Tag Archives: Cum Posey

The 1925 Homestead Grays

18 Jun

Twenty-five games into the 1925 season, the independent Homestead Grays had won 23 games, lost one and tied one according to The Pittsburgh Courier.

Bill Nunn of The Courier called the club, “Pittsburgh’s one winning ballclub,” and regionally the “greatest drawing card in baseball.”

He estimated that more than 70,000 fans, “male and female, white and black” had attended Grays games to that point of the season.

Nunn provided rare sketches of the players “From the plate to the fence.”

Of the team’s three catchers he said:

Bill Pierce was, “colorful and forceful, with a mighty arm and powerful bat. William “Pep” Young, he said was, “A veteran with a wise head, and an almost uncanny ability to detect the opposing batter’s weakness.” Harry “Rags” Roberts was, “The Nick Altrock of the Grays,” and the converted outfielder was, “a wonderful utility man.”

The pitchers:

Oscar Owens was, “a speedball artist. The strength of his arm and the power of his bat had made him a popular idol.” Smokey Joe Williams was, “showing the way to all others …his fastball, which travels a bit faster than Oscar’s, is sending him to the top with leaps and bounds.”

Smokey Joe Williams

Charles “Lefty” Williams, “The Grays little southpaw” had been with the club since 1921 and, “His work has done much to place the Grays in the enviable position they hold today.” Laudie “Pete” Walker was, “A protégé of ‘Dizzy’ Dismukes, and the latest addition to the staff,” had, “a world of speed and a puzzling curve ball.”

First baseman Willie “Dolly” Gray had, “the flashiness of a (Charlie) Grimm and the speed of a reindeer (he) is hitting like a demon.”

Second baseman Raymond “Mo” Harris was, “Reliable, cool under fire and a dangerous man at the bat by reason of the fact that he seldom goes after bad ones, and makes a pitcher lay it ‘in the groove.’ Mo fits in nicely.”

Shortstop Gerard Williams, “Captain of the club…first appeared in Pittsburgh playing with Dismukes’ Keystones…Williams is one of the greatest shortstops of modern days.”

Third baseman Jasper “Jap” Washington had, “a pair of the biggest hands in baseball, a powerful arm, and a mighty bat. Jap’s colorful work, his fighting heart and withal, his good nature, has endeared him here.”

Right fielder Dennis “Peaches” Graham was, “The Grays most consistent hitter…a former schoolteacher and a college graduate is quiet and unassuming, but when a drive goes into right, or a hit is needed to score a run, Graham is sure to produce.” Nunn said Graham had hit safely in all 25 games and was, “the fastest man on the Grays team going down to first base and is hailed by opposing teams everywhere as the greatest all-around ball player, white or black, they have ever seen.”

Center Fielder Willis Moody, “a product of the West Virginia hills…is said by old fans to be as good a fly chaser as Oscar Charleston in his palmiest days.”

Left Fielder Vic Harris completed “the greatest outfield combination the grays have ever known, and one of the greatest in the country. Harris was, “a sure fielder and his bat peals a merry tune.”

Vic Harris

Sam “Lefty” Streeter, who Nunn identified as “Joe,” had yet to pitch for the Grays but had arrived in Pittsburgh that week after having started the season with the Birmingham Black Barons in the Negro National League. His acquisition provided the Grays with “a pitching staff equal to any in Negro baseball.” The Alabama native was, “said to be one of the greatest pitchers ever developed in the south.”

By August, The Courier reported the Grays had played 100 games, with a record of 84-14-2

1925 Grays Back Row, left to right: Washington, Walker, J. Williams, Pierce, Charlie Craig, Young, Owens R. Harris Front row left to right: Moddy, J. Williams, G. Williams, Graham, V. Harris, Roberts, Streeter, Gray. Scales is not pictured.

Nunn’s opinion of the club did not wane. In September he called manager Cum Posey a, “shrewd diplomat of human merchandise,” who had “built up a team of stars which includes on his roster some of the greatest baseball players of modern times.”

Nunn claimed that Owens threw “four no-hit games” that season, and in In another column in July, he described the Grays hurler:

“One of the most picturesque figures in independent baseball…The muscular Adonis has won 19 games, lost two, and twirled in one tie engagement…Owens is one of the miracles of modern baseball, hereabouts. When asked as to how he kept in such remarkable physical trim, Oscar replied: ‘My wife, regular hours, and abstinence from strength destroying habits, have kept me in the shape I am.”

Nunn said Owens’ wife served as the pitcher’s personal trainer, “using a special preparation on (his arm) after each game.”

Mid-season, George Scales had joined the Grays, moving Washington to first and moved Dolly Gray to the outfield where he supplanted Moddy.

 Of the new infield combination, he said: “Speed and intelligence together with a punch at the bat are rolled up” in the four.

The club won the Tri-State (Pennsylvania-Ohio-West Virginia) Independent League. The Courier simply said the team had “played over 150 games this season and won more than 125.”

“The Opposing Pitchers were Cheating”

11 Jun

Writing in The Pittsburgh Courier in 1936, Cum Posey owner of the Homestead Grays said the “greatest pitching battle of the Gray’s history and a fielding feature that stands out as the best ever witnessed by the writer,” happened in the same 1930 game.

Posey Cum 1345.72 crop PD

Cum Posey

The night game was played August 2, 1930 in Kansas City, between the Monarchs and the Grays, after the teams had spent several weeks playing a series of games in Pennsylvania and Ohio.

It was the most famous game of Smokey Joe Williams’ career—some sources incorrectly date the game as August 7 because of the dateline on The Courier’s contemporaneous story about the game.

smokeyjoe

“Smokey” Joe Williams

Williams faced Chet Brewer of the Monarchs.  Posey said:

“Before the game, the writer and Mr.(James Leslie) Wilkinson of Kansas City had an agreement that neither pitcher would use the ‘emery’ ball. The Grays got two men on base in the first inning, when Brewer brought out his ‘work,’ and there was no score.

“Joe Williams was then given a sheet of sand paper and the battle was on.”

Six years earlier, The Courier confirmed Posey’s recollection about doctored balls:

“The opposing pitchers were cheating without the question of a doubt.  An emery ball in daylight is very deceptive but at night it is about as easy to see as an insect in the sky.”

Posey picked up the story:

“For eight innings not another Gray and no Monarch reached first base.  Kansas City hadn’t made a hit off of Joe, with one down in the ninth (actually the eighth).  Newt Joseph in attempting to bunt, lifted a ‘pop’ over (first baseman Oscar) Charleston’s head.  Charleston had come in fast for the bunt and the ball went for two bases.”

The Courier did not describe the hit as a bunt in the original game story.

Posey continued:

“Joseph stole third.  “The Grays infield of Judy Johnson, (Jake) Stephens, (George) Scales, and Charleston came in on the grass…Moore (Posey misidentifies the batter—it was actually James ‘Lefty’ Turner) a young first baseman, was at bat, and hit a half liner, half Texas leaguer over Stephens’ head.  Jake turned at the crack of the bat and started running with his hands in the air.  While still out of reaching distance of the ball, Stephens stumbled and, taking a headlong dive, caught the ball six inches from the ground.”

The Courier was less specific in the 1930 coverage but said Stephens “went back” for Turner’s “sure Texas leaguer,” and “made a spectacular catch to rob the Monarchs of a possible victory.”

Williams retired Brewer to end the inning.

Brewer and Williams continued their duel until the top of the 12th when Brewer walked Charleston (the game’s only base on balls) and scored on Chaney White’s single for the game’s only score.

chetbrewer

Chet Brewer

Williams struck out the side in the 12th, completing the one-hitter with 27 strikeouts.

Brewer gave up just four hits and struck out 19, including 10 straight—he struck out the side in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings.

Williams is widely known to have recommended Buck Leonard to Posey resulting in Leonard’s signing with the Grays in 1934.  Lesser known is the story Leonard told Red Smith of The New York Times in 1972:

“’Williams—he was tending bar on Lenox Avenue—asked me if I’d like to play for a good team.  He called up Cum Posey, who had the Homestead Grays.  Posey sent travel expenses but not to me; he sent the money to Williams, who gave me a bus ticket and $5.’

“’Do you think,’ Leonard was asked, ‘that Smokey Joe took a commission?’

“Laughter bubbled out of him.  ‘All I know, when I got my first pay check they held out $50.  That bus ticket didn’t cost $45.”’

Cum Posey’s “All-Americans”

18 Nov

In 1937, Homestead Grays owner Cumberland Willis “Cum” Posey Jr. set out to name the all-time Negro League all-stars–his “All-Americans”– in The Pittsburgh Courier; six years later he expanded his “All-American” team and conceded that picking an all-time Negro League team was a nearly impossible task:

“Due to the changes in umpiring, parks, baseballs, ownership, in the last three decades, it is merely a guess when any of us attempt to pick an all-time All-American club.  Under any system we would hesitate to put ourselves on record as picking the club without placing some of the boys from the islands on the team.  We know some star players from Cuba, who played Negro baseball in the US and they cannot be ignored.”

Cum Posey

Cum Posey

Posey said no team would be complete without considering pitchers Jose Mendez, Eustaquio “Bombin” Pedroso, and Juan Padron, shortstop Pelayo Chacon, outfielders Cristobal Torriente and Esteban Montalvo and “(Martin) Dihigo, probably the greatest all-around player of any decade.”

Cristóbal Torriente

Cristóbal Torriente

“If one could be a spectator at an argument between those closely associated with baseball—fans, players, owners—he would be surprise at the differences of opinions.

Ted Page, who is now manager of Hillvue Bowling Alley (in Pittsburgh), and was formerly one of the star players of Negro baseball was mentioning one of the players of former years.  Ted contends (Chester) Brooks, one of the few West Indian (Brooks was said to hae been born in Nassau, Bahamas, but several sources, including his WWII Draft Registration and death certificate list his place of birth as Key West, Florida) players ever on the roster of an American baseball club was one of the real stars of all time.  Brooks, formerly of the Brooklyn Royal Giants, was probably the most consistent right hand hitter in the history of Negro baseball.  When the Homestead Grays were at odds with everyone connected with Negro Organized Baseball we tried to get Brooks on the Grays club.”

Chester Brooks

Chester Brooks

In his 1937 picks, Posey placed Brooks on his all-time all-star team as “utility” outfielder.

The 1937 team:

Manager:  C. I. Taylor

Coaches:  Rube Foster, Sam Crawford, and Chappie Johnson

Catchers:  Josh Gibson and Biz Mackey

Pitchers: Smokey Joe Williams, Dick Redding, Pedroso, Bullet Rogan, Satchel Paige, Dave Brown and Willie Foster

First Base:  Ben Taylor and Buck Leonard

Second Base: Sammy Hughes

Third Base: Jud Wilson

judwilson

Shortstop: John Henry Lloyd

Left Field:  Torriente

Center Field: Oscar Charleston

Right Field: Pete Hill

Utility:  Infield: Dick Lundy; Outfield: Brooks

Posey added several players for consideration in 1943, many who were largely forgotten by then:

Pitchers: Mendez, Padron

Catcher:  Bruce Petway, Wabishaw “Doc” Wiley

First Base: Leroy Grant, George Carr, Eddie Douglas

Second Base:  Frank Warfield, Bingo DeMoss, George Scales, John Henry Russell, Frank Grant

Bingo DeMoss

Bingo DeMoss

Third Base: Connie Day, Judy Johnson, Ray Dandridge, Dave Malarcher, Henry Blackmon, Walter Cannady, Billy Francis, Bill Monroe

Shortstop:  Willie Wells

Posey concluded:

“Too many outfielders to mention.  You have Dihigo, (Pee Wee) Butts, (Sam) Bankhead, Cannady (and) Monte Irvin to play in any position and nine hundred ninety-nine others.  Our personal preference for manager is C.I. Taylor, but what about Rube Foster?”