December 4, 2023

Book Review: “The Eastern Colored League”

October 16, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

This won’t be your typical book review.  First, this book, “The Eastern Colored League” by David Lawrence and Dom Denaro, is not a new release – it was published in 2003.  Second, it’s not the standard hardcover book.  It’s more appropriately, per David Lawrence, a ‘monograph’, with soft cover, totaling 72 pages.

So why review this short, out-of-date monograph?   Because it’s an undiscovered treasure of information about the Negro Leagues, about Major League Equivalents (MLE’s), about baseball simulation gaming, and most of all, about answering the question: “How good were the Negro Leagues” in a rational, systematic fashion.

The monograph project started with the authors wanting to improve upon the APBA set of 20 Greatest Negro League Teams by finding a methodology that would allow the Negro League compiled statistics, at least the fragment that has been compiled, to be converted into statistics that would have the Negro League APBA player cards play ‘realistically’ with MLB APBA cards.

To get there, the authors present the road map they used.   They discuss the “Encyclopedia Distortion” that results from absolute comprehensiveness of MLB statistics vs. Negro League statistics.  The authors lay out some statistical modeling, in very understandable language, along with the assumptions that they make about MLB vs. Negro League baseball, and how they ‘filled in the blanks’ for missing data.  There’s a section on why the Eastern Colored League was chosen, and why five years of data was used for the MLE calculations.    While on the journey to statistical realism, the authors discuss what the Negro Leagues were like – the 70-game seasons, the short rosters, the thin pitching staffs and the pitching staff usage – and how that all  impacted their simulation league design.  Cultural differences that impacted both the play and team construction of the Negro Leagues are also thoroughly discussed.

After all of the statistical discussion, there are individual chapters on each of the eight major ECL franchises.   Each chapter gives the team’s historical W/L record, information on the home ballpark, a history of the franchise, plus a scouting report of the team roster as designed for the simulation.

One of the real gems in this treasure chest is the player biography chapter.  In addition to paragraphs on well-known players such as John Beckwith, Oscar Charleston, and John Henry Lloyd, there are bios on many lesser known players such as Otto Briggs, Richard Gee, and John Harper.

The book concludes with an Appendix section that contains all of the specific batting statistics, pitching stats, and fielding ratings that were used to build the APBA card set.

If you have any interest in the Negro Leagues, in statistical player analysis, and/or in baseball simulation games, you’ll want to purchase this little ‘monograph’.

The Eastern Colored League by David Lawrence and Dom Denaro is published by AJ Publishing.  Copies may be purchased for $9.00 plus shipping by contacting:

AJ Publishing
PO Box 5405
South San Francisco, CA 94083
Phone Toll Free: 1-877-313-7370

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