Negro Leagues DB Update: 1923 Eastern Colored League
In 1923, after three seasons of Negro National League baseball in the Midwest, the big northeastern African American clubs finally got their act together, forming the Eastern Colored League. This week we’re proud to add to the DB that first season of the ECL, compiled by Patrick Rock.
In the NNL’s first season, the club owned by the league president, Rube Foster, dominated and easily won the pennant. The ECL followed the same pattern, with league president Ed Bolden’s Hilldale Club winning nearly twice as many games as the second-place team. Led by player-manager John Henry Lloyd (.367), catcher and batting champ Biz Mackey (.423), center fielder George Johnson (who topped the league with 8 home runs and 46 RBI) and young lefty James “Nip” Winters (10-3, 2.36), Hilldale easily brushed aside all opposition. The only blight on their season was the failure of the two leagues to agree to a World Series, so the “Darby Daisies” didn’t get the chance to test themselves against the NNL champion Kansas City Monarchs.
Before the season got going it might have seemed that the New York Lincoln Giants would serve as Hilldale’s most formidable opposition. They had signed two of the NNL’s best pitchers, Dave Brown (an astonishing 43-8 with the Chicago American Giants in the NNL’s first three season) and Bill Holland (39-32 with the Detroit Stars over the same period). Combining this duo with their ace (and manager) Cyclone Joe Williams, certainly to that point the greatest pitcher in black baseball history, and Negro Southern League lefthander Sam Streeter, the Lincolns completed one of the most impressive pitching foursomes ever seen, and supported them with a solid cast of position players (Spottswood Poles, Jules Thomas, Bill Pierce, Oliver Marcell, Robert Hudspeth)—but fell flat on their faces, finishing only 18-23, fifth in a six-team league.
Although the biggest influx of new players to the six clubs of the ECL’s inaugural class came from raiding NNL rosters, at least two notable players did make their first appearance as ECL rookies in 1923: right-handed pitcher Arthur “Rats” Henderson (10-10 with the Bacharach Giants), and the man who is still commonly considered the greatest baseball player in Cuban history, “El Inmortal,” Martín Dihigo.
We’re still working on fielding statistics for the 1923 ECL; in the meantime we do have games played at each position, and for the purposes of metrics like WAR and Win Shares, players are all currently treated as average fielders.
Next up will be the 1907 and 1924 Negro leagues, and more Cuban seasons from the 1910s.