April 22, 2021

Negro Leagues DB Update: 1937 Negro American League

August 23, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Here’s a brief, belated introduction to the 1937 Negro American League, which we added to the site last month (July 10, to be precise). For a broader view of that eventful year in black baseball history, see my entry on the 1937 Negro National League, which we added to the DB back in 2015. Meanwhile, here are a view highlights from the first season of the NAL, a Midwest-based league that was the true successor of Rube Foster’s original NNL.

•The team with the best overall record in the league was the Cincinnati Tigers, managed by Double Duty Radcliffe, and starring ace Jess Houston (8-3, 2.19) and shortstop Howard Easterling (.355/.400/.595). Like the 1981 Cincinnati Reds, though, the Tigers failed to win either half of the NAL’s split season.

•Luck instead favored the two most dominant clubs from the old NNL, the Kansas City Monarchs and Chicago American Giants, who won the first and second halves, respectively. The Monarchs, featuring Hilton Smith (11-4, 1.65) and outfielder Willard Brown (.372/.423/.661), took the championship series in five games.

•The Indianapolis Athletics were a brand-new club, organized and managed by Ted Strong, Sr., who was fortunate enough to have an extravagantly talented son, Ted Strong, Jr., to play shortstop and bat cleanup for him. (The younger Strong, who later starred for the Kansas City Monarchs, was also a great basketball player for the Harlem Globetrotters.) The Athletics, however, folded after the 1937 season.

•On May 16 Hilton Smith of the Kansas City Monarchs tossed an opening day no-hitter, beating the American Giants 4 to 0 in Kansas City.

•On July 24 in Dayton, Ohio, lefty Roy Partlow of the Cincinnati Tigers struck out 18 batters in a 10-4 win over the Birmingham Black Barons.

•The Monarchs’ Eddie Dwight, who hit .235, had as many stolen bases as he did hits (20 for both, in 31 games), and even more walks than either (24). His teammate Henry Milton stole 29 bases.

•No World Series was organized between the Monarchs and the Homestead Grays, champions of the NNL. But a combined team of American Giants and Monarchs played a series against a combined team of Grays and Newark Eagles, the eastern team winning 6 out of 7 games. Over the course of the series, which was played in Chicago, Indianapolis, Dayton, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Brooklyn, the press just started referring to it as a Grays/American Giants series, so that’s how we’ve treated it in the stats here.

Thanks to Patrick Rock for providing Kansas City Call coverage for 1937, as well as Larry Lester and Wayne Stivers for filling in some gaps with other hard-to-find box scores.

Up next: 1945 through 1948 Negro leagues. On deck: Mexican League, East-West All-Star Games, various Cuban season. We’re also working on adding the third leg of the 1937 season, the (in)famous Dominican championship.

Players for the Indianapolis Athletics of the 1937 NAL, including manager Ted Strong and his son, Ted Strong, Jr.

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