April 10, 2021

Negro Leagues DB Update: 1927 Negro National League

November 16, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

As we count down to the 100th anniversary of the first Negro National League (in February 2020), we’re adding the 1927 Negro National League to the database, to accompany our work on the 1927 Eastern Colored League.

Based again on the work of Larry Lester, Wayne Stivers, Dick Clark, and the Negro League Researchers and Authors Group, this update adds some big offensive seasons by the likes of Turkey Stearnes of the Detroit Stars (.353/.433/.671, with 19 home runs) and Willie Wells of the St. Louis Stars, whose 28 home runs were the most we’ve recorded by a player in a single Negro league season.

The Birmingham Black Barons, back in the NNL after a season in the minor Negro Southern League, managed to steal the second half flag on the back of efforts by rookies Roy Parnell (.422/.464/.653) and Leroy Paige (6-1, 2.48), and veterans Harry Salmon (15-6, 2.94) and Sam Streeter (14-13, 2.80). In the playoffs, however, they ran into the defending World Series champion Chicago American Giants.

Led by Willie Foster—whose 24 wins (including the postseason) were another Negro league record—the American Giants disposed of the Black Barons in five games, then won the first four games of the best-of-nine World Series. The Eastern Colored League champion Atlantic City Bacharach Giants rallied to win three and tie one (including a seven-inning no-hitter by Luther Farrell) before the Chicagoans finally closed out the Series with an 11-to-4 win.

Aside from Foster, the mainstays of the American Giants 1926-27 mini-dynasty were a couple of position players who have been largely overlooked even by historians: Pythias Russ, a catcher-turned-shortstop who hit .325 overall with 33 doubles, and Walter “Steel Arm” Davis, who hit .402/.444/.554 in the regular season and .375/.397/.697 in the postseason. Russ just got better and better, raising his average to .369 in 1929, but after that season he fell ill, and died of tuberculosis at the age of 26. Davis started out as a pitcher in the Texas Colored League and spent large swaths of his career playing for non-league barnstorming teams like Gilkerson’s Union Giants, where he built a reputation both as a formidable power hitter and as an on-field comedian. He was killed in a bar fight in 1941.

This update also includes the 1941 Mexican League, which Kevin Johnson will write about soon.

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

The 1927 Birmingham Black Barons, 2nd half champions of the Negro National League (Birmingham Reporter, April 30, 1927, p. 3).

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