Along with the new design and features added by our webmaster and Baseball Gauge guru Dan Hirsch, and the new logo designed by Gary Cieradkowski (of Infinite Baseball Cards fame), we’ve also added two whole new seasons this week, 1942 and 1943. The 1943 season is the work of Scott Simkus (you know him from the Strat-O-Matic Negro League set and the essential book Outsider Baseball), and Scott will have a post up about it tomorrow. In the meantime, I’ll briefly introduce 1942, which results from our collaboration with Larry Lester and Wayne Stivers of the Negro League Researchers and Authors Group.
The Negro leagues in 1942 hit something of a sweet spot, as a number of important players (including Josh Gibson, Sammy Hughes, and Bus Clarkson) returned home from Mexico, and the wartime draft hadn’t yet taken a heavy toll. The year’s rookies were led by swift-footed Buckeyes outfielder Sam Jethroe and Newark’s teenaged infielder Larry Doby, preserving his college eligibility by playing under the name Larry Walker.
The results of the pennant races proved to be a repeat of 1941. The Kansas City Monarchs, boasting the best pitching in either league as well as the bats of Ted Strong (.364/.419/.561), Willard Brown (.338/.373/.493), and rookie second baseman Bonnie Serrell (.360/.395/.561), again edged out the young Birmingham Black Barons for the NAL flag. Meanwhile Josh Gibson’s homecoming sparked the Homestead Grays to lap the field in the NNL, leaving the Baltimore Elite Giants distant runners-up for the second year in a row. Gibson (.327/.444/.580) was far and away the Grays’ best hitter, as the normally reliable Buck Leonard, suffering from a broken finger, slumped to an awful .220/.345/.270, and only one other regular (David Whatley) managed to hit .300 in the games we’ve recovered. Still, Homestead’s superior pitching and defense, starring Ray Brown (10-5, 3.30) and Roy Partlow (6-2, 1.69), allowed the team to continue its usual dominance.
The Elites, led by Bill Byrd (10-3, 2.91), Roy Campanella (.295), and Wild Bill Wright (.317), continued their run of finishing no worse than second going back to 1938 (including a controversial pennant victory in the 1939 postseason Ruppert Cup tournament). The league’s other main contenders, the Newark Eagles, couldn’t make their overload of talent count for much in the pennant race. Despite six eventual Hall of Famers appearing in an Eagles uniform in 1942 (seven if you count bench manager Biz Mackey), the team finished 14 ½ games behind the Grays. One of the main reasons for the disappointing performance was that the team’s best player, 22-year-old Monte Irvin, appeared in only two league games before jumping to Mexico, where he hit .397 to win the batting title.
Over in the Negro American League Winfield Welch’s Black Barons had another good year behind outfielder Lloyd Davenport (.337), second baseman Tommy Sampson (.333) , and southpaw Robert “Black Diamond” Pipkins (7-2). A new club, the Buckeyes, split time between Cincinnati and Cleveland. Their first season in the big time was marred by tragedy: in September the team was involved in a terrible car accident that killed two players, catcher Ulysses “Buster” Brown and pitcher Raymond “Smoky” Owens.
For the first time in 15 years, there was a true Negro league World Series. Since the NNL dominated the NAL in inter-league contests in 1942, winning 38 and losing only 14, it might have seemed like the Monarchs had little chance against the mighty Homestead Grays. But the NAL’s poor record was largely due to just two teams: the Buckeyes, who dropped a woeful 19 out of 20 games to NNL teams, and the last-place Chicago American Giants, who were 0-7.
Still, it was a surprise when the Monarchs brutally dismantled the overmatched NNL champs, 4 games to 0, adding for good measure an extra victory in an exhibition game that wasn’t counted as part of the World Series. Kansas City used only three pitchers—Satchel Paige, Hilton Smith, and Jack Matchett—but they held Josh Gibson to a paltry .077 average, and the whole Grays’ team to .196. Monarchs catcher Joe Greene and shortstop Jesse Williams, relatively light hitters, both hit .500, while Willard Brown pounded out a .467 average.
The only traction the Grays got was when they brought in ringers from Newark and Philadelphia for game 4—pitcher Leon Day, first baseman Lennie Pearson (.346, a league-leading 11 homers), outfielder Ed Stone (.286/.378/.456), and shortstop Bus Clarkson (.355/.439/.622), possibly the best player in black baseball that year. The Monarchs protested but played the game anyway, and the reinforced Grays won behind Day’s pitching, 4 to 1. The game was eventually thrown out, and the Monarchs went on to take the real game 4 and the series.
Tomorrow Scott Simkus will give us the lowdown on the 1943 season.
Coming to the DB in the near future: Negro league exhibition games against major league teams, 1901-1924; the 1919-20 and 1921-22 Cuban winter seasons; the 1937 Negro American League; and more.
It’s been over five years since we originally launched the Negro Leagues Database. Over that time, there have been significant additions to the database, in terms of new seasons and statistics. But the website and the presentation of these statistics have largely remained the same. In May of 2015, I overhauled the Major League part of The Baseball Gauge, and I’ve wanted to do the same with the Negro Leagues section. Today, we re-launch the award-winning Negro Leagues Database. Here are some of the new features:
One of the biggest issues with Negro Leagues statistics is that they are incomplete. We don’t have box scores for every game and we currently do not have data for every season and league. Because of this, it’s tough to compare Buck Leonard’s 62 career home runs to Cristóbal Torriente’s 70, the same way we compare Harmon Killebrew (573) to Andre Dawson (438).
To help fix this issue, I’ve included “per 162 games” rates on player and season/career leaderboard pages. Here we’ll see that Buck Leonard averaged 26 home runs per 162 games, while Torriente averaged 11.
Comparing raw stats from Negro Leagues to Major Leagues is far from perfect. It doesn’t account for league quality, park factors or era. Having said that, we have similarity scores on all player pages, to see which Major Leaguer had the most similar career. Because of the issue described above, “per 162 games” statistics are used instead of career totals. There is also the ability to only compare to Hall of Famers or active players.
The similarity score tool shows us that Oscar Charleston’s most similar Major Leaguer was Rogers Hornsby
These fielding statistics have been available on the Major League site for a few years now and they are finally included in The Negro Leagues Database. Defensive Regression Analysis, created by Michael Humphreys, takes basic fielding statistics and estimates how many runs a player has saved (or allowed) compared to average.
Defensive Regression Analysis shows us that Dick Seay, while a lightweight with the bat (career 51 OPS+), saved 67 runs at second base in the season we have fielding data.
The calculation for Wins Above Replacement now matches the Major League site. It uses Base Runs for offense, Defensive Regression Analysis for fielding, and runs allowed (with an adjustment for fielding) for pitching. The replacement level has been set at .294 to be consistent with Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs.
There is also Wins Above Average and Wins Above Greatness if you prefer a different baseline. As with the previous version of the website, Win Shares and Win Shares Above Bench are included.
The career leaders per 162 games contains many familiar names:
These pages give the user an idea of which statistics we have and which we are missing.
Finally, we have all the features that were previously available on The Negro Leagues Database as well as the Major League version of The Baseball Gauge.
For the second year in a row, the Negro Leagues’ best player, Josh Gibson, played in the Mexican League instead of with the Homestead Grays. For the standings at least, it didn’t matter as Homestead finished first for the fifth consecutive year. The Grays were a very veteran team by 1941. Thirty-three year old first baseman Buck Leonard was the MVP of the NNL, with an AVE/OBP/SLG of .354/.477/.696 in 198 Plate Appearances. The pitching was led by also thirty-three year old Ray Brown, who went 11-5 with a 2.85. Most amazingly, the “10th man” in the lineup, forty-five year old third baseman Jud Wilson, hit .444/.515/.633 in 106 PA’s.
Just as in 1940, 2nd and 3rd place in the NNL belonged to the Baltimore Elite Giants and the Newark Eagles. With Josh Gibson out of the league, the best NNL catcher was Baltimore’s nineteen year old Roy Campanella, who hit .345/.418/.644 in 100 PA’s. Left fielder Bill Hoskins hit .367/.413/.669. On the mound veteran Bill Byrd was 8-3 with a 2.02 ERA for Baltimore. In contrast to Homestead, Newark had an extremely young team. Twenty-two year old short stop Monte Irvin hit .401/.450/.639 in 169 PA’s while twenty-four year old Leon Day moved away from regular pitching, splitting his time between centerfield and second base, and hitting .320/.367/.524.
Over in the Negro American League, the Crawfords franchise was now completely gone, while the Cleveland Bears moved south to become the Jacksonville Red Caps. But at the top of the league, it was once again the Kansas City Monarchs, who like the Grays had the league’s best overall record for the fifth year in a row. And while the Negro Leagues were missing one big star in Gibson, they got one back, with Satchel Paige returning to the Monarchs after several years of injury and contract issues. The thirty-five year old Paige overall went 5-0 with a 2.15 ERA in 37 innings and struck out a league leading 25% of batters faced. But Paige wasn’t the Monarchs’ best pitcher – that would be Hiton Smith, the ‘relief pitcher’ who went 7-0 with a 1.42 ERA in 50 innings. Smith also batted .435/.480/.609 in 26 PA’s. Right fielder Ted Strong hit .325/.456/.602 while center fielder Willard Brown batted .321/.378/.550.
The Birmingham Black Barons, who finished second, were beginning to build a good, young team to challenge the Monarchs. Twenty-three year old first baseman Lyman Bostock led them with .378/.410/.541 at the plate.
Josh Gibson – Mexican League
Bus Clarkson – Mexican League
Luis Tiant – Mexican League
Sammy Hughes – Mexican League
Turkey Stearnes – Retired
Webster McDonald – Retired
Frog Redus – Retired
Dave Barnhill. Barnhill was ‘rookie of the year’ although he was a veteran of the lower level, barnstorming/clowning teams. Homestead signed him after he led the 1940-41 Puerto Rican League in strikeouts.
The bulk of our data for the 1941 season comes from Larry Lester, Wayne Stivers, and the Negro League Researchers and Authors Group.
Up next: The 1942 NNL and NAL, 1943 NNL/NAL, the 1937 NAL, the 1926 NNL, plus the 1919/20 and 1921/22 Cuban leagues.