7.0), and Vicente Rodríguez (3.1) to Kansas City; Dicta Johnson (13.5) to Indianapolis; Jelly Gardner (3.7) to Dayton; Eugene Moore (2.8) loaned to St. Louis midseason; Frank Duncan (outfielder; 0.8) to Chicago Giants. -60.0
•OUT TO non-NNL teams: none.
Balance with NNL: -4.7
Detroit donated a huge amount of value to other NNL teams (nearly twice what they retained), include their entire pitching staff. The main beneficiaries were the Monarchs, with 39 win shares going to Kansas City. The Stars recouped most of their losses, though, picking up Lyons and Gatewood from St. Louis and Riggins from the American Giants, as well as a couple of choice rookies, Bill Holland and future Hall of Famer Andy Cooper.
•RETAINED: Jim Jeffries (10.6) and Russell Powell (6.3) last played for 1918 ABCs (Jeffries played one game for Jewell’s ABCs in 1919). +16.9
•IN from NNL teams: Oscar Charleston from American Giants (25.7); Dicta Johnson (13.5) from Detroit; Dizzy Dismukes (10.6) and Ed Rile (3.4) from Dayton; Samuel Dewitt (0.8) and Mitchell Murray (0.7) from Dayton; Charleston, Johnson, and Dismukes were former ABCs. +54.7
•IN from non-NNL teams, or rookies: Ben Taylor (18.6) and George Shively (6.7) from Bacharach Giants; Morten Clark (14.2) from Lincoln Giants; Bob McClure (9.8), Biz Mackey (7.4), Ralph Jefferson (4.2), Henry Blackmon (3.1), Morris Williams (1.3), Namon Washington (1.1), and Robert Hudspeth (0.1), all from Texas; Connie Day (3.9) from Jewell’s ABCs; Boots McClain (0.2). +70.6
•OUT to NNL teams: Boots McClain (1.3), Mitchell Murray (0.2), and Samuel Dewitt (0.1) dealt to Dayton midseason. -1.6
•OUT to non-NNL teams: George Shively (1.0) left for Bacharach Giants mid-season. -1.0
Balance with NNL: +53.1 Excluding former ABCs: +3.3
Basically, the ABCs reacquired a bunch of their old players, then with the team mired in a midseason slump, C. I. Taylor signed half the roster of the Texas Negro League’s San Antonio Black Aces. The Aces’ owner threatened to sue; it’s unknown whether he made good on the threat, but Taylor kept the players, nearly all of whom went on to decent Negro league careers. Biz Mackey, of course, ended up in the Hall of Fame.
Former ABCs +105.2 Rookies from Texas +27.0 Other acquisitions +8.3
KANSAS CITY MONARCHS
•IN from NNL teams: John Donaldson (14.7), Sam Crawford (14.4), José Méndez (7.0), and Vicente Rodríguez (3.1) from Detroit; Bartolo Portuondo (13.4) from Cuban Stars. +52.6
•IN from non-NNL teams, or rookies: George Carr (12.0) and Edgar “Blue” Washington (2.6) from Los Angeles White Sox; Reuben Curry (14.2) and Hurley McNair (14.0) from Gilkerson’s Union Giants; Bullet Rogan (13.8) and Dobie Moore (9.7) from 25th Infantry Wreckers; Otto Ray (2.1); Chick Harper (3.1); Joaquín Arumís (1.0) from Cuba. +72.5
•OUT to NNL teams: Chick Harper (3.5), dealt to Detroit midseason. -3.5
•OUT to non-NNL teams: none.
Balance with NNL: +49.1 Excluding former All Nations: +27.4
The Monarchs developed several interlocking networks for acquiring players. Wilkinson evidently started with his old stars Donaldson and Méndez, making Méndez the manager. Both had played for the Los Angeles White Sox in the late teens, and it must have been through this connection that LA players George Carr and Edgar Washington ended up in KC. Wilkinson secured two more veteran players from Detroit, the pitcher Sam Crawford and Cuban catcher Vicente “El Loco” Rodríguez, and then was able to sign third baseman Bartolo Portuondo away from the Cuban Stars. He tried to get two more Cubans, Cristóbal Torriente (another old All Nations star) and Bernardo Baró, but failed. Most likely Foster, having had to give up Charleston to the ABCs, couldn’t face losing Torriente as well.
Méndez and Wilkinson had to settle instead for two members of Gilkerson’s Union Giants, the veteran Hurley McNair and young pitcher Reuben Curry, a Kansas City native. Wilber “Bullet” Rogan of the famous 25th Infantry Wreckers was a Kansas Citian who had appeared briefly for the All Nations while on furlough back in 1917. Presumably it was Rogan who recommended his Wreckers teammate, Dobie Moore. Wilkinson had already signed them both up by February, although their Army enlistments were not up until the end of June, so the Monarchs had to wait.
Former All Nations: +21.7 (including Rogan, +35.5) Union Giants: +28.2 Army: +23.5 L. A. White Sox: +14.6 Other Acquisitions: +5.2
ST. LOUIS GIANTS
•RETAINED: Bill Drake (13.1), John Finner (11.8), Charlie Blackwell (11.4), Dan Kennard (6.6), Dick Wallace (4.5), Sidney Brooks (3.6), Lorenza Cobb (3.2), Tullie McAdoo (2.8), Eddie Holtz (2.4), Sam Bennett (0.8); Robert Scott (0.1). +60.3
•IN from NNL teams: Lee Hill (4.0) from Dayton; Eugene Moore (2.8) loaned from Detroit; Harry Bauchman (0.1) from Chicago Giants. +6.9
•IN from non-NNL teams, or rookies: Lunie Danage (6.2), Doc Dudley (6.0), Wayne Carr (5.5), Jimmy Oldham (1.3), Joe Casey (1.1), Luther Farrell (1.1) from Lincoln Giants, Lonnie Torian (0.8). +22.0
•OUT to NNL teams: Jimmie Lyons (20.2) and Bill Gatewood (16.3) to Detroit; Luther Farrell (0.8) and Harry Bauchman (0.2) to Chicago Giants midseason. -37.5
•OUT to non-NNL teams: Robert Scott (1.6) to Royal Giants after 2 games; Sam Bennett left midseason to play in North Dakota. -1.6
Balance with NNL: -30.6
The St. Louis Giants gave up a lot of value to the Detroit Stars in Jimmie Lyons, one of the best position players in the league, and Bill Gatewood, one of the best pitchers. They didn’t get anything back of value from NNL teams, and their rookie crop didn’t exactly set the league on fire. They tried signing some players from the 25th Infantry Wreckers, but couldn’t hang on tothe best of them, Heavy Johnson.
Here’s a table showing each team’s balance with the other NNL clubs. In parentheses I’ve put figures excluding the former ABCs and All Nations players, just to highlight the adjustments made after Taylor and Wilkinson got their guys back.
Balance with NNL (excluding former ABCs & All Nations): Indianapolis ABCs +53.1 (+3.3) Kansas City Monarchs +49.1 (+27.4) Chicago Giants +1.7 (+1.7) Detroit Stars -4.7 (+30.5) Cuban Stars of Havana -13.4 (-13.4) Dayton Marcos -24.5 (-13.9) St. Louis Giants -30.6 (-30.6) American Giants -30.7 (+2.0)
In a nutshell, the American Giants and Detroit Stars gave a bunch of players to Indianapolis and Kansas City; Detroit was compensated with a couple of very important St. Louis Giants players; and the St. Louis Giants were, to put it bluntly, screwed.
W. S. Ferance, who said he had been the “under secretary” of the St. Louis Giants for five years, wrote an article in 1923 attacking Rube Foster, and described the transfer of Lyons to Detroit this way:
(Baltimore Afro-American, February 2, 1923, p. 11)
Ferance doesn’t mention it, but I wonder if Oscar Charleston’s otherwise puzzling transfer to St. Louis for 1921 was actually some sort of delayed compensation for the loss of Lyons.
In any event, even the loss of Charleston didn’t stop the American Giants from dominating the league. They were followed in the final standings by the teams that gained the most talent from other league teams—Detroit, Kansas City, and Indianapolis—while the teams that (aside from Foster) gave up the most, St. Louis and Dayton, were left to wallow in the second division.
Yesterday’s post about the birth of the Negro National League in 1920 got me thinking about how the organization was originally conceived. Here’s an article from the Chicago Defender that discusses the league’s plans in detail, along with a list of players for the six teams that were at that point confirmed as members (Mark Aubreyposted an article from the Baltimore Afro-American that contains the same list):
(Chicago Defender, February 21, 1920, p. 9)
And here’s an article from the Kansas City Sun that covers some of the same territory:
(Kansas City Sun, February 28, 1920, p. 9)
A few notes about the NNL’s origins:
What we now know as the Negro National League, based in the Midwest, was originally the “Western Circuit” of the Negro National Baseball League. The idea, as explained here, was that the organization would eventually expand to take in the eastern clubs, presumably to be called the “Eastern Circuit.” When the Negro Southern League was organized the following month, it was commonly thought that it would eventually become part of Foster’s overarching structure, too. The term “Western Circuit” was used through much of the 1920 season, but by 1921 it was gradually fading out as a proper name, to be replaced by “National League.”
While the Bacharach Giants and Hilldale Club were associated with the NNL from 1920 through 1922, Rube Foster could not reach a deal with Nat Strong, who controlled the other big eastern clubs, and so the projected “Eastern Circuit” never materialized. In the end Ed Bolden and the Bacharachs’ ownership, stranded by themselves hundreds of miles from the rest of the league, made a separate peace with Strong, and the Eastern Colored League was born, completely independent of Foster.
(Chicago Defender, April 24, 1920, p. 9)
As I mentioned yesterday, the NNL’s original plan was to begin operation in 1921, not 1920. This was supposed to be so that all clubs, including the traveling Cuban Stars and Chicago Giants, could find a home park. “The circuit will not officially operate until each city has a park, either leased or owned,” the Defender says. The status of the traveling clubs—the Chicago Giants, Cuban Stars, and (according to the Sun) Dayton Marcos—is a little unclear, but they were apparently considered not full league members at first.
The Kansas City Sun explains that in 1920 Rube Foster’s booking agency would assign dates between the clubs “instead of a regular league schedule being played”—I’m not sure I understand the distinction they’re drawing, unless they just mean that league clubs would play each other without the pennant being contested. By May 2, when the Chicago Giants met the A.B.C.’s at Washington Park in Indianapolis, all this had been forgotten or revised, and the NNL’s first season was officially on.
Lastly: although the building at 18th Vine that hosted the meeting is commonly called the Paseo YMCA, at the time it was known as the Community Center or the Community Club Rooms (with the YMCA housed within).
(Kansas City Sun, February 14, 1920, p. 8)
I don’t have space in this post, but next I want to discuss the roster list above, and how the teams of the NNL’s first season were put together.
1) As part of a project to help the Tennessee Smokies come up with throwback Negro league uniforms for the Rickwood Classic (vs. the Birmingham Barons), Mark Aubrey has posted some marvelous images of 1920s and 30s Knoxville Giants players and teams (from the Beck Cultural Exchange Center in Knoxville as well as the University of Tennessee). They include the best photo of Walter Claude“Steel Arm”Dickey I have ever seen.
Left, Steel Arm Dickey; right, Knoxville Giants mid-1930s
3) Christopher Lamberti has taken this panoramic photo of Schorling Park from 1923 and done some amazing work discussing the placement of the park in relation to Chicago’s neighborhoods, the racial/political context (including the race riot of 1919), and identifying the buildings in the background.
For what it’s worth, the Monarchs were probably the team in the field (in dark uniforms), meaning that we know who some of those tiny figures are. José Méndez is the left fielder, Hurley McNair is in center, and if you look closely, Heavy Johnson can be seen over in right; Dobie Moore is at his place at short, and Bubbles Anderson is at second base. It seems that not everbody has made it out on the field yet: third baseman Newt Allen is missing, Bullet Rogan is not on the mound, and I can’t see whether the catcher (Frank Duncan) or the first baseman (Lemuel Hawkins) are there. One more Monarch seems to be standing between the mound and home plate.
Check out Gary Cieradkowski’s new card for William“Hippo”Galloway, a Canadian who was the first black man to play in a professional* hockey league, and the last black man to play (openly) in organized baseball until Jackie Robinson.
UPDATE 2/21/2013 *-The Central Ontario Hockey Association was amateur (at least officially); openly professional hockey didn’t start until a few years later. The Canadian League was a professional baseball league, though.