The latest addition to the Seamheads Negro Leagues DB encompasses the 1948 Negro American League, Negro National League, and World Series.
This was the last season for the NNL, which ceased operations in 1949 as the Homestead Grays and Black Yankees dropped out, and the four remaining teams joined the Negro American League. It was thus also the last season for the Black World Series.
In the NAL the Kansas City Monarchs won the first half behind the efforts of Jim LaMarque (8-1, 2.74), Hank Thompson (.368/.460/.613), and Willard Brown (.387/.460/.622), but were upset in the league championship series by the second-half champion Birmingham Black Barons, led by a 17-year-old rookie named Willie Mays. The Black Barons had plenty of other good players, though, not the least of which was shortstop and batting champ Artie Wilson, who became the last player in a U.S. professional league to bat .400 in the 20th century (.402 according to official statistics, and a whopping .462 in the subset of games with box scores).
The Barons met their match in the World Series in the form of the veteran Homestead Grays, who cut them down in five games despite being exiled from both of their home parks due to scheduling conflicts with the Pirates and Senators, their major league landlords. This marked the third time in six years that the Grays defeated Birmingham in the black fall classic.
The slugger Luke Easter (.304/.418/.514) spurred the Grays to the NNL first half title. The Baltimore Elite Giants won the second half, led by pitchers Bill Byrd (10-4, 1.68) and Joe Black (9-3, 1.94, with a league-leading 94 strikeouts) and outfielders Lester Lockett (.370/.416/.537) and Henry Kimbro (.269/.450/.365). Kimbro walked 58 times in the 58 regular season games with box scores; he added 5 more in 4 post-season games to end with 63 in 62 games, which surpasses Josh Gibson’s 59 walks in 1943 to stand as the most walks we’ve recorded by a hitter in a single season against Negro league competition. (Brent Kelley’s wonderful interview with Kimbro, which appears in Kelley’s book Voices from the Negro Leagues, is very much worth checking out.)
Down 2 games to 1 in the league championship series, Baltimore elected to forfeit the pennant when they objected to a decision by the league to continue a tie game that had been called due to darkness.
Our 1948 numbers result from a collaboration with Larry Lester and Wayne Stivers of the Negro League Researchers and Authors Group. As is too often the case in the mid- to late 1940s, the Negro American League clubs get short shrift, due to the failure of newspapers to publish their box scores.
Next up for the DB: 1901/02 Cuban League, 1927 Eastern Colored League, 1929 American Negro League, and more.
Our newest addition to the DB is the 1901 Cuban League. This is another product of our collaboration with Negroleagueshistory.com, based on research in 1899-1901 Cuban sports newspapers from the collections of Jay Caldwell and Ryan Christoff.
The 1901 season was the second year of integrated pro baseball in Cuba. After San Francisco’s shock pennant win in 1900, the powerhouse Habana club raided them for their pitcher (Salvador Rosado) and shortstop (Rogelio Valdés), added Carlos Royer from the Cubano club, and won the 1901 league going away. San Francisco was still good, despite being forced to scrounge for pitching; they added Julián Castillo, who would become perhaps the first true Cuban slugger, as well as pitcher/outfielder Emilio Palomino, a future batting champ, and Gervasio González, who would eventually be recognized as perhaps the greatest of all Cuban catchers—but got his start here as a little-used backup shortstop.
After the regular Cuban League concluded at the end of July, another championship was organized. Called El Gran Premio Particular (I’ve called it the Cuban Fall Championship in English), it seems to have been an attempt to revitalize interest after Habana ran away with the pennant. The two weakest clubs, Cubano and Fé, were dropped, and some of their best players redistributed to the remaining clubs. Unfortunately Habana also easily won the fall championship.
The fall league of 1901 has not traditionally been counted as part of the Cuban League’s history. But as far as I can tell the Gran Premio of 1901 was taken seriously by fans, players, and teams alike, and I don’t see any reason not to count it. The basic situation almost exactly parallels the 1923/24 season, when the Santa Clara juggernaut crushed the rest of the league. The league stopped the season, dropped the worst team, gave its best players to Santa Clara’s challengers, and started a new championship—which Santa Clara still won.
If you compare the stats here to ones published elsewhere, there might be some small differences, for two main reasons: 1) The addition of the second championship, which adds quite a few games to each player’s record; 2) The failure of El Score to publish box scores for two games; and 3) The league’s decision to throw out individual statistics from tie games as well as one game that San Francisco lost to a forfeit on appeal. Our policy in every instance is to present records of what actually happened on the field, without imposing later reinterpretations. Also, since sample size is a critical issue in most of the seasons we cover, my very strong preference is to count every seriously played game. So tie games are included in the individual stats, even if they were thrown out by the governing body in place at the time.
Let’s take the case of Julián Castillo. His official stats show him hitting 30 for 66 for a .454 average, which Jorge Figueredo counts as the single season record for Cuban professional baseball. This actually calculates to.455, or .45454…; but the official statistics, as published in El Score and every reference work ever since, put his average at .454.
By contrast, our stats show him hitting 29 for 77 in the Cuban League, or .377.
Here’s why our numbers are different:
1) Castillo went 2 for 5 in a July 18 game with no box score;
2) He went 0 for 4 in a June 27 game against that was later forfeited to Cubano and the individual stats thrown out;
3) He went 1 for 12 in tie games, which were also thrown out.
If you take our 29 for 77, add in the July 18 game (2 for 5), and subtract the other four (1 for 16), you end up with 30 for 66.
He also hit 2 for 16 for San Francisco in El Gran Premio Particular, before jumping the team to play for an independent club. This puts him at 31 for 93, .333, for the whole 1901 season.
Next up for the DB: the 1948 NAL & NAL, followed by the 1927 ECL, 1901/02 Cuban League, 1929 ANL, and more.
This week, as part of our collaboration with Jay Caldwell and Negroleagueshistory.com, we present statistics gleaned from box scores printed in Cuban baseball newspapers (supplied both by Jay and by Ryan Christoff) for the historic 1900 Cuban baseball season. This includes:
1) The Cuban X-Giants’ tour in Cuba in the spring of 1900, during which they played the three already existing Cuban League clubs (Habana, Cuba, and Almendares), the all-black San Francisco Base Ball Club, and a couple of mixed-race pick-up teams of professionals (Independencia and Criollo).
2) The 1900 Cuban League season. This was the first season of racially-integrated professional baseball in Cuba, with the San Franciscos joining the league and black players like José Muñoz and Luis Padrón signing for other clubs. Although San Francisco (known as the Carmelitas) got off to a rocky start, they won the second half of the League’s split-season format, and then defeated Habana 2 games to 1 in a tightly-played championship series.
3) A 4-game series played by a combined team of Brooklyn Superbas and New York Giants (referred to in Cuba as the “Americanos Base Ball Club”) against Cuban League clubs in the fall of 1900.
This update also features a scattering of new games from 1917-18 and 1934-42, as well as a couple of series involving the Wreckers, the baseball team of the all-black 25th Infantry, which starred Bullet Rogan, Dobie Moore, and Heavy Johnson. During the off-season between the 1916 and 1917 seasons the Wreckers, based at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii, played host to the All-Americans (a mixed team of major and minor leaguers) and the Portland Beavers of the PCL.
(The Wreckers games were researched by Scott Simkus, the creator of the Strat-O-Matic Negro league cards, author of the great book Outsider Baseball, and compiler of the 1933 and 1943 Negro leagues for us.)
Over the next few weeks I’ll be writing up more detailed accounts of the Cuban X-Giants, the 1900 Cuban League, and the Brooklyn/NY series, which will appear at Negroleagueshistory.com.
The next additions to the DB will be: 1901 and 1901/02 Cuban Leagues, 1948 NNL & NAL, 1927 Eastern Colored League, and more.