League history has gained more and more recognition lately, but is still
not a subject many know much about. Even rabid baseball fans usually can't
name more than a few Negro League players.
I've tried to cover some of the obvious questions, but if you have others
email them to me and I will post the question and answer.
What are the "Negro Leagues"?
A. This really depends on who you ask. Many historians believe
that to be classified as a Negro League player you had to play in the
original Negro National League or Eastern Colored League, or the more
recent Negro National or Negro American League. These leagues were considered
the "Big Leagues" of black baseball.
I, myself, would include players in the Negro Southern League and other
all-black leagues such as the Texas Negro League, as well as the top black
traveling teams such as Gilkerson's Union Giants that weren't in organized
Q. Why did the Negro Leagues exist?
In the late 1800s there were blacks that played on Major League
teams. Hall of Famer Cap Anson, many think, drew the color line in 1887
when he refused to play a game against the Newark baseball team that featured
a black pitcher, George Stovey. Anson was such a popular figure in baseball
that the rest of Major League baseball followed suit and there became
a "gentleman's agreement" that blacks would not be hired in
either the Majors or Minors. There never was an actual written rule against
there were many talented black baseball players, they formed all-black
teams and leagues and continued playing as such for 60 years until Jackie
Robinson broke the color barrier in 1946 when he signed a Minor League
contract with the Montreal Royals. In 1947 Robinson integrated the Major
Leagues with the Brooklyn Dodgers and the rest is history!
Q. How long did the Negro Leagues last?
Again, it depends on who you ask. There were blacks playing in
leagues as early as the 1880s, but Rube Foster, "the Father of Negro
League Baseball," organized the modern Negro Leagues in 1920. Foster
and other team owners met at the black YMCA in Kansas City, MO and organized
the first successful Negro League, the original Negro National League.
The league consisted of the Chicago American Giants (Foster's team), the
Kansas City Monarchs, Chicago Giants, Indianapolis ABCs, St. Louis Giants,
Detroit Stars, Cuban Stars and Dayton Marcos.
In 1923 the Eastern Colored League was formed among teams on the East
Coast: Atlantic City Bacharach Giants, Hilldale Giants, New York Lincoln
Giants, Washington Potomocs, Baltimore Black Sox, Brooklyn Royal Giants,
Cuban Stars, and Harrisburg Giants.
Teams folded and were replaced by new teams, and during the depression
both leagues folded. In the late 30s the two leagues in a sense came back,
but with new league names. Teams in the East made up the new Negro National
League, and teams in the Midwest and South made up the Negro American
As to when the Negro Leagues ended, again it's open for debate. After
Robinson integrated "organized baseball," Major and Minor League
teams started signing many of the young black stars and the quality of
the Negro Leagues started to wane. Some believe that by 1950 the Negro
Leagues no longer offered first class baseball. I tend to agree, although
there were Negro Leaguers from beyond 1950 that eventually starred in
the majors including Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks and George Altman
name, many Negro League teams lasted into the 1960s, but were semipro
Kansas City's Paseo "Colored YMCA"
Q. What were the differences between Negro Leaguers and Major Leaguers?
A. In quality of play, not much. Negro League teams did not have the resources
to carry 25 men like Major League teams, so they weren't as "deep"
as the Major League teams. If someone got hurt on a Negro League team,
someone had to play out of position. As a result, Negro Leaguers had to
be more versatile than their Major League peers.
Negro League teams put their best players on the field, they not only
were Major League calibre, but in exhibitions against Major League teams
they dominated, winning more than 60% of the time.
League teams played a more daring type of game, stealing bases, hit-and-running
and bunting, while Major League teams tended to play for home runs and
big innings, which can be traced to the popularity of Babe Ruth.
Jackie Robinson came into the Majors, his Negro League style of play came
as a shock to many and reminded old-timers of the days of Ty Cobb. Robinson
brought base stealing back into popularity and his stealings of home became
Day to day living of the two classes of baseball were as different as
can be. Most Negro League teams travelled by bus or car, played as many
as three games a day, and weren't allowed to eat in the nicer restaurants
or stay in the nicer hotels. They were, however, celebrities in their
culture as the Major Leaguers were in theirs, and were paid a great deal
more than the average worker.
Q. Who were the best Negro Leaguers?
There's too many to list, but a Pittsburgh Courier newspaper poll in 1952
listed the following players:
First team: (1B) Buck Leonard, (2B) Jackie Robinson, (SS) Pop Lloyd,
(3B) Oliver Marcelle, (OF) Monte Irvin, (OF) Oscar Charleston, (OF) Cristobel
Torriente, (C) Josh Gibson, (C) Biz Mackey, (P) Joe Williams, (P) Satchel
Paige, (P) Bullet Rogan, (P) John Dondaldson, (P) Bill Foster, (Utility)
Martin Dihigo, (Utility) Sam Bankhead, (Mgr) Rube Foster, (Coach) Dizzy
Dismukes, (Coach) Danny McClellan.
Second Team: (1B) Ben Taylor, (2B) Bingo DeMoss, (SS) Willie Wells,
(3B) Judy Johnson, (OF) Pete Hill, (OF) Cool Papa Bell, (OF) Chino Smith,
(C) Roy Campanella, (C) Bruce Petway, (P) Dave Brown, (P) Dick Redding,
(P) Nip Winters, (P) Dizzy Dismukes, (P) Don Newcombe, (Utility) John
Beckwith, (Utility) Newt Allen, (Mgr) Cum Posey, (Coach) C.I. Taylor,
(Coach) Dave Malarcher.
Third Team: (1B) Jud Wilson, (2B) Bill Monroe, (SS) Dick Lundy,
(3B) Jud Wilson, (OF) Rap Dixon, (OF) Larry Doby, (OF) Fats Jenkins, (C)
Double Duty Radcliffe, (C) Louis Santop, (P) Slim Jones, (P) Bill Holland,
(P) Phil Cockrell, (P) Webster McDonald, (P) Bill Byrd, (Utility) Emmett
Bowman, (Utility) Dick Wallace, (Mgr) Ed Bolden.
Fourth Team: (1B) Ed Douglas, (2B) George Scales, (SS) Doby Moore,
(3B) Ray Dandridge, (OF) Jimmy Lyons, (OF) Mule Suttles, (OF) Spotswood
Poles, (C) Frank Duncan, (C) Bill Perkins, (P) Double Duty Radcliffe,
(P) Frank Wickware, (P) Danny McClellan, (P) Leon Day, (P) Bill Jackman,
(Utility) Rev Cannady, (Utility) Jose Mendez, (Mgr) Vic Harris.
Fifth Team: (1B) George Carr, (2B) Bunny Downs, (SS) Pelayo Chacon,
(3B) Dave Malarcher, (OF) Frank Duncan, (OF) Turkey Stearnes, (OF) Jelly
Gardner, (C) Doc Wiley, (C) Speck Webster, (P) Stringbean Williams, (P)
Ray Brown, (P) Rats Henderson, (P) Luis Tiant, (P) Leroy Matlock.
Others receiving votes: (1B) Leroy Grant, Mule Suttles; (2B) Nate
Harris, Sammy T. Hughes, Frank Warfield, Ray Dandridge, George Wright,
Harry Williams; (SS) Gerard Williams, Bobby Williams, Morton Clark; (3B)
Bill Francis, Jim Taylor; (OF) Minnie Minoso, Jap Payne, Blaine Hall,
Ted Strong, Ted Page, Vic Harris; (P) Jose Mendez, Laymon Yokely.
*Some players that weren't listed that I believe should have been:
(1B) Buck O'Neil, Red Moore, Steel Arm Davis, George Giles; (2B) Bonnie
Serrell; (SS) Jake Stephens; (3B) Alec Radcliffe, Bobby Robinson; (OF)
Jumbo Kimbro, Willard Brown, Bill Wright, Neil Robinson, Ducky Davenport;
(C) Quincy Trouppe, Larry Brown, Buck Ewing, Pops Coleman; (P) Chet Brewer,
Hilton Smith, Barney Brown, Ted Trent, Max Manning, Sug Cornelius, Harry
Salmon, Barney Morris; (Mgr) Buck O'Neil, Double Duty Radcliffe, Quincy
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