April 4, 2020

1928 Negro National League Season Review – It’s in the Stars

February 16, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

For both Black History Month and the 90th Anniversary of the 1928 Negro National League season, below is a recap of the 1928 NNL pennant race.

The Stars’ Wonderful First Half

The 1928 NNL consisted of the following teams (in order of their 1927 records):

Chicago American Giants (won 1st half, playoffs and World Series in 1927)
Kansas City Monarchs
St. Louis Stars
Detroit Stars
Birmingham Black Barons (won 2nd half in 1927, then lost to Chicago in playoffs)
Memphis Red Sox
Cuban Stars (West)
Cleveland Tigers (replaced 1927 Cleveland Hornets)

The Stars started the season with the following lineup/roster:

1. CF- Cool Papa Bell
2. RF – Branch Russell
3. SS – Willie Wells
4. 1B- Mule Suttles
5. LF – Frog Redus
6. 3B- Dewey Creasy
7. C – Henry Williams
8. 2B- John Henry Russell

1B – Willie Bobo
C – Mitch Murray
3B – Candy Jim Taylor (Manager)

Ted Trent
Slap Hensley
John Williams
Luther McDonald
Roosevelt Davis
Tuck Turner

(Note: Catcher Murray was deactivated to ‘coach’ in May due to injuries and the signing of Catcher Spoony Palm. Murray was soon after released and signed with Chicago. First baseman Bobo was released in June, perhaps because it became apparent that Suttles was fully recovered from the broken leg he suffered in June of 1927. Bobo then signed with Cleveland. Pitcher Richard Cannon was signed in June, with young Turner apparently deactivated for most league games after that.)

The NNL first half schedule consisted of 5-game series between teams, with some teams scheduled for 10 series, and others nine series, with the Cuban Stars, a traveling team with no home field, scheduled for seven series. St. Louis started out fast at 12-1, helped by a 13 game homestand to begin the season. They swept a five game series from Birmingham, took 4 out of 5 from Kansas City, then swept three games from the Cuban Stars (two games were rained out).

The Stars’ first road trip began May 22nd in Cleveland, where they swept four games from the Tigers by the scores of 15-7, 20-9, 12-7, and 10-7, giving them a 16-1 league start. Even after dropping two games at Detroit, they were still 16-3 vs. Detroit’s 20-7, and once they went back home and took 6 out of 7 from the Cuban Stars (making up the two earlier rainouts) and followed that up by taking the first three games in Chicago, they were 25-4. Detroit closed to as close as two games out going into the final five game series of the first half, but Detroit then lost their first two games with the Cuban Stars while St. Louis won their first two games with Memphis, clinching their first ever Negro League title of any kind on July 1st.

The Final 1st half 1928 NNL Standings after July 4th, 1928:

St. Louis Stars 31 9 .775
Detroit Stars 29 13 .690 3.0
Kansas City Monarchs 24 14 .632 6.0
Chicago American Giants 26 23 .531 9.5
Birmingham Black Barons 22 28 .440 14.0
Memphis Red Sox 17 26 .395 15.5
Cuban Stars (West) 10 23 .303 17.5
Cleveland Tigers 11 34 .244 22.5

And the St. Louis Stars’ record vs. each team:

vs. W L
Detroit Stars 0 2
Kansas City Monarchs 6 4
Chicago American Giants 3 1
Birmingham Black Barons 5 0
Memphis Red Sox 4 1
Cuban Stars (West) 9 1
Cleveland Tigers 4 0

If St. Louis won the 2nd half race, they would be the NNL champions, but if another team won, then there would be a playoff between 1st and 2nd half winners. 1st half runner-up Detroit struggled in the 2nd half, but Kansas City and Chicago resumed as the main challengers to the 2nd half title.

The Wacky Second Half

The Stars started out the 2nd half well at home, winning 4 of 5 from Detroit, and then winning 3 of 4 in Memphis. However, the trip to Memphis was the start of a LONG road trip that would include the Stars’ entire 2nd half slate of road games. The 16 game trip to Birmingham, back to Memphis, on to Chicago, then Detroit, and the finally Kansas City, produced a record of 8-8.

After August 7th, with the Stars returning home for the remainder of the season, the standings were:

Team W L
Chicago American Giants 19 6
Kansas City Monarchs 18 9
St. Louis Stars 15 10
Detroit Stars 13 11
Cleveland Tigers 6 9
Birmingham Black Barons 6 11
Memphis Red Sox 5 13
Cuban Stars (W) 0 13

The Stars took 3 out of 5 from Chicago to close within 2 ½ games of the lead, but only split 2-2 with lowly Cleveland, and then after a four game sweep of the non-league Atlantic City Bacharach Giants, the Stars took 4 out of 5 from Kansas City. However, one of the Stars wins vs. Kansas City, an 8-6 victory on September 1st, was protested by Kansas City, and subsequently thrown out of the standings. Going into the last set of five game series of the regular season, the standings, with the protested game thrown out, should have been:

Team W L
Chicago American Giants 27 14
Kansas City Monarchs 25 12
St. Louis Stars 23 15
Birmingham Black Barons 22 17
Detroit Stars 21 21
Memphis Red Sox 14 22
Cleveland Tigers 9 25
Cuban Stars (West) 3 18

However, these being the Negro Leagues, things were not that clear, as according to the St. Louis Argus, the standings were:

Team W L
Chicago American Giants 28 11
St. Louis Stars 28 14
Kansas City Monarchs 23 12
Birmingham Black Barons 24 22
Detroit Stars 21 20
Memphis Red Sox 15 23
Cleveland Tigers 9 22
Cuban Stars (West) 3 18

(Obviously, these numbers do not add up, as they add to 151 wins and 142 losses, as opposed to what I believe the “real” standings were, which add to 144 wins and 144 losses).

The Stars were hosting Memphis, while Chicago was at Kansas City, and Birmingham was at Detroit. If the first set of standings were correct, with Chicago and Kansas City playing each other, the Stars could not finish ahead of both Kansas City and Chicago. But with the second set of standing taken as official, the Monarchs needed to take 4 of 5 to tie Chicago, and sweep to pass Chicago, while the Stars could end up ahead of both teams in those scenarios if they took at least 3 of 5 from Memphis. If the Monarchs only took 3 of 5, the Stars would need 4 wins to pass Chicago, while 3 Chicago wins would force the Stars to have to sweep to finish first.

Chicago took the first 2 games from Kansas City, at which point rain interrupted their scheduled series. Meanwhile, the Stars lost the first game to Memphis 8-6 on Sept 8th, then took the next game 13-2 on the 9th, and won the first game of a double header 15-8 on the 10th, but lost the 2nd game 6-3. Chicago was declared 2nd half champions, which, due to the rain cancellation of two of the Chicago – Kansas City games, was correct based on either set of standings (the Monarchs did defeat Chicago 4-3 on September 11th to make the final series 2 games to 1 in favor of Chicago).

The Final 2nd half 1928 NNL Standings:

Chicago American Giants 29 15 .659
Kansas City Monarchs 26 14 .650 1.0
St. Louis Stars 26 17 .605 2.5
Birmingham Black Barons 24 20 .545 5.0
Detroit Stars 24 23 .511 6.5
Memphis Red Sox 16 25 .390 11.5
Cleveland Tigers 9 25 .265 15.0
Cuban Stars (West) 3 18 .143 14.5

Combined 1st and 2nd half 1928 NNL Standings:

St. Louis Stars 57 26 .687
Kansas City Monarchs 50 28 .641 4.5
Detroit Stars 53 36 .596 7.0
Chicago American Giants 55 38 .591 7.0
Birmingham Black Barons 46 48 .489 16.5
Memphis Red Sox 33 51 .393 24.5
Cleveland Tigers 20 59 .253 35.0
Cuban Stars (West) 13 41 .241 29.5

And the Stars’ record vs. each team:

vs. W L
Kansas City Monarchs 11 8
Detroit Stars 7 5
Chicago American Giants 7 3
Birmingham Black Barons 7 2
Memphis Red Sox 10 5
Cleveland Tigers 6 2
Cuban Stars (West) 9 1

The Stars and American Giants would meet for what turns out to be an epic championship series (tune in next week).

The above is from the unpublished manuscript LOST LEAGUES: The 1928 Negro National and Eastern Colored Leagues. An article based on this manuscript appeared in the SABR publication “Mound City Memories”

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