From its inception in 1924, thru the 1939 season, the Mexican League was basically a league of native Mexican semi-pro players, playing for their local teams. There were a few foreign imports that played in the league during those seasons, most notably Martin Dihigo, who left the New York Cubans after the 1936 season to spend his summers in Mexico. Not surprisingly, Dihigo put up some outstanding batting and pitching statistics when he joined the league. In 1938, fellow Cubans Ramon Bragna, Lazaro Salazar, Silvio Garcia and Julio Rojo joined Dihigo, and in 1939 Negro Leaguers Quincy Trouppe, Roosevelt Davis, Barney Brown, Barney Morris, Andy Porter and Eugene Smith all played on Mexican League teams.
But things really changed in 1940, when Veracruz team owner Jorge Pasquel took control of the league. Pasquel, along with his brothers, are famous for trying to sign Major League Baseball players in 1946 to play in Mexico. However, before that, Pasquel made a very successful effort to sign Negro League players prior to the 1940 season. Negro League players were not bound by a reserve clause, at least one that was enforced, and they could be enticed to leave the US leagues for much less money than players in Organized Baseball. A total of 67 players that either had or would later play in the Negro Leagues played in the 1940 Mexican League, which was almost 1/3 of all the league players. That number included Baseball HOFers Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell, Willard Brown, Willie Wells, Ray Dandridge, Leon Day, Hilton Smith and Dihigo. The level of play in the Mexican League jumped exponentially overnight, perhaps going from something equivalent to a “Class D” league at the time to a league similar in quality to the Eastern League, a “Class A” league, which would be equivalent to AA in today’s Organized Baseball classification. The NNL and NAL had 318 total players participating in 1940, so of course the Negro Leagues would have suffered a decline in quality of play with so many players leaving their leagues.
THE 1940 MEXICAN LEAGUE SEASON
As Gary Ashwill mentioned the 1940 Mexican League Season add is part of an update to the Seamheads Negro League database, which includes the 1929 NNL season. Although he only played about 1/4th of the season, Josh Gibson was the best player in the league, posting a .467/.546/.989 AVE/OBP/SLG with 11 HR in only 109 Plate Appearances. Cool Papa Bell hit .437/.496/.686 with 28 Stolen Bases. Wild Bill Wright slashed .360/.437/.571 in 398 PAs. On the pitching side, Willie Jefferson was 22-9 with 2.65 ERA, Cuban HOFer Ramon Bragana went 16-8 with a 2.58 ERA, Andy Porter had 21-14 W/L with a 3.34 ERA, including 232 strikeouts, and Leroy Matlock went 15-10 with a 3.27 ERA. Pascual’s own Veracruz team, fortified by his transfer of Bell and Gibson to the team during the season, added to an already strong roster with Dihigo, Wells, Dandridge, Day, Bragna, Barney Brown, and Ted Radcliffe, finished first with a 61-30 record.
NOTES ON THE DATA
The 1940 Mexican League is the first league on seamheads.com where the data has not been built ‘from the ground up’ using box scores. 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. Using this already compiled data meant we had to address a few issues. The first issue is some players, particularly the Negro Leaguers, played on multiple teams, but the Encyclopedia has all their playing data combined. We address this by listing the player on the roster for all the teams he played for but placing the stats on the team we think he played with the most, based on what we know. The second issue is there is obviously some missing data, particularly for the Tampico team, but likely also for the other teams who were opponents in the Tampico games that may not have had statistics compiled. Possibly related to this second issue, the third issue is not all stats ‘balance’, like we normally require for our database. For example, all pitcher wins total to 282, but all pitcher losses total only to 272. Another example is that only selected pitchers have batting data, so batter hits add to lower totals than pitcher hits allowed. The fourth issue is the lack of any fielding data. Fielding positions have been assigned based on a combination of the few box scores we have, positions if listed in the Mexican League Encyclopedia, known positions played in other league/seasons by players, and what would make sense for the team (so we don’t end up with 3 SS and no 2B, for example.)
We believe we have been able to logically and to the greatest extent possible remediate these issues. The data isn’t perfect, but without this Mexican League data, many of the Negro Leaguer’s careers would be incomplete. In 1940 the Mexican League, like some of the Cuban Leagues, had almost become another Negro League – although ironically an INTEGRATED one, just like the Cuban Leagues. We plan on continuing to add Mexican League seasons from 1941 thru 1954, which are the years the league was an independent international league and outside of Organized Baseball, and years in which there were still a substantial number of Negro League players.
Finally, note also in our grouping of leagues, we have created a new category, “LATIN LEAGUES”, which will group the Cuban and Mexican international leagues together, so you can easily filter this playing data out or in to any queries, as you desire.
This week we’ve added the 1929 Negro National League to the database, where it joins the 1929 American Negro League (the east coast league) for a complete view of the black majors in that year. This update also includes the 1923 Harrisburg Giants and 1924–1925 Homestead Grays, both courtesy of Scott Simkus, along with new games for several other seasons, notably a 1932 series between the Pittsburgh Crawfords and a team of major league all-stars.
The 1929 Kansas City Monarchs managed to wrest the NNL pennant from the St. Louis Stars, with player-manager Bullet Rogan leading the way. In 1928 Rogan had been both the Monarchs’ best pitcher and best hitter; in 1929 he stepped down as a pitcher, but continued in center field as the team’s top everyday player, hitting .359/.449/.571. The 22-year-old Chet Brewer (15-2, 1.93) replaced Rogan as the ace of an incredibly good pitching staff, which also included William Bell (14-4, 3.29) and the southpaws Andy Cooper (15-4, 3.52) and Alfred “Army” Cooper (11-3, 3.08). The Monarchs won 66 and lost only 17 for a .788 winning percentage, better than any other pennant winner in the 1920s.
In winning both halves of the split season, Kansas City did away with the need for a championship series. Unfortunately the leagues could not come to an agreement about the postseason, so there was no World Series matchup with the ANL champion Baltimore Black Sox.
Meanwhile, the 1929 NNL saw some remarkable totals compiled by players. The Black Barons’ Satchel Paige, who turned 23 in July, struck out 189 batters in 185 innings, easily the most Ks ever recorded by a pitcher in one season against black professional competition. The second place St. Louis Stars could console themselves with Willie Wells’s 26 home runs and 116 runs scored, as well as Cool Papa Bell’s 49 stolen bases, all single-season blackball records (as far as we know at the moment). Branch Russell’s 63 walks matches Henry Kimbro’s 1948 record.
Our presentation of the 1929 NNL is based on the work of Larry Lester, Wayne Stivers, and the Negro League Researchers and Authors Group. We still don’t have fielding stats, HRs allowed by pitchers, and some other details, but those will be added in the future.
If all that weren’t enough, this update also features yet another major addition: the 1940 Mexican League. Kevin Johnson will be along in the next day or so with a post about that.
Next up for the DB: 1926, 1927, and 1930 Negro National League, 1932 Negro Southern League, and more Mexican League seasons.
We’re happy to announce the latest update to the Seamheads Negro Leagues DB, one of the largest updates we’ve ever made. It includes:
1) The 1931 Negro National League (plus inter-regional games between NNL and eastern independent teams). This was the last year of the original NNL. Its death knell sounded when the Kansas City Monarchs decided they would drop out of the league. Having pioneered night baseball with a portable light system in 1930, owner J. L. Wilkinson decided that taking his team (and lights) on the road for long stretches of the season would be more profitable than playing weekday league games. Another longtime powerhouse, the Chicago American Giants, also dropped out (though they were replaced midseason by Dave Malarcher’s Columbia Giants), leaving the defending champion St. Louis Stars as the dominant team in the league by a wide margin.
2) Greatly expanded coverage of eastern independent clubs in 1922, thanks to the hard work of Scott Simkus. The new teams include the Original Bacharach Giants, a Dick Lundy-led outfit split off from the Connor/Wilkins Bacharach Giants (which had moved to New York), as well as the unheralded Richmond Giants, managed by Bill Pettus. Although thought of as a second-tier team, Richmond more than held their own against established clubs, going 4-2 against Hilldale and 3-2-1 against the Lincoln Giants, and dominating the Baltimore Black Sox with an 11-4 record. One of Richmond’s star pitchers, Webster McDonald, later told John Holway: “We were mostly all rookies and we raised hell with the league, just like the Mets. We upset the apple cart.” (Voices from the Great Black Baseball Leagues, p. 75.) McDonald would eventually go on to a long career in the top tier of black professional baseball; two of his teammates, Rats Henderson and Charlie Mason, would become big stars in the Eastern Colored League, founded in 1923.
4) Complete audits and overhauls of the 1935 and 1936 seasons, adding new games and statistical categories, as well as 1935 games between the Kansas City Monarchs and the national semipro champion Bismarck, North Dakota, club, a racially integrated team that starred Satchel Paige, Hilton Smith, and Quincy Trouppe, as well as the legendary white slugger Moose Johnson.
Many thanks to Larry Lester and Wayne Stivers for their help with this update.
Up next for the DB: the 1940 Mexican League, 1932 Negro Southern League, and the remaining NNL seasons (1926, 1927, 1929, and 1930).