April 10, 2021

Negro Leagues DB Update: 1930 Negro National League

October 25, 2019 by · 1 Comment 

Check out the latest addition to the database, the 1930 Negro National League, based on the work of Larry Lester, Wayne Stivers, and the Negro League Researchers and Authors Group. Also part of this addition are games between NNL and eastern teams, especially the Homestead Grays, which gives a much fuller picture of the Grays’ 1930 season than we had before.

In the NNL the St. Louis Stars, led by Willie Wells (.411/.492/.682) and now managed by Johnny Reese, ran away with the first half, and finished the season way out in front in terms of overall record. In the league championship series St. Louis just edged the second-half winners Detroit Stars in 7 games. With no league in the east there could be no genuine World Series. Combining two different series played in April and August/September, the St. Louis Stars did beat the Homestead Grays four games to three, although all games were played in the Stars’ home park.

The Monarchs’ efforts to defend their 1929 championship were hampered by illness and injury, as Bullet Rogan found himself hospitalized for much of the season with an unnamed ailment. It probably did not help that when J. L. Wilkinson decided to spend a large chunk of the season barnstorming against the Homestead Grays with a portable light system. Already missing Rogan, the Monarchs’ roster was really stretched when a car crash at the start of the tour put several other players out of action. Kansas City borrowed Roosevelt Davis and Wilson Redus from St. Louis, but they were of little help as the ruthless Grays won 15 out of 17 games. The tour made headlines all across the Midwest; it was the first time night baseball was staged in most of the towns and cities the teams visited.

The Grays-Monarchs series was also noteworthy for one of the most legendary Negro league games of all time, and for the debut of an all-time great. In Kansas City on August 2 Cyclone Joe Williams and Chet Brewer clashed in a 12-inning duel under apparently faulty lights, Williams striking out 27 batters and allowing only one hit while Brewer’s emery ball helped him fan 19. The Grays finally won when Oscar Charleston worked Brewer for a walk in the twelfth, then scored on Chaney White’s double.

In the lineup that night, batting eighth, going hitless, and striking out twice, was a very raw 18-year-old catcher named Joshua Gibson. He had joined the Grays just a week earlier (on July 25) in Pittsburgh when the regular catcher, Buck Ewing, injured his finger. Gibson would hit only 2 for 15 against Kansas City, but he started to click when the Grays visited Detroit, St. Louis, and Chicago, and really came into his own during the informal eastern championship series with the Lincoln Giants, when he banged out four home runs in 11 games, including a famous blast to left field in Yankee Stadium.

In fact, the Grays were not Gibson’s first major Negro league team. Back on June 8, about six weeks before his Grays’ debut, the Memphis Red Sox had scheduled a doubleheader with the Grays in Sharon, Pennsylvania. Memphis outfielder Nat Rogers, interviewed by John Holway, tells the story:

We didn’t have no catcher and had to use the second baseman. Candy Jim Taylor was managing the Red Sox, picked Josh up and carried him up there to Shannon [sic], Pennsylvania to catch. So Josh played for Memphis. Just that one game. Candy said he’d never make a catcher. (Holway, Josh and Satch, p. 22).

Gibson got a couple of singles off Joe Williams (whom he would later catch in the 27-strikeout game) and also committed an error as the Grays crushed Memphis 13 to 3. Taylor gave opportunities that year to several players who would go on to notable careers, such as Neil Robinson and Chester Williams, but passed on the best of them all.

Next up for the DB: 1927 Negro National League, 1932 Negro Southern League, 1926 Negro National League, and more Mexican League seasons.

The first night baseball game in Pittsburgh: Homestead Grays vs. Kansas City Monarchs, July 18, 1930 (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 19, 1930, p. 18)


One Response to “Negro Leagues DB Update: 1930 Negro National League”
  1. HOWARD BLOOM says:

    Again, thanks from a loyal fan. Others garden, I pour over your work with devotion. I trust you will get into Heaven on this work.

    Howie Bloom

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