Tag Archives: Birmingham Black Barons

The First Jackie Robinson All-Stars

31 Aug

jackierobinsonas

The above advertisement is from the first, and least successful, of Jackie Robinson’s post season barnstorming tours.

In August of 1946, The Pittsburgh Courier said, “Jackie Robinson’s All-Stars” would play in several Eastern and Midwest cities after the Montreal Royals’ season ended.

The tour got off to bad start because the promoters—said to be from Pittsburgh, but never named in newspaper accounts—scheduled games to begin at the close of the International League season, failing to take into account that Robinson and Montreal would be playing in the Little World Series against the Louisville Colonels, the American Association champions.  East Coast games, including one at the Polo Grounds and one in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania were cancelled as a result.

After Robinson’s season ended, his “All-Stars” made up the game in Harrisburg and then played a handful of games in the Midwest before heading to California.

The All-Stars included Artie Wilson of the Birmingham Black Barons, John Scott of the Kansas City Monarchs. Ernie Smith, a one-time member of the Chicago American Giants, who played in 1946 with the Boston Blues in Branch Rickey’s U.S. Baseball League, and Bill “Wee Willie” Pope of the Pittsburgh Crawfords.

williepope

              Wee Willie Pope

Robinson’s All-Stars did not win a game in California.  They lost three games to Bob Feller‘s All-Stars—a team which included Bob Lemon, Stan Musial, Charlie Keller, Ken Keltner and Phil Rizzuto.  Feller’s club won 6 to 0 in San Francisco, 4 to 2 in San Diego, and 4 to 3 in Los Angeles.  Feller pitched five innings each in the San Diego and Los Angeles games—striking out 11 in the first game, and 10 in the second (he left that game having not allowed a hit through five innings).

One of those games was the impetus of the long-term animosity between Robinson and Feller that came to a head before the 1969 All-Star game.  At a press luncheon, Robinson noted the lack of black managers and front office personnel in major league baseball.  Feller criticized Robinson saying “The trouble with Jackie is that he thinks baseball owes him something.”  Feller told The Associated Press (AP) the bad feelings between the two started during the San Diego game on the 1946 tour:

“Jackie was getting a lot of publicity at the time since it was known he was being groomed to be the first Negro in big league baseball (and) threatened not to go on the field unless he got more money.”

Robinson told The AP Feller’s charge was “A damned lie.”

In 1975, Feller told The AP they “buried the hatchet,” before Robinson died in 1972:

“We discovered that out arguments were petty.  Both of us admitted our errors.  When Jackie died, we were good friends.”

Others claimed Feller never let the feud go.

The advertisement above is for the final game Robinson’s All-Stars played.  They faced the Oakland Larks, the champions of Abe Saperstein’s short-lived West Coast Negro Baseball Association (Negro Pacific Coast League) who posted a 14-3 record—the team barnstormed after the league folded and claimed a 56-12 record for all games played that season.

The teams played at San Bernardino’s Perris Hill Park; Robinson played center field.  The San Bernardino County Sun said he made “two stellar catches,” and was 3 for 4 with a double.  Despite Robinson’s efforts, the Larks won 8 to 5.

After Robinson’s final game with the All-Stars, he wasn’t quite finished for the year.  He joined the Los Angeles Red Devils, an integrated professional basketball team –three other well-known baseball players were members of the Red Devils: George Crowe, Irv Noren, and Everett “Ziggy” Marcel (the son of Oliver Marcelle).

Robinson’s brief professional basketball career ended in January of 1947.

Lost Advertisements–“Fast Games–League Stuff”

31 Jul

blackpels

blackpels2Above are two advertisements for a six-game, three town series between The New Orleans Black Pelicans and the Monroe Monarchs in 1931  Both teams were members of the Louisiana-Texas Colored League.

After single games in Bastrop and Tallulah, the clubs played four games, including a Sunday doubleheader at Monroe’s Casino Park.  The ad for the two games in the smaller towns promised “Fast Games–League Stuff,” and “An opportunity for these towns to witness regular league games.”

Both advertisements said that “Black Diamond” would be on the mound for the Pelicans.

Pitcher Robert Pipkin was so popular in his native state in the early 1930s that he was more often referred to by the nickname “Black Diamond” than his actual name–which was just as often misspelled Pipkins or Pipken or Pipkens.  The Chicago Defender said the left-hander was six-feet tall and weighed 180 pounds.

Black Diamond

Black Diamond

Typical of Negro League players of the era, Pipkin played for at least a dozen professional and semi-pro teams from 1928-1942.  With the exception one season with the Cleveland Cubs (1931), he spent his entire career in the south.  In addition to the Pelicans, he played for the Birmingham Black Barons, the Houston Black Buffaloes and local New Orleans clubs like the Flinkote Giants and the Dr. Nut Algiers Giants.

While he had a somewhat mythic reputation in Louisiana, even in the white press–The Monroe Morning World called him “One of the greatest Negro hurlers in the entire country”–he was generally unknown in the North.

The note at the bottom of the advertisement for the three games in Monroe is a reflection of the times in Louisiana:

“Separate Accommodations for White People

“Separate entrance in charge of white official; also separate section in grandstand as well as special parking grounds with watchman in charge.”

 

Nath McClinic—Negro Leaguer, Southern Lawman

24 Aug

Nathaniel “Nath” McClinic (often incorrectly referred to as “Nat”) was humble about his abilities.  Every Negro League contemporary of McClinic I had the opportunity to speak with over the years described him as being one of the best centerfielders of the post-integration era Negro Leagues, possessing great speed and an excellent arm.

McClinic would simply say “I could run and throw, but I couldn’t hit the curveball.”

Born in Georgia in 1924, McClinic served in the Army on Iwo Jima and led the Army baseball team to island championships before his discharge in 1946.

Nathaniel “Nath” McClinic

Upon his return from the service, McClinic and fellow Georgian Earnest Long were signed by the Chattanooga Choo Choo’s in the Negro Southern League.  McClinic also spent time with the Cleveland Buckeyes and Birmingham Black Barons in the Negro American League.  The only official records for McClinic are two at bats with no hits for Cleveland in 1948.

McClinic settled in Rome, Georgia after his professional career, managing and playing for the Lindale Dragons in the semi-pro Georgia Negro State League—also called the Josh Gibson League—Lindale was one of the best semi-pro clubs in the south throughout the late forties and early fifties, and had great success against local white teams.

In 1965 McClinic became the first African-American police officer in Floyd County Georgia, a year later he became the first African American graduate of the Georgia State Police Academy.

McClinic often told the story of one of his first arrests after joining the force.  He and the only other African-American officer arrested a white man for public intoxication.  Upon bringing the man to the police station, McClinic was told, “Don’t ever arrest a white man, regardless of what you see him doing.” Later that year a new police chief was appointed and the order was rescinded.

McClinic served as an officer and investigator for the next twenty years, retiring in 1986.

Nath McClinic

After his retirement, McClinic was a regular attendee at Negro League reunions and was honored in Cooperstown in 1991 as one of the “Living Legends of the Negro Leagues.”

McClinic passed away April 3, 2004, in Rome, Georgia.