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Negro Leagues DB Update: 1930 Eastern Negro Leagues

We’ve added games between the 1930 eastern Negro league teams to the Seamheads Negro Leagues Database. It was an astonishing year in black baseball history, a year that saw the first Negro league games played at night, the first Negro league games played in Yankee Stadium, and the sudden emergence of one of the greatest talents in baseball history.

There was no eastern league in 1930, the American Negro League having disbanded after a single season—but the major eastern teams continued to play each other, leaving a decent number of games to compile. Ed Bolden, co-founder of the old Eastern Colored League, had lost control of the Hilldale Club to team official (and scorekeeper) Lloyd Thompson, and many of the team’s best players fled. Biz Mackey (.444/,496/.704) was the biggest star who stayed, although he was pressed into service at shortstop instead of his best position, catcher. The talent just wasn’t there for Hilldale, which won only 7 games against east coast black professionals while losing 28.

Another longtime owner, Alejandro Pompez of the eastern Cuban Stars, dropped out of baseball entirely in 1930. His business partner, the somewhat notorious promoter Nat Strong, worked with veteran shortstop and Cubans captain Pelayo Chacón to bring a Cuban team to the New York area. This one was called the Stars of Cuba (recalling the name of a 1910 team), and it was mostly noteworthy for bringing Martín Dihigo back to the Cuban fold (he had spent the previous two seasons with the Homestead Grays and Hilldale).

A player identified in press accounts as “Pelayo Chacón, Jr.” appeared briefly for the Stars in 1930, marking the first time I’ve seen that a father and son appeared in the same lineup for a Negro league team. (Willie Wells, Jr., would play alongside his father for the Memphis Red Sox in 1944.) We’ve been so far unable to identify him, except to note that he is clearly NOT this Pelayo Chacón, Jr., who was born in Venezuela in 1933, and was the brother of Elio Chacón.

The collapse of the ANL meant that the eastern clubs were free to raid the western NNL teams for players. The Baltimore Black Sox were especially enthusiastic about this option, grabbing Satchel Paige from Birmingham and Mule Suttles from St. Louis. Both performed well (Paige went 3-1, Suttles hit .370 with 4 homers in 13 games), but the lack of a settled league cut into attendance and thus the team’s revenue, and the Black Sox couldn’t afford to keep their pricey acquisitions past mid-June.

Like the Black Sox, the New York Lincoln Giants landed a big NNL star—the Detroit Stars’ eccentric slugger Turkey Stearnes, the man who talked to his bats, flapped his arms while he ran, and specialized in lofting home runs over the close right field fence at Detroit’s Mack Park. Stearnes flourished (.425, 6 home runs in 19 games) in the Lincolns’ equally eccentric home park, the Catholic Protectory Oval, with its 150-foot foul lines. But like Suttles and Paige, by mid-June Stearnes had jumped back to Detroit.

Even not counting Stearnes, the Lincolns boasted of some of the east’s top perfomers, including John Beckwith (.486/.537/.905), Charlie “Chino” Smith (.406/.526/.700), and Bill Holland (13-3, 3.98). On July 5 they met the Black Sox in the first Negro league game ever staged in Yankee Stadium. The doubleheader that day attracted a crowd of 20,000, said to be the largest ever to view games between black teams to that date. The games were so successful that when the Lincolns met the Homestead Grays in an informal championship series in September, two more doubleheaders were held in the House That Ruth Built.

The Grays featured an 18-year-old catcher from the Pittsburgh sandlots named Joshua Gibson, who had been drafted into service when the Grays’ veteran backstop Buck Ewing broke his finger during a game. In the Grays-Lincolns series Gibson announced his arrival as a superstar, hitting .361 with four home runs (one of them legendary) as the Grays won, 6 games to 4. Meanwhile Chino Smith suffered an injury that was later (probably wrongly) blamed for his premature death in 1932.

An important note on the 1930 stats we’ve added: they do not include the 1930 Negro National League, and they do not include games between the eastern teams and the NNL teams. Of the teams currently posted, this mainly affects the Homestead Grays, who played the NNL extensively, especially the Kansas City Monarchs. (So Cyclone Joe Williams’s famous 12-inning, 27-strikeout, 1 to 0 victory over Chet Brewer and the Monarchs is not yet in the DB.)

In addition to 1930, we have added games for 1896, 1897, 1898, and 1901—unfortunately, there were few black professional teams active during that era, and they didn’t play each other very often. Also, we have new games for 1912, 1914, 1915, 1917, 1918, 1919, 1920, 1926, 1934, 1935, and 1936. Many, many thanks to Todd Peterson, Paul Healey, and Scott Simkus for their considerable help in collecting box scores.

Next up for the DB: 1931 eastern Negro leagues, 1924/25 Cuban League, 1932 East-West League, and more.

Turkey Stearnes, Josh Gibson, Charlie Smith

Turkey Stearnes, Josh Gibson, Charlie Smith

Negro Leagues DB Update: 1926 Eastern Colored League

The newest addition to the Negro Leagues DB, the 1926 Eastern Colored League (the Negro National League and World Series will arrive later), showcases the Atlantic City Bacharach Giants’ breakthrough season. After three years of playing .500 ball in the ECL, Dick Lundy (.355) and company rode the arms of Claude Grier (12-7, 3.21) and Rats Henderson (12-7, 2.58) to an upset pennant victory over defending three-time champs Hilldale.

Once again, the league remained fairly stable, with one exception. Only the Wilmington Potomacs were dropped from the 1925 lineup. They were replaced by the Newark Stars, a team that only lasted 11 league games themselves (winning one) before giving up. The Stars’ main distinction was that they provided Sol White, Hall of Fame manager, player, and writer, with his final job in organized baseball, as a special assistant to manager Andy Harris.

The Brooklyn Royal Giants, playing very few games in their ostensible home park (Dexter Field), once again provided cannon fodder for the rest of the league. Unfortunately for the rest of the league, the Royal Giants failed to schedule very many league games, preferring to spend much of the summer barnstorming in upstate New York. Outfielder Charlie “Chino” Smith (.375/.444/.521)  and lefthander Willis “Pud” Flournoy (5-2, 2.45) nevertheless provided a few bright spots for the Royals.

Pete Hill, who had led the Baltimore Black Sox to a second place finish in 1925, left at the end of that season. Although the Black Sox replaced his leadership with the steady hand of first baseman Ben Taylor, the team collapsed in 1926. They did start the season with a murderer’s row of Jud Wilson (.363/.476/.541), Heavy Johnson (.350/.418/.540), and John Beckwith (.333/.394/.611 for the Black Sox), but Beckwith clashed with management and got himself traded to the Harrisburg Giants. Meanwhile, everybody else on the team forgot to hit—no fewer than three regulars hit less than .200.

Up in the Bronx, Robert Hudspeth (.372) and 42-year-old player-manager John Henry Lloyd (.326) took full advantage of the narrow confines of the Catholic Protectory Oval, helping the team improve from a disastrous 1925 (when they finished dead last at 7-39). One of the twelve pitchers the Lincolns tried was named Silas Simmons. He had pitched for the Homestead Grays as far back as 1913, and he would pass away in 2006 at the age of 111, probably the last living player to have appeared in the Eastern Colored League, and the longest-lived professional ballplayer of all time, as far as anyone knows.

Alex Pompez’s Cuban Stars, mostly a road team, had one of their better seasons, led by their longtime player-manager Pelayo Chacón (.344) and budding superstar Martín Dihigo, who led the league in average (.375) and home runs (14) while playing eight positions (including pitcher).  Over at Island Park, Oscar Charleston’s Harrisburg Giants challenged for the title behind the bats of Charleston himself (.308, 10 homers), Rap Dixon (.323), and mid-season acquisition John Beckwith (.330/.392/.578 for the Giants).

The Bacharachs’ strongest rivals, the Hilldale Club of Darby, Pennsylvania, still relied on the strong left arm of Nip Winters (17-4, 2.92), though his strikeout rate had been cut in half since its peak in 1922 and 1923. Biz Mackey contributed 10 homers, 25 doubles, and a .327 average, while catching 79 of the team’s 88 league games.

Incidentally an important source for this compilation was the Hilldale scorebook for 1926 (kindly provided to me by Dick Clark and Larry Lester some years ago), one of the most important documents of Negro league history, in my view.

NOTE: This compilation covers 94% of all known games between ECL teams. Eleven of the missing thirteen games involve the Bacharachs, and nine of those missing games were Bacharach wins—so the champions are a little ill-served by the statistics we’re presenting.

Hilldale Scorebook_1926-9-18a

Pages from the Hilldale Scorebook, showing the Bacharach Giants crushing Hilldale 11 to 2 on September 18, 1926.

Pages from the Hilldale Scorebook, showing the Bacharach Giants crushing Hilldale 11 to 2 on September 18, 1926.

Negro Leagues DB Update: 1936 Negro National League

This week we add the 1936 Negro National League to the Seamheads Negro Leagues Database. The season started with a major defection: the Chicago American Giants, founding members of the league back in 1933, and the oldest continuously existing professional club in black baseball (dating back to 1911), decided to go independent in 1936. Most of their best players jumped ship and signed with league teams: Turkey Stearnes, Larry Brown, and Jack Marshall went to the Philadelphia Stars, Willie Wells and Mule Suttles to the Newark Eagles, Alex Radcliff to the New York Cubans. To take their place, the American Giants brought in a number of younger players, including a 19-year-old Ted Strong. Along with the Kansas City Monarchs (still stubbornly independent), the Cincinnati Tigers, and a new version of the St. Louis Stars, the American Giants were laying the foundations for a new western league, one that would get started in 1937.

Meanwhile, back east the Negro National League suffered from even more instability, though it may have come out stronger in the end. The cellar-dwelling Newark Dodgers of 1935 folded, and the franchise was bought up by Abe Manley of the Brooklyn Eagles. He merged the two teams and created the Newark Eagles, which would become one of the best-known franchises of the later Negro leagues. The Elite Giants left Columbus for Washington, D. C ., their third home in three years. And in mid-season the Black Yankees, who had successfully resisted the lure of league play for five years, finally joined the Negro National League.

The 1936 season saw the swan song of the great Pittsburgh Crawfords. While the team would continue past 1936, this season would bring its last championship. Satchel Paige (6-1, 2.72, 57 Ks in 53 innings) was back in the fold. At first base manager Oscar Charleston started phasing in a promising youngster, Johnny Washington (.375/.435/.538), but Oscar could still swing the bat a little himself (.344/.459/.639) when he was needed. The bulk of the offense, of course, rested on the broad shoulders of Josh Gibson (.347/.455/.719).

The competition was actually quite tight. The Crawfords opened up an advantage on the rest of the league despite only outscoring their opponents by 22 runs. The previous year’s runners up, the New York Cubans, dipped a little in 1936. Their standout player was (no surprise) player-manager Martín Dihigo (.346/.452/.705). The Homestead Grays fielded a very similar team to its 1935 edition, with very similar results (though young pitchers Edsall Walker and Roy Welmaker would pay dividends in the future). The Philadelphia Stars dropped to the bottom of the league, although they weren’t that much worse than the 1935 team that had finished over .500. Stearnes (.327/.391/.500), Roy Parnell (.374/.414/.481), and Jud Wilson (.309/.392/.496) hit as well as they usually did, but the pitching was poor, as Slim Jones (2-2, 7.62) continued his slide into oblivion.

Next up for the DB: the 1926 Eastern Colored League, which should arrive pretty shortly.

The 1936 Cincinnati Tigers: gearing up for the Negro American League.

The 1936 Cincinnati Tigers: gearing up for the Negro American League.

 
All-Time
Top Players By Position
Pos Player Years
WS
C
1920 - 1936
116.0
1903 - 1917
104.5
1B
1909 - 1928
154.0
1922 - 1936
96.0
2B
1914 - 1930
87.5
1910 - 1928
87.1
3B
1903 - 1916
100.1
1907 - 1936
84.2
SS
1906 - 1930
219.2
1908 - 1930
103.9
LF
1910 - 1934
109.6
1911 - 1924
88.5
CF
1913 - 1928
267.9
1915 - 1936
264.9
RF
1903 - 1917
88.0
1910 - 1924
79.7
SP
1908 - 1924
213.6
1907 - 1926
193.1
1920 - 1936
162.3
1911 - 1930
160.7
1907 - 1930
153.1

Runs Scored
Career Leaders
# Player
Pos
Years
R
1
CF
1915-1936
964
2
SS
1906-1930
728
3
CF
1913-1928
709
4
CF
1904-1924
704
5
2B
1914-1930
567
6
1B
1909-1928
515
7
2B
1910-1928
496
8
SS
1908-1930
487
9
LF
1910-1934
482
10
LF
1911-1924
480

ERA+
Career Leaders
# Player Pos Years
ERA+
1
SP
1928-1936
205
2
SP
1913-1921
164
3
SP
1919-1924
156
4
SP
1923-1928
148
5
SP
1909-1914
148
6
SP
1907-1930
148
7
SP
1908-1924
146
8
SP
1920-1936
142
9
SP
1923-1936
141
10
SP
1933-1936
141
 
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Statistical and biographical data for the The Negro Leagues Database, except 1923 and 1933, were compiled by Gary Ashwill. Copyright 2011-2013 Gary Ashwill. All rights reserved. Playing statistics for 1923 were compiled by Patrick Rock. Copyright 2011-2013 Patrick Rock. All rights reserved. Playing statistics for 1933 were compiled by Scott Simkus. Copyright 2013 Scott Simkus. All rights reserved.

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