November 19, 2017

Negro Leagues DB Update: 1926 Eastern Colored League

November 4, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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.

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