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.
We’re pleased to announce the addition of the 1947 Negro leagues to the DB. In that year history continued to bear down on the NNL & NAL. Josh Gibson tragically died in January. Jackie Robinson debuted for the Dodgers in April, and by mid-season other big league clubs were sniffing around the Negro leagues for more bargains. The two defending league champions, the Kansas City Monarchs and Newark Eagles, were the most inviting targets. In July the Cleveland Indians signed Newark’s best player, Larry Doby. Then the St. Louis Browns followed by taking Willard Brown and Hank Thompson from the Monarchs. The latter two were back in Kansas City within a month, as the St. Louis Browns, at this point a pretty awful organization, offered them little support in the face of hostility from their teammates. Both the Monarchs and the Eagles wound up in second place.
In the NAL it was the Cleveland Buckeyes who finished on top, winning their second pennant in three years due to the sterling work of center fielder Sam Jethroe, veteran pitchers Doc Bracken and Chet Brewer, and player-manager Quincy Trouppe, in addition to a pair of teenagers—the shortstop Al Smith and Panamanian southpaw Vibert Clarke.
Over in the NNL the New York Cubans secured the first-ever pennant victory by a Cuban team in the Negro leagues behind third baseman Orestes Miñoso, shortstop Silvio García, and a brilliant pitching staff led by Luis Tiant, Sr., Patricio Scantlebury, and Lino Donoso. The Cubans went on to make short work of the Buckeyes in the World Series.
Our 1947 statistics started with the work of Larry Lester and Wayne Stivers, to which we have made extensive additions to create the best account of this season yet compiled. That said, the NAL teams (aside from the Monarchs) are not particularly well-represented here, due to the failure of newspapers to print box scores for NAL games.
You can also check out the standings for the 1948 Negro leagues—player stats will be posted within the next few months.
Also coming up: 1900-1902 Cuban leagues, 1927 ECL, 1929 ANL, and more.
We’ve added the 1938 Negro American League to the database, meaning that we now have every major Negro league from 1933 through 1946—with 1947 coming soon.
In 1938 the NAL’s center of gravity moved decisively to the South. The Cincinnati Tigers, St. Louis Stars, and Detroit Stars all folded—while two new clubs in the South were added, the Atlanta Black Crackers and Jacksonville Red Caps. This meant that four of the NAL’s seven teams were now located in the South. And for two of these teams, 1938 marked the high point of their history.
The Memphis Red Sox had finished in seventh place in 1937. For the new season they hired the manager of one of the teams that had folded, Double Duty Radcliffe of the Cincinnati Tigers—and he brought in the core of the Tigers, a very good team that had finished with the second-best overall record in the league, despite missing the split-season playoffs. These players included the outfielder Lloyd Davenport, pitchers Porter “Ankleball” Moss and Willie Jefferson, first baseman Jelly Taylor, and (most importantly) center fielder Neil Robinson. Radcliffe moved Robinson, the best athlete on the team, to shortstop, and brought back the old Memphis hero Larry Brown to catch. Thus reinforced, the Red Sox managed to edge the defending champion Kansas City Monarchs for the first-half title.
(Sadly, at the moment our coverage of Memphis is pretty unfair to a good team—they went only 15-17 in games for which we have box scores.)
The NAL’s second half is the (rather improbable) story of another southern club. The Atlanta Black Crackers ended the first half far adrift from the leaders, having gone 11-22 against NAL teams. One manager (Nish Williams) had been fired for insubordination and replaced by the aging star Dick Lundy, whose forearm had been fractured by a pre-season pitch, rendering him too injured to play (he would never play in the Negro leagues again, in fact). Shortly after the second half started Lundy was hired away by the Newark Eagles, and the Black Crackers, seemingly desperate, gave the job to the 19-year-old second baseman, Gabby Kemp. A loudmouth spark plug who didn’t hit much (.193 for Atlanta), Kemp had already been dealt to Jacksonville earlier in the season, then quickly reacquired after impressing in a series against the Black Crackers.
Kemp was paired with another teenager at shortstop, the fielding wizard Tommy Butts, who hadn’t even graduated from high school yet. Atlanta got some good pitching from the likes of Bullet Eddie Dixon (5-3, 2.92) and Telosh Howard (2.01 and a 17-strikeout game against the Red Caps), slick fielding from first baseman Red Moore, and hitting from Moore (.364), Donald Reeves (.397, 5 homers) , and Babe Davis (.301, 15 extra base hits in 38 games). The Black Crackers suddenly gelled, winning twelve games in a row, and beat out the Monarchs and American Giants for the second half crown.
The all-Southern championship series between Atlanta and Memphis proved anticlimactic. The Red Sox easily took the first two games in Memphis. However, the Black Crackers rented Ponce de Leon Park from the white Atlanta Crackers. The latter had made their league’s playoffs, so now the park was unavailable. When the Black Crackers couldn’t come up with an alternative, the league eventually called the series off. Officially there was no winner, but in subsequent years the Memphis Red Sox were usually thought of as the 1938 NAL champs.
There was no World Series in 1938, but there probably didn’t need to be. The NNL champion Homestead Grays beat the Black Crackers three straight in an early season series, and absolutely dominated the Memphis Red Sox, going 10-0 against them. This included 9 wins in a late July barnstorming series through the Midwest. On July 28, in Zanesville, Ohio, Josh Gibson drove the Grays to a 17-4 win over Memphis with four home runs, the only four-homer game ever recorded in the Negro leagues. (Unfortunately no box score or score card has been found, so the game isn’t counted in Gibson’s statistics.)
Next up for the DB: the 1947 and 1948 Negro leagues, the 1900-1902 Cuban League, the 1927 ECL , 1929 ANL, and more.