Having brought our coverage of Negro league statistics forward to 1948, we are now going back to fill in the missing seasons from the late 1920s and early 1930s. First up is the 1927 Eastern Colored League, along with the Negro League World Series that year.
The 1927 ECL opened with the same seven teams that had finished the 1926 season. But the Lincoln Giants signed the Cuban outfielder Esteban Montalvo, who was claimed as the property of the Negro National League’s Western Cuban Stars. Montalvo wanted more money from the team’s owner, Tinti Molina, and had sat out the entire 1926 season. Nevertheless, both the ECL and NNL insisted he was a Cuban Stars player, and when the Lincolns’ Jim Keenan insisted on keeping him, the ECL booted them out of the league. It may seem odd today, but Keenan chose keeping Montalvo over league membership, apparently calculating that he would make plenty of money playing white semipro clubs and black independents like the Homestead Grays and Louis Santop’s Broncos.
The Atlantic City Bacharach Giants win their second straight ECL pennant by taking both halves of the split season. They accomplished this despite injuries to their two ace pitchers from the previous year: lefty Claude Grier was limited to a handful of appearances, while Arthur Henderson won 12 games, but missed most of the last two months of the season, including the World Series. The Bacharachs got solid offense from almost every position, enough that they outscored even the Murderer’s Row of the Harrisburg Giants. They enjoyed worthy contributions from unheralded players like second baseman Milton Lewis, who led the team with 11 homers, and Maurice “Eggie” Dallard, a former catcher moved to first base who added 8 more. But the team’s secret weapons were a couple of two-way players: Luther Farrell, who led the league in wins and strikeouts while hitting .325/.401/.535, and Jesse Hubbard, who spent much of the season as the leadoff hitter while also contributing a 10-3 record and 2.80 ERA.
The Bacharachs’ main rivals, the Harrisburg Giants, never quite got going, despite an impressive collection of sluggers, including the likes of Oscar Charleston (.399/.502/.694), Fats Jenkins (.377/.452/.509), and Heavy Johnson (.379/.461/.568). It also did not help that Harrisburg lost star outfielder Rap Dixon for most of the season when he accompanied the Philadelphia Royal Giants on their trip to Japan. (While there Dixon hit the longest home run ever seen at the Meiji Shrine Stadium in Tokyo.) The Giants did make a claim on the second half title, but the team’s owner, Colonel W. Strothers (“Colonel” was his given name, not a rank or honorific), didn’t turn up at the league meeting called to decide the matter, and the second half championship, along with the league pennant, were awarded to Atlantic City.
The erstwhile powerhouse of the league, the Hilldale Club, fell on hard times when their best player, Biz Mackey, joined Dixon on the Philadelphia Royal Giants (along with Andy Cooper of the Detroit Stars and Frank Duncan of the Kansas City Monarchs). Injuries and disciplinary disputes involving several other players further weakened the team, and they finished well under .500, despite Mackey’s return in the latter half of July. Perhaps as a result of his team’s difficulties, the owner, Ed Bolden, suffered a nervous breakdown at the end of the season.
Among the ECL’s other highlights in 1927 were great seasons from the Cuban Stars’ Martín Dihigo, who co-led the league with 13 home runs and filled in at shortstop for much of the season when player-manager Pelayo Chacón was first injured and then left the team; the Royal Giants’ Chino Smith, who batted an eye-watering .457; Hilldale’s Nip Winters, who won 13 games and hit .295; and Jud Wilson of the Baltimore Black Sox, who hit .424/.496/.706, with 30 doubles in 66 games.
For the second year in a row the Bacharach Giants faced the Chicago American Giants in the World Series. The first four games were held in Chicago, and the Americans swept them impressively, outscoring the Bacharachs 33 to 4. When the series moved to Atlantic City the Bacharachs staved off defeat with a narrow 3 to 2 victory. Despite allowing two runs, Luther Farrell threw a no-hitter that ended in controversy when the game was called due to darkness after seven innings. After a 10-inning tie in the next game, the Bacharachs won two more before Chicago finally put an end to the series with a decisive 11 to 4 win.
Many people have helped with this compilation along the way, but I want to single out Jim Overmyer, author of Black Ball and the Boardwalk: The Bacharach Giants of Atlantic City, 1916-1929, for providing box scores from the Atlantic City Press, and Larry Lester, who generously helped fill in many other gaps.
Next up: the 1929 American Negro League, followed by the 1901/02 Cuban League, early Mexican League seasons, and more.
We have now added 22 new games to the Negro Leagues Database – the 16 East-West All-Star games played annually at Comiskey Park in Chicago from 1933 through 1948, plus 6 ‘second all-star games’ that were played at various eastern ballparks (two at the Polo Grounds, two at Yankee Stadium, one at Griffith Stadium and one at Cleveland Stadium).
Although we’re not talking about a lot of games, these were perhaps the most important games played by Negro Leaguers in the 1933 and beyond time period, and now we can see who the top performers were in these competitions.
Perhaps the top performer overall was Leon Day. Day only participated as a pitcher, and didn’t hit very well in the games, but he pitched in 9 All-Star contests for the East team, always in relief, and he was credited with 1 win and 2 saves. In his 21 1/3 innings, he gave up only 4 runs (3 earned), 13 hits, walked 8 and struck out 22! Another pitcher who did well in the games was Dave Barnhill. Barnhill started 1 game and relieved in 4 others, and in his 14 innings of work allowed only 2 runs.
For position players, CF Neil Robinson may have been the best all star performer. In 10 All-Star games for the West team, Robinson slashed .448/.515/.724, for a 254 OPS+, including a HR and Double in the late innings of the 1939 game when the West came from behind to win 4-2. Mule Suttles also performed extremely well in his career all-star games, going 7 for 21 in 6 games, with a double, a triple and 2 HR’s, which included a 3-run, 11th inning walk-off homer in the 1935 game, for an 11-8 West victory, which may have been the best of all the Negro League All-Star games.
These statistics were derived from contemporary game accounts and box scores out of papers such as the Chicago Defender, the Pittsburgh Courier, the Baltimore African-American, the New York Amsterdam News, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and the Atlanta Daily World. Friend of Seamheads Eric Chalek was extremely helpful in re-creating play by play for several games. The definitive book on Negro League All-Star games, Larry Lester’s “Black Baseball’s National Showcase”, served as a tremendous source for auditing the data, and for resolving naming/identity issues where there was not clarity in the source documents.
You can see the entire list of 224 East-West All-Stars here: (All STARS), so please feel free to poke around and explore the new data.
Next up for the DB: 1901/02 Cuban League, 1927 Eastern Colored League, 1929 American Negro League, early Mexican League seasons, and more!
The latest addition to the Seamheads Negro Leagues DB encompasses the 1948 Negro American League, Negro National League, and World Series.
This was the last season for the NNL, which ceased operations in 1949 as the Homestead Grays and Black Yankees dropped out, and the four remaining teams joined the Negro American League. It was thus also the last season for the Black World Series.
In the NAL the Kansas City Monarchs won the first half behind the efforts of Jim LaMarque (8-1, 2.74), Hank Thompson (.368/.460/.613), and Willard Brown (.387/.460/.622), but were upset in the league championship series by the second-half champion Birmingham Black Barons, led by a 17-year-old rookie named Willie Mays. The Black Barons had plenty of other good players, though, not the least of which was shortstop and batting champ Artie Wilson, who became the last player in a U.S. professional league to bat .400 in the 20th century (.402 according to official statistics, and a whopping .462 in the subset of games with box scores).
The Barons met their match in the World Series in the form of the veteran Homestead Grays, who cut them down in five games despite being exiled from both of their home parks due to scheduling conflicts with the Pirates and Senators, their major league landlords. This marked the third time in six years that the Grays defeated Birmingham in the black fall classic.
The slugger Luke Easter (.304/.418/.514) spurred the Grays to the NNL first half title. The Baltimore Elite Giants won the second half, led by pitchers Bill Byrd (10-4, 1.68) and Joe Black (9-3, 1.94, with a league-leading 94 strikeouts) and outfielders Lester Lockett (.370/.416/.537) and Henry Kimbro (.269/.450/.365). Kimbro walked 58 times in the 58 regular season games with box scores; he added 5 more in 4 post-season games to end with 63 in 62 games, which surpasses Josh Gibson’s 59 walks in 1943 to stand as the most walks we’ve recorded by a hitter in a single season against Negro league competition. (Brent Kelley’s wonderful interview with Kimbro, which appears in Kelley’s book Voices from the Negro Leagues, is very much worth checking out.)
Down 2 games to 1 in the league championship series, Baltimore elected to forfeit the pennant when they objected to a decision by the league to continue a tie game that had been called due to darkness.
Our 1948 numbers result from a collaboration with Larry Lester and Wayne Stivers of the Negro League Researchers and Authors Group. As is too often the case in the mid- to late 1940s, the Negro American League clubs get short shrift, due to the failure of newspapers to publish their box scores.
Next up for the DB: 1901/02 Cuban League, 1927 Eastern Colored League, 1929 American Negro League, and more.