July 29, 2014

Negro Leagues DB Update: 1914 & 1915 Negro Leagues

January 15, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

New to the DB this week are the 1914 and 1915 Negro leagues.  The 1914 season in particular marks a turning point in black baseball history, as Charles Isham Taylor, former manager of the Birmingham Giants and West Baden Sprudels, arrived in Indianapolis to take over the A.B.C.s, bringing along with him his three ballplaying brothers: Ben, Steel Arm Johnny, and Candy Jim.  Starting from this season, the market for professional black baseball in the Midwest mushroomed, as these two teams, the traveling Cuban Stars, and the St. Louis Giants played more and more games against each other.  A league seemed the inevitable outcome, though this wouldn’t actually come about until 1920.  Rube Foster seemed to be thinking in these terms, as he spent the latter part of 1914 shuttling between Chicago and Louisville, where he was managing the Louisville White Sox in an apparent attempt to build up a potential franchise there.  In 1915 two of the Taylor brothers, Jim and John, would take over the White Sox, though in the end the venture failed, and they finished the season with a traveling team they called the Chicago Black Sox.

The American Giants enjoyed a typically dominant (42-13) 1914 season, but lost one of their star pitchers, the 23-year-old Bill Lindsay, to tuberculosis on September 1.  He was still playing only a month before his death, putting up a 4-0 record and a .500 batting average (10 for 20) against black teams.  The following spring saw another blow to Foster’s team, as longtime star Bill Monroe, a brilliant infielder, flamboyant entertainer, and crowd favorite, died in Chattanooga, Tennessee, again of tuberculosis.  The Giants also lost the great shortstop John Henry Lloyd to the Lincoln Stars.  Despite adding  young pitcher Dick Whitworth, among others, and eventually getting Lloyd back, the Giants slumped in 1915.   They actually lost their season series with Indianapolis, 6 games to 3, and finished behind the A.B.C.s’ overall record against black teams (37-25-1 vs. Chicago’s 29-25-3).

Bill Monroe and Bill Lindsay

Among the top players of 1914 were Cuban Stars’ centerfielder Cristóbal Torriente (.395/.485/.605), the A.B.C.s’ first baseman/pitcher Ben Taylor (.366/.452/.602; 4-0, 1.53),  and Cuban Stars’ ace Pastor Pareda (10-3, 1.79).  The 1915 A.B.C.s were led by the submarining righthander Dizzy Dismukes, enjoying his greatest season at 14-5, 1.24, but he was surely no better than Cannonball Dick Redding (8-4, 1.06, mostly with the Lincoln Stars) or Cyclone Joe Williams of the Lincoln Giants (6-1, 2.10).

The east was much more chaotic than the midwest. The McMahon brothers lost control of the Lincoln Giants, but founded a new team, the Lincoln Stars, based at Harlem’s Lenox Oval.  Promoter Nat Strong sent his Brooklyn Royal Giants to tour the west in 1914, but the team was unsuccessful both on the diamond and at the box office, and no Royal Giants team was fielded in 1915 (though they would return the next year).  The veteran catcher/manager William T. Smith, better known as Big Bill, put together a team he called the Brooklyn All Stars (they also played as the New York Stars), and took them to Indianapolis and Chicago.  The Schenectady Mohawk Giants’ owners had built a new park specifically for them, Mohawk Park, but the only black professional team to visit Schenectady was the second-tier New York Colored Giants.

As always, we’ve added and corrected a great deal of biographical information, thanks in no small part to Brian McKenna, who has been researching a number of important figures in this era of black baseball history.

Ben Taylor, Dizzy Dismukes, Big Bill Smith, Dick Redding

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