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.
Scott Simkus has been doing some groundbreaking work on the legendary North Dakota semi-pro scene of the mid-1930s, which featured Satchel Paige, Bill Foster, Quincy Trouppe, Walter “Steel Arm” Davis, and other Negro Leaguers. Scott has provided the 1933 standings (Paige and Trouppe played for Bismarck), scores, and some statistics (for the Negro Leaguers only, so far):
(Note from Scott: Bill Foster, represented by only two games here, “pitched a classic against Satchel in September, losing 3-2 in ten innings, then came back the next day to pitch relief on zero rest and got rocked.”)
I asked Scott about the quality of play. This is his response:
Class A (today's standards), tops, in 1933.
The competition was sketchy. It was akin to starting a league that had Dizzy Dean, Guy Bush, Ernie Lombardi, and Dick Bartell at the top of their games, coupled with a couple AA ballplayers, some low-low-level minor league guys with alcohol problems, a couple dozen college kids, and several high school players. Once in a while (if somebody’s car got pulled over on the way to a game, for instance) they’d pull somebody out of the stands in dress pants to fill in for an inning or two. This is the honest to God truth.
That being said—Bismarck WAS good. By the end of the year, when Churchill had stolen all the best players from his opponents, they were almost unbeatable—even against the likes of Willie Foster and Barney Brown. Actually, Brown joined Bismarck for their final game, a 15-2 pasting of the American Association All-Stars (Satchel on the mound, Brown in the outfield). The quality gets better in ‘34 and ‘35, then dips backward in ‘36... then fades away.