Negro Leagues DB Update: 1941 NNL & NAL
For the second year in a row, the Negro Leagues’ best player, Josh Gibson, played in the Mexican League instead of with the Homestead Grays. For the standings at least, it didn’t matter as Homestead finished first for the fifth consecutive year. The Grays were a very veteran team by 1941. Thirty-three year old first baseman Buck Leonard was the MVP of the NNL, with an AVE/OBP/SLG of .354/.477/.696 in 198 Plate Appearances. The pitching was led by also thirty-three year old Ray Brown, who went 11-5 with a 2.85. Most amazingly, the “10th man” in the lineup, forty-five year old third baseman Jud Wilson, hit .444/.515/.633 in 106 PA’s.
Just as in 1940, 2nd and 3rd place in the NNL belonged to the Baltimore Elite Giants and the Newark Eagles. With Josh Gibson out of the league, the best NNL catcher was Baltimore’s nineteen year old Roy Campanella, who hit .345/.418/.644 in 100 PA’s. Left fielder Bill Hoskins hit .367/.413/.669. On the mound veteran Bill Byrd was 8-3 with a 2.02 ERA for Baltimore. In contrast to Homestead, Newark had an extremely young team. Twenty-two year old short stop Monte Irvin hit .401/.450/.639 in 169 PA’s while twenty-four year old Leon Day moved away from regular pitching, splitting his time between centerfield and second base, and hitting .320/.367/.524.
Over in the Negro American League, the Crawfords franchise was now completely gone, while the Cleveland Bears moved south to become the Jacksonville Red Caps. But at the top of the league, it was once again the Kansas City Monarchs, who like the Grays had the league’s best overall record for the fifth year in a row. And while the Negro Leagues were missing one big star in Gibson, they got one back, with Satchel Paige returning to the Monarchs after several years of injury and contract issues. The thirty-five year old Paige overall went 5-0 with a 2.15 ERA in 37 innings and struck out a league leading 25% of batters faced. But Paige wasn’t the Monarchs’ best pitcher – that would be Hiton Smith, the ‘relief pitcher’ who went 7-0 with a 1.42 ERA in 50 innings. Smith also batted .435/.480/.609 in 26 PA’s. Right fielder Ted Strong hit .325/.456/.602 while center fielder Willard Brown batted .321/.378/.550.
The Birmingham Black Barons, who finished second, were beginning to build a good, young team to challenge the Monarchs. Twenty-three year old first baseman Lyman Bostock led them with .378/.410/.541 at the plate.
Josh Gibson – Mexican League
Bus Clarkson – Mexican League
Luis Tiant – Mexican League
Sammy Hughes – Mexican League
Turkey Stearnes – Retired
Webster McDonald – Retired
Frog Redus – Retired
Dave Barnhill. Barnhill was ‘rookie of the year’ although he was a veteran of the lower level, barnstorming/clowning teams. Homestead signed him after he led the 1940-41 Puerto Rican League in strikeouts.
The bulk of our data for the 1941 season comes from Larry Lester, Wayne Stivers, and the Negro League Researchers and Authors Group.
Up next: The 1942 NNL and NAL, 1943 NNL/NAL, the 1937 NAL, the 1926 NNL, plus the 1919/20 and 1921/22 Cuban leagues.