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The Negro Leagues Database Blog

THE 1941 MEXICAN LEAGUE SEASON

Before the 1941 season began, the Mexican League consolidated, going from 7 teams down to only 6 teams. Although the number of Negro Leaguers decreased from 67 to 58, in percentage terms they increased from around 33% to 40% of the total player population. But this understates their impact, as in terms of At Bats, Negro League position players had over 50% of the league’s AB’s. And even that underplays the impact of the Negro League position players. A look at the OPS+ Leader Board will reveal the highest ranked native Mexican player was Epicacio Torres, at 96 OPS+.

This time Josh Gibson played the entire season in the league, and easily was the “MVP” for 1941, hitting .374 with 33 Home Runs and 124 RBIs in 358 At Bats. It would have been a Triple Crown season for Gibson except that Wild Bill Wright hit .390, and led the league with 26 Stolen Bases. It was a good year for Shortstops as Bus Clarkson (.334/.414/.598), Sam Bankhead (.351/.433/.521), and Willie Wells (.347/.430/.516) all had strong years.

Mexican Professional Baseball Hall of Famer Jesús Valenzuela was the ERA leader at 3.12 (153 ERA+), with his Tampico teammates Francisco Castañeda (3.51 ERA) and Nate Moreland (3.67 ERA) finishing right behind him.
Azules de Veracruz pitcher Barney Brown had the best W/L record at 16-5.

In the race for the championship, even with the top 3 pitchers Tampico only finished in 3rd, as heavy hitting Azules de Veracruz, with Hall of Famers Gibson, Wells and Ray Dandridge won for the second consecutive year.

(The data comes primarily from Pedro Cisneros’ “Mexican League Encyclopedia”, compiled into electronic form by Frank Hamilton. I, Juan Rivera, Eric Chalek, and Gary Ashwill all reviewed, edited, modified and added to the data, particularly in areas of team information, player identification and biographical material.)

Negro Leagues DB Update: 1927 Negro National League

As we count down to the 100th anniversary of the first Negro National League (in February 2020), we’re adding the 1927 Negro National League to the database, to accompany our work on the 1927 Eastern Colored League.

Based again on the work of Larry Lester, Wayne Stivers, Dick Clark, and the Negro League Researchers and Authors Group, this update adds some big offensive seasons by the likes of Turkey Stearnes of the Detroit Stars (.353/.433/.671, with 19 home runs) and Willie Wells of the St. Louis Stars, whose 28 home runs were the most we’ve recorded by a player in a single Negro league season.

The Birmingham Black Barons, back in the NNL after a season in the minor Negro Southern League, managed to steal the second half flag on the back of efforts by rookies Roy Parnell (.422/.464/.653) and Leroy Paige (6-1, 2.48), and veterans Harry Salmon (15-6, 2.94) and Sam Streeter (14-13, 2.80). In the playoffs, however, they ran into the defending World Series champion Chicago American Giants.

Led by Willie Foster—whose 24 wins (including the postseason) were another Negro league record—the American Giants disposed of the Black Barons in five games, then won the first four games of the best-of-nine World Series. The Eastern Colored League champion Atlantic City Bacharach Giants rallied to win three and tie one (including a seven-inning no-hitter by Luther Farrell) before the Chicagoans finally closed out the Series with an 11-to-4 win.

Aside from Foster, the mainstays of the American Giants 1926-27 mini-dynasty were a couple of position players who have been largely overlooked even by historians: Pythias Russ, a catcher-turned-shortstop who hit .325 overall with 33 doubles, and Walter “Steel Arm” Davis, who hit .402/.444/.554 in the regular season and .375/.397/.697 in the postseason. Russ just got better and better, raising his average to .369 in 1929, but after that season he fell ill, and died of tuberculosis at the age of 26. Davis started out as a pitcher in the Texas Colored League and spent large swaths of his career playing for non-league barnstorming teams like Gilkerson’s Union Giants, where he built a reputation both as a formidable power hitter and as an on-field comedian. He was killed in a bar fight in 1941.

This update also includes the 1941 Mexican League, which Kevin Johnson will write about soon.

Next up for the DB: 1926 Negro National League, 1932 Negro Southern League, and more Mexican League seasons.

The 1927 Birmingham Black Barons, 2nd half champions of the Negro National League (Birmingham Reporter, April 30, 1927, p. 3).

MACK PARK: Friend or Foe?

Ballparks are not uniform in baseball. Each one has unique dimensions and can be either a friend of Pitcher and foe of the batter, or vice versa. And beyond that, they can be friendly to RH batters, or LH batters, or both, or neither.

Over the last decade, we’ve been continually building a “Negro Leagues Database” of statistics at seamheads.com. As researchers, at first, we were glad just to have ANY statistics on the Negro Leagues. But now that we have a significant set of them, we can take the next step and try to put them in context – the context being the level of competition, the offensive environment, and the ballpark effects that the events were achieved against and within. We do this routinely with Organized Baseball statistics, understanding that hitting 40 Home Runs in the 1990’s playing ½ of your games in Coors Field is different from hitting 40 Home Runs playing ½ of your games in the Astrodome in the 1960’s. We are now to the point where we can do similar types of analysis for the Negro Leagues.

The Park

Why look at Mack Park? First, because it’s a significant park in the Negro Leagues. It ranks 4th in the number of major Negro League games hosted in the seamheads.com database. In terms of number of games, the MLB equivalent would be Tiger Stadium.

Mack Park was built around 1911 or 1912 and was used thru the 1929 season. The park was damaged by fire on July 7, 1929, but the team was able to make the park useable enough to finish out the season there.

Second, because it had an unusual shape, with a short distance to RF:

Estimated Dimensions:
Left Field: 358
Straightaway Left Field: 365
Left Center: 390
Center Field Corner: 444 (at 42 degrees and left of dead CF
Center Field: 405
Right Center: 318
Straightaway Right Field: 278
Right Field: 265
Backstop: 37
Fence Height: 12 Feet

Our assumption going in is that the park favored hitters over pitchers, and in particular favored LH hitters. But by how much exactly? What types of offense? What players specifically may have benefited or been hurt by the park?

The Data

We examined all Detroit Stars games where we have box scores from 1919 thru 1928, except for 1926 and 1927, which have not yet been ‘processed’ into a useable electronic form.
For approximately 11% of the Plate Appearances, we do not know the handedness of the batter.
For switch-hitters, we assumed they batted LH if the starting pitcher was RH, and RH if the starting pitcher was LH.

The Baseline

The average OPS for Detroit Stars games in Mack Park was .752. LH batters performed quite a bit better than RH batters:

LH batters hit HR’s at a rate of 92% higher than RH batters.

Detroit Stars Mack Park games vs. Other Parks Games:

On a rate basis, batters in Mack Park hit 128% more Home Runs than at other parks. However, OPS was only 6% higher.

Left-handed batters hit 187% more home runs at Mack Park, on a rate basis. Right-handed batters hit 68% more.

Individual Players:

Now let’s look at how some prominent individual Detroit Stars players did at Mack Park vs. at other parks:

Bill Riggins was a switch-hitting shortstop. His overall production was about equal between Mack Park and other games, but he hit HR’s at a rate of 55% higher in Mack Park.

Edgar Wesley was a LH hitting 1st baseman. I would say he probably took more advantage of the short Mack Park right field than anyone.

Clarence Smith, a right-handed hitting right fielder, also was able to take advantage of Mack Park.

Frank Warfield was a slick fielding right-handed hitting second baseman.

Bruce Petway is regarded as the best fielding catcher in Negro League history. As you can see, he certainly was not much of a hitter, especially away from Mack Park.

Turkey Stearnes was the best player ever to play for the Detroit Stars. As a left-handed hitting center fielder, he hit 194% more home runs at Mack Park than at other parks. However, note he did have a .360 batting average away from Mack Park, so he was an excellent hitter in any park.

And now for a few pitchers:

Bill Gatewood was a long-time Negro League RH pitcher. As a pitcher who didn’t give up many home runs, he actually had better statistics pitching at home in Mack Park than he did pitching in other parks.

Right-handed pitcher Bill Force was able to mitigate home runs allowed at Mack Park, so he too actually had better results there than he did elsewhere

Bill Holland’s results may be the weirdest of all. He gave up a much higher rate of home runs at Mack Park, and yet he too still was able to pitch better overall at his home park.

Andy Cooper in a left-handed pitcher, who was clearly the best Detroit Stars pitcher, and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. His results are more in line with the averages we saw in our beginning baseline – he was able to have better results AWAY from Mack Park, particularly in giving up home runs.

What Do You Think?

Not unexpectedly, it seems clear that Mack Park favored hitters over pitchers, and particularly was friendly to left-handed hitters. However, some of the longer-term Detroit Star pitchers were apparently able to figure out how to be quite successful in their difficult for pitchers home environment.

(NOTE: This article is based on an oral presentation given at the 2019 Detroit Stars Centennial Conference in Detroit, Michigan)

Today's Birthdays
Player Pos Years Born WAR
Pepper Sharpe
SP
1943-1948
1918
0.7
Benny Felder
SS
1946-1948
1926
-0.6


Died on This Day
Player Pos Years Died WAR
Rube Foster
SP
1902-1917
1930
15.2
Red Haley
2B
1928-1935
1976
0.3
Goldie Cephus
-
1928-1934
1983
-0.0
Luke Archer
SP
1919-1922
1988
-0.9
Abe Manley
1952

If you have any questions regarding Negro Leagues statistical or biographical data, please contact gary@seamheads.com. For any other questions/comments/suggestions, please contact the web developer at BaseballGauge@gmail.com.

All biographical data, copyright 2011-2018 Gary Ashwill.

Playing statistics for 1887-1922 and 1926-1938, as well as all Cuban League games (1902-1928) and Negro League vs. Major League games (1887-1944), copyright 2011-2018 Gary Ashwill.

Playing statistics for 1923 (except Negro League vs. Major League games), copyright 2011-2018 Patrick Rock.

Playing statistics for 1933 and 1943, copyright 2013-2018 Scott Simkus.

Playing statistics for 1924-1925, 1939-1942, and 1944-1946 Negro Leagues (not including Cuban League and Negro League vs. Major League games), copyright 2011-2018 Larry Lester, Wayne Stivers, Gary Ashwill.


Defensive Regression Analysis data used here was obtained with permission from Michael Humphreys, author of Wizardry

Win Shares are calculated using the formula in the book Win Shares by Bill James