Tag Archives: Rube Foster

“Pop Lloyd was the Paragon of Deportment”

16 Jun

Randy Dixon was a World War II correspondent for The Pittsburgh Courier, reporting on the Tuskegee Airman among the many stories that carried his byline. Before leaving for Europe, he had sometimes written about baseball for The Courier.

In a 1940 column, he said he participated in a “fanning bee in which were engaged a blend of old timers and an opposite cast of comparative youngsters,” to select the greatest Negro League player of all-time and the best player(s) in other categories.

After “a maze of testimony, pro and con,” the group decided:

“Pop Lloyd was the paragon of deportment.”

John Henry “Pop” Lloyd

Buck Leonard was, “the least colorful,” player while Luis Santop was “the biggest box-office attraction.”

Dick Redding, Satchel Paige, Stuart “Slim” Jones, and “Smokey” Joe Williams were “the speed kings among pitchers,” Paige was also said to be the “goofiest” player.

”Martin Dihigo was the most versatile and possessed the best throwing arm, but was also the most mechanical.”

The best baserunners were Oscar Charleston, Cool Papa Bell, Pop Lloyd Dick Lundy and Rap Dixon, Bell was the fastest runner, he described the long-forgotten Alfredo Barro, referred to as only “Cuban Baro” as “a close runner up.”

Oscar Charleston

The pugnacious George “Chippy” Britt—who Dixon referred to as “Oscar”—was one of “baseball’s Joe Louises.” Jud Wilson was the other. Wilson also “zoomed the ball hardest off his bat.”

Frank Warfield was the most graceful player, while “Jake Stevens [sic, Stephens] was the trickiest.”. Toussaint Allen, “had no peer” playing first base. Josh Gibson was “the longest hitter.”

Willie Foster had the best pickoff move. Biz Mackey possessed “that uncanny sixth sense that anticipated proper spots for pitchouts and for inside manipulations.”

”Willie “Devil” Wells lived up to his nickname among Dixon’s panel, he was “the toughest for fellow club members to get along with.”

Rube Foster was the best manager. The Hilldale Club was said to be “the best paying proposition in Negro Baseball.”

The Harrisburg Giants, when managed by Charleston and with a roster that included Rap Dixon, Fats Jenkins, and John Beckwith, was “the gas house crew of all time.”

Wendell Smith, Dixon’s colleague at The Courier, just three years into a writing career that would earn him a spot in the Hall of Fame did not make the list of the all-time best black best baseball writers. The group chose Romeo Dougherty of The New York Amsterdam News, Frank (Fay) Young of The Chicago Defender, W. Rollo Wilson and Bill Nunn of The Courier, and John Howe, the editor of The Philadelphia Tribune; Howe had died 12 years earlier.

And finally, the consensus of the group for “greatest player, all things considered,” was Oscar Charleston.

“A Blatantly-Cruel Job”

14 Jun

After James “Cool Papa” Bell was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1974, “an old-time Negro League baseball star—one of the all-time greats for certain,” had a few thoughts on Negro Leaguers and the Hall of Fame.

The former player, who, “is not the beneficiary of big-time publicity,” talked to Andrew Spurgeon “Doc” Young of The Chicago Defender.

Bell

Young said:

“The old-timer knows he was better than many of the Negro League players who are being touted for that ‘special niche’ reserved in the Hall of Fame for unfortunate blacks—those superior blacks who were barred out of organized baseball by racial bigots.”

The “old-timer,” according to Young said the committee instituted by Commissioner Bowie Kuhn in 1971 and chaired by Monte Irvin, “has done a terribly bad job…a ridiculous job, a blatantly-cruel job.”

His chief complaint:

“Andrew, ‘Rube’ Foster should have been the first man from Negro League ball admitted to the Hall of Fame. He did more for Negro League baseball than anyone else. He was outstanding on four levels: Player, manager, team operator, and league czar.”

Young recalled that Joe Green, who played with and against Foster during his nearly two decades with several Chicago clubs, told him:

“Joe Greene [sic] knew Rube Foster well and he told me: ‘When Rube Foster died, the league died with him.”

Foster

The “old-timer” said:

“I know something about Rube Foster first-hand. He was a great man…One reason why Rube hasn’t been honored is that the committee is dominated by Easterners, Foster’s greatest triumphs were achieved in the Midwest. It’s a damn shame, really.”

 Then, he called out the most recent honoree:

“It’s got to be a damn shame when players who were twice as good as Cool Papa Bell can’t make it. I played against Cool Papa Bell, and I know he wasn’t an all-around star. He could run fast but he couldn’t throw and couldn’t hit with power. I think Satch (Paige) helped to promote him into the Hall of Fame.”

Young would not share his opinion of Bell but said the “old-timer” was “essentially right” about the failings of the committee.

“’Sure, I’m right,’ the old-timer said. ‘Jelly Gardner was a better player than Cool Papa Bell. Martin Dihigo was one of the greatest players who ever lived. Oscar Charleston, Bullet Joe Rogan, Bingo DeMoss—all three of them were better than Cool Papa Bell.’

“’You should know,’ the writer said. ‘You played against them all.’

“’Absolutely,’ the old-timer said. ‘And he didn’t crack a smile.”

Young never revealed who the “old-timer” was.

Foster was finally inducted in 1981, after Charleston (1976) and Dihigo (1977). Rogan would not be honored until 1998. Gardner and DeMoss have remained overlooked for induction.

“The Greatest Utility Player of Color”

16 Dec

Henry “Harry” “Mike” Moore was among the pioneers of black baseball in Chicago.  He began his career at 19 with the Chicago Unions and was part of their 1895 team which was awarded Chicago’s “Amateur Baseball Association” championship in 1895.

The Chicago Tribune said:

“There were 159 competitors for the pennant, but the colored boys came out on top by winning forty-seven games out of fifty-six played.”

The next year, The Chicago Inter Ocean said the Unions “closed the season of ’96 with as good a record as ever made by any amateur team either East or West.”

 They ended the season 100-19 with three ties.

In 1897, when the Unions appeared in a charity game for recently retired White Stockings 2nd baseman Fred Pfeffer, The Tribune said they had “played 129 games, winning 113,” that season.

Moore pitched and was a utility player at first, third, and the outfield for the Unions and later was primarily a utility outfielder and corner infielder for several clubs through 1913.

Moore, seated second from left, with Leland Giants 1909

Moore died in September of 1917 of tuberculosis, and was eulogized by Dave Wyatt—negro league player turned sports writer—in The Chicago Defender:

“Harry (Mike) Moore is dead. Such was the sad, sad news that was passed to thousands of the devotees of the national pastime early last week.”

Wyatt said that Moore had been in ill health since at least 1911, “His last appearance as a member of a big club” when Moore played with Frank Leland’s Chicago Giants is a series against Rube Foster’s Chicago American Giants.

Wyatt said of him, pre illness:

“Moore was rightfully considered the greatest utility player of color that has ever been introduced to the baseball public. He was without a peer as a center fielder, big leaguers not excluded. He was known and admired by all baseball men, white and black.”

Moore, he said, was “quiet, unassuming and his temperament was as mild as a baby’s. He was a gentleman both on and off the field. If he was ever ruffled or offended over a misplay, the derisions of the crowds, or an adverse decision of the umpire, no person has ever been able to discern a surface show of the same.”

Wyatt called Moore “one of the game’s greatest batters…a natural hitter. He had a free and easy swing but his swipe carried terrific force.”

Two months before Moore’s death, a benefit game was played at Schorling’s Park involving players from the Chicago Giants, Union Giants, and American Giants—the teams were called Pete Hill’s Stars and John Henry Lloyd’s Stars—the game, according to The Defender:

“(W)as much of a success, as Mr. (Rube) Foster, who donated his park, has $117, with more people to be heard from. Charles A. Comiskey sent a check for $25.”

The paper said C.I. Taylor “sent his bit from Indianapolis, as did players and managers from other part of the country.”

Hill’s Stars won the game 2 to 0.

Box score for Moore benefit game

Wyatt closed, saying:

“Long and lasting may the memory of Harry ‘Mike’ Moore exist.”

“Foster Likes to Boast About Four Things”

31 Mar

In 1926, Rollo Wilson of The Pittsburgh Courier acknowledged that it was a difficult task to get “Rube Foster to talk baseball,” after approaching him in Pittsburgh’s 15th Street Café where Foster “was seated contemplating a filet mignon, make it two.”

RubeFoster

Rube Foster

As one of the few extant interviews of Foster, it provides a some insight into his career—although his recollections are not entirely accurate—as noted in this Agate Type post.

Two years earlier, The Baltimore Afro-American managed to get a few sentences out of Foster; calling him “no Czar of baseball,” the paper said:

“On the contrary, he is simply a big , fat, good natured and successful baseball manager who after 43 years in baseball has risen from a salary of $40 a month and 15 cent meals to $100 a day and one of the finest homes in Chicago.”

Foster told the paper:

“Five years ago, colored baseball players got nothing out of the game. Last year fans paid $380,000 to see colored baseball.”

The paper said Foster “likes to boast” about four things:

“(1) that as a 19-year-old pitcher he was the best in the country and points with pride to the fact that he out pitched Rube Waddell and with his 10 men whipped the best teams in the country, (2) that he organized the first Negro baseball league, which have developed more than any other agency. (3) that he knows more people than any other colored man in the United States, (4) that he has never entered politics and he has never cast a vote.”

Foster didn’t like politics but was “crazy about automobiles;” and had a “Chrysler Runabout and an Apperson Jackrabbit Sedan that he bought this spring.”

Rube didn’t use a chauffeur and told the paper:

“(He) says he can make 70 miles in either of them.”

The brief interview was so rare the paper ran it again in it’s entirety after Foster was admitted the Kankakee (IL) State Hospital in September of 1926; he died there in 1930.

“Whose American Giants?”

27 May

Robert “Judy” Gans played for Negro League teams  from 1908 through the mid-1920s, and was later a manager and umpire; he is probably most famous for being the source of Judy Johnson’s nickname, the Hall of Famer said the two were teammates on a semi-pro team in 1920 and picked up the sobriquet because of his resemblance to the older player.

Gans liked to tell a story about about playing for Rube Foster with the Chicago American Giants in 1914.

gans

Gans

The story, first told to Rollo Wilson of The Pittsburgh Courier in 1929 and later to Lewis Dials from The New York Age in 1936, was substantially the same–although he added some embellishments after six years. Lewis wrote in 1936:

“Gans had been starring down East when Rube sent for him to come to Chicago and play for him. In a game with a group of white league stars, the Giants were trailing 1-0 with a man on second and a sloppy field, the late Rube instructed Judy to bunt and get the runner on third. The opposing pitcher lobbed one up and Gans hit it for a home run, winning the game 2 to 1. Rabid fans tossed money of all descriptions on the field to Judy, who collected it and counted $136.”

In the 1929 version, Gans added a few details–the game took place while the American Giants were barnstorming the West Coast, Bruce Petway was the runner at second, and Portland Beavers pitcher Irv Higginbottom was on the mound.

The amount collected from the fans also changed–in 1929, he said it was $87.50, with an additional “fifty dollar bill” handed to him by George Moore; Moore was an African-American hotel owner in Portland who became a prominent boxing promoter and manager–he was most famous for managing Henry Armstrong at the end of his career.

Gans was told after the game that he would be riding back to the hotel in Foster’s car—in the 1929 version Foster told him in the dugout to ride back to the hotel with him.

“Judy said his chest poked out as he had made a big hit with his new boss. Seated in the car with Rube made Gans feel big until Foster broke the silence with a query, ‘Where did you play ball?’ To which Just proudly replied, ‘Down East with all the good clubs.’”

rf.PNG

Foster

In the 1929 version, Gans said Foster asked him about playing for the Lincoln Giants, “How did you like working for Sol White down East? Any discipline down there?”

Gans answered that discipline was “so-so” under White.

“Rube then asked, ‘What team are you playing for now?’ And Judy replied, ‘The American Giants.’ Rube said, “Whose American Giants?’ And Judy replied, ‘Rube Foster’s’. ‘That’s what I thought, how much did you get for hitting that home run?’ Gans told him the sum and Rube said it was some hit alright but add fifty dollars to that $136 you got and it will pay your fine. Judy asked what fine. Rube said it was failure to carry out instructions.”

Foster told Gans:

“’Men on my club play ball like Rube Foster tells them, or it would not be Rube Foster’s American Giants.’

“Judy played as he was told after that, and at the end of the season Rube refunded the money.”

In the 1929 version, Gans did not get the money back and was told by Foster:

“’Well, boy, let papa tell you something. If the Giants had lost the game today, the papers would have been full of what happened to Rube Foster’s team. I am the manager of the club. I told you to lay down and you hit a home run…now the next time I tell you to bunt, you’ll remember that won’t you?’”

Whether he received the money back or not, Gans, according to Dial “pins the medal of a great leader” on Foster.

Adventures in Barnstorming: Anson’s Colts

1 Apr

Cap Anson was broke.  Again.

In January of 1909, he appeared in “debtors court” in Chicago over $111 owed to the Chicago House Wrecking Company.  Anson told Judge Sheridan E. Fry he was “busted.”

The judge asked Anson about his stock in the company that owned Chicago’s Coliseum. Anson said, “I did but the bank’s got it now.  I even owe them money on it.”

anson

Anson

The judge dismissed the case.  The Chicago Tribune said as Anson was leaving the courtroom:

‘”Three strikes and out,’ half called a man among the spectators.

“The ‘Cap’ paused a moment with his hand on the door knob.

“’There is still another inning,’ he offered as he stepped into the corridor.  Someone started to applaud, and the bailiff forgot to rap for order, and the judge looked on indulgently.”

A rumor made the rounds in subsequent days that Cubs President Charles Webb Murphy was trying to get Anson appointed supervisor of National League umpires. National League President Harry Pulliam quickly killed the idea, The Detroit Free Press said:

“Mr. Pulliam comes through with the sensible suggestion that if Chicago wishes to do anything for Anson it would do better to provide the job itself.”

Anson’s former teammate, Evangelist Billy Sunday, told The Associated Press he was willing to help:

“So, poor old ‘Cap’ Anson is busted! Well, that’s too bad. We ought to help that old boy in some way.

“The Chicago people ought to help ‘old Cap’ out. They ought to give him a benefit. I’d like to help him myself.”

With the job with the National League not forthcoming, no offer from the Cubs, and Anson’s apparently turning down Sunday’s help, he set out on a 5,000-mile barnstorming tour with his Chicago City League amateur team, Anson’s Colts.  Anson, who celebrated his 57th birthday on tour, played first base on a club that included future major leaguers Fred Kommers, George Cutshaw, and Biff Schaller.

colts.jpg

The barnstorming Colts, Anson top center

The tour started in March 28 in South Bend, Indiana; the Colts lost games on the 28th and 29th to the Central League South Bend Greens.

On April 1, Anson’s Colts played the Cincinnati Reds. Thirty-nine-year-old Clark Griffith took the mound for the Reds. Jack Ryder of The Cincinnati Enquirer said:

“Seventy-nine persons witnessed a game of ball at League Park yesterday afternoon which would have furnished several thousand with material for conversation if they had only been there to observe it.”

Griffith pitcher=d a complete game and went 5 for 5 with a triple. In a 15-4 victory; he allowed just seven hits, Anson had two of them in four trips to the plate.

Ryder said of Anson:

“That game old boy played first base for his team, stuck through to the finish, and was the only man on his side who could do much of anything with the delivery of Mr. Griffith.”

Ryder said Anson also “handled perfectly,” every play at first base:

“Remarkable indeed was the spectacle of this great player, now nearly 60 years of age, hitting them out as he did in the days of old and handling thrown balls at his corner like a youngster.  Will there ever be another like him?”

Despite the praise from Ryder, third baseman Hans Lober said of the team from Chicago:

“Teams like…Anson’s Colts don’t give you just the kind of work you need.”

The Colts dropped two more games in Ohio to the American Association Columbus Senators.

Anson’s barnstormers finally won a game on April 4; beating the Central League’s Wheeling Stogies 10 to 4.

The Colts won the next day in Washington D.C., defeating a team from the government departmental league 11 to 1.  Anson had two hits and stole a base.  The Washington Evening Star said:

“The grand old man of the game distinguished himself by playing and errorless game at first.”

The only other highlight of the game was the first appearance of the new electric scoreboard at American League Park.  The Evening Star said:

“It proved a great success and convinced those present that it will undoubtedly make a big hit with the local fans who will witness major league games this summer.”

Against professional competition the next day in Baltimore, the Eastern League Orioles with Rube Dessau on the mound, shutout the Colts 8 to 0; Anson was hitless and committed two errors.

coltsbalt.jpg

Ad for the Orioles game

After a 10 to 8 loss to the Reading club of the Atlantic League on April 7, the Colts traveled to Philadelphia for a game with the Athletics the following day.

The Philadelphia Inquirer said of the game:

“The Athletics held Pop Anson and his Colts all too cheaply yesterday and before they realized it the traveling Chicagoans had secured such a lead that they succeeded in beating the White Elephants at Broad and Huntington Streets by a score of 6 to 3.”

Anson had two hits, one of Biff Schlitzer and another off losing pitcher Jimmy Dygert, and accepted 21 error-free chances at first in a 10-inning victory.

Although only “a couple of hundred” fans turned out The Philadelphia Press said:

“Anson played first in a style that showed he has not forgotten any of his baseball cunning.”

Anson also promised reporters the Colts would win upcoming games with the Giants and Red Sox.

cap

Anson on tour

The Colts traveled to New Jersey to play the Trenton Tigers of the Tri-State League the following day. The Evening Times of that city said:

“Anson came over to Trenton hugging to his breast fond recollections of the victory over Connie Mack’s Athletics, won the previous day.  Trenton seemed only a small blot on the map compared to the Athletics and he counted on winning in a common canter.

“Alas how rudely were these delusions shattered by these smashing, dashing, crashing Trentons that manager (Percy) Stetler has corralled.”

The Colts lost 13-5, Anson was 1 for 4 and made an error.

On to Newark the following day to play the Eastern League Indians.  The Colts lost 7 to 0, but The Newark Evening News said:

“The way (Anson) cavorted around first base, picking low throws from the earth, and pulling down sizzling liners with either hand, made spectators gaze upon him in wonderment.”

The toll of travel and games nearly every day appeared to hit Anson on April 12, five days before his 57th birthday in Waterbury, Connecticut.  The Colts won 4 to 2, but The Chicago Inter Ocean said:

“Anson’s batting eye was weak…he fanned furiously in five futile trips to the plate.  He was the only one who didn’t get a hit.”

The following day, The New York Times said the “Colts played a light, fumbly, amateurish game though the boss himself had said before it started that they would take a scalp.”

The Giants won 7 to 1 and the game featured two other old-timers:

“(Wilbert) Robinson, ancient catcher of Baltimore, and Dan Brouthers, more ancient first baseman of the old Buffalo club, who came down from Wappinger’s Falls ‘to help out.’ Robinson caught the whole nine innings; Brouthers stood at first base after the fifth inning.”

Only “a few hundred people” came out on a cold, rainy day to see the three legends.  Anson was 1 for 4, Brouthers 0 for 1, and Robinson, who also managed the Giants in place of John McGraw, was 2 for 4.

Games scheduled for Worcester and Springfield, Massachusetts were cancelled due to poor weather and the team did not play again until April 16, In Hartford against the Connecticut State League’s Senators.

 

The Hartford Courant said Anson struggled at the plate, and when pitcher Chick Evans struck him out in the third inning:

“John W. Rogers, the vocal member of the local double umpire system, obliged with ‘It isn’t what you Used to be, but What you are Today.”

The Colts lost 8 to 2.

The team lost again the following day, on Anson’s birthday, 5 to 3 to the Providence Grays of the Eastern League. Anson was 1 for 4.

The Boston Globe said:

“Capt. Anson was warmly greeted every time he came to bat. He showed much of his old-time skill in fielding, covering first base in grand style.”

The paper—as did most during the tour–wrongly added a year to Anson’s age, saying he turned 58 that day.
The Colts were back in New York the following day but were the victims of a seldom enforced ban on Sunday baseball while playing a game against the semi-pro Carsey’s Manhattans ant Manhattan Field.

The Chicago Daily News said:

“The officers stopped the game after six innings of play. Throughout the Bronx the police were active in suppressing Sunday ballplaying, but this is said to be the first time that a game on Manhattan Field has thus been broken up.”

The score at the end of six innings was not reported.

The next day in Binghamton, New York, two innings of scoreless baseball between the Colts and the New York State League Bingoes, were bookended by rain and the field “looked like a lake” before the game was called, according to The Binghamton Press.

ansonbingos.jpg

Ad for the rained out Binghamton game

On to Pennsylvania, the Colts were scheduled to play Anson’s old White Stockings teammate Malachi Kittridge’s Wilkes-Barre Barons, but the that game was rained out as well.

The Tri-State League’s Johnstown Johnnies beat the Colts 11 to 2, no full box score appears to have survived.

On to Ohio and a 4 to 1 loss to the Dayton Veterans—Anson added two more hits and played error free.

On April 24, The Colts hit Indiana, and lost 8 to 3.

The Fort Wayne Sentinel noted that it was the first time since 1871 that Anson has played a game in their city—as a member of the Rockford Forest Cities.

Anson—who also gave his age as 58 rather than 57– told the paper:

“I’m just a kid at fifty-eight.”

Despite feeling like a hit, Anson did collect either of the Colts’ two hits in the loss.

The tour ended on April 25 in Terre Haute with a 13 to 1 shellacking at the hands of the Hottentots, the eventual basement dwellers of the Central League.

Anson capped the tour with one hit in four trips and an error.

The club returned to Chicago amid little fanfare and the tour likely lost money for Anson, who found himself “busted” several more times before his death in 1922.

The best anyone could say about the tour was a tiny item buried in the bottom of The Chicago Tribune’s sports page:

“Capt. Anson and his ball team returned yesterday from the first invasion of the East ever made by a local semi-pro team. While the team lost a majority of the games played, it paved the way for future visits and other local semi-pro teams are expected to follow the Captain’s example. The veteran was received warmly in all of the towns in which he played.”

The paper ignored the fact that Rube Foster and the Leland Giants—also members of the Chicago City League—had made two similar trips.

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things #31

25 Mar

The Best Off-Hand Cusser

Louis Santop was one of the favorite players of Rollo Wilson, the long-time baseball writer for The Pittsburgh Courier.

Wilson put many nicknames on the Texas-born Santop over the years, including “My boyfriend from Rio Pecos,” “the swaggering Longhorn,” “The big Bertha of the Bats” and the “Disappearing Gun.”  He also once described Santop—known for his colorful language–as “the best off-hand cusser who ever piloted a Missouri mule through a Texas mudhole.”

santop2

Santop

Wilson wrote Santop’s baseball eulogy after the catcher played his final game for Hilldale—or Clan Darbie as Wilson referred to the club which originated in Darby, Pennsylvania– in 1926:

“That countless army of athletes who have earned their final plaudits of the fickle fans has been augmented by the once incomparable catcher of Clan Darbie—Louis Napoleon Santop.  News of his unconditional release was sent out last week and this time methinks the firing will stick.  For years ‘Top’ was one of the most colorful players in the game and his deadly bat was known and feared far and wide.  As a drawing card with certain groups he ranked second to none.  It was the usual thing for neighborhood fans to cry, ‘Put Santop in,” whenever someone else donned the catcher’s regalia for Hilldale.  But that time has gone, and his day is done and now he lives in the world of ‘used to be.’  The Lone Star Ranger has ridden herd on his last ball game.  The clarion ring of that famous bat when the lusty swing and mighty pitch met fair and true is stilled forever. (Of course, he may fill in temporarily now and then, but regular ball diet is no longer the food on which the Caesar will feed.)

“When someone—for instance, Rube Foster—with an intimate knowledge of Negro baseball and its players writes a history of the game his All-Time team will have as its first-string catcher our boyfriend of the Rio Pecos, Santop.”

Shortly after Santop’s exit, Foster was committed to the asylum in Kankakee, Illinois and never had a chance to write “a history of the game.”

Hoblitzel’s ‘X-Ray eye’

Dick Hoblitzel told The Cincinnati Times-Star in the spring of 1911 he was “training his batting eye,” and:

hob

Hoblitzell

“(B)elieves he will soon be able to count the stitches on a ball before it leaves the pitcher’s hand.  ‘It’s the X-ray eye that does this,’ he avers, and he has made a bet of a suit of clothes that he will finish in the .275 class or better.”

Hoblitzel, perhaps as a result of his “X-ray eye,” improved his average 11 points to .289 in 1911.

Seventh Inning Stretch

In the July 1912 edition of “The American Magazine,” Hugh Fullerton set out to understand “the custom” of the seventh inning stretch.

“(It) has become almost universal and almost as much a part of the ceremony as is the tea interval at cricket. There are variations.  In some cities the fans stand and yawn widely, ‘stretching’ before resuming their seats.  In others everyone takes out a handkerchief and brushes hat and clothes until the flapping of handkerchiefs makes an astonishing amount of commotion. The custom is based on the superstition that seven is lucky.”

fullerton

Fullerton

Fullerton claimed:

“The fact is a larger percentage of baseball games are won and lost in the seventh than in any other inning.  I examined 860 scores last winter to study this phenomenon, and discovered that 184—over a fifth, were decided in the seventh inning; an abnormal number.  But a further study of the figures convinced me that the superstition is responsible for the ‘luck’ rather than the other way around.  For the home team won in 151 out of the 184 games, proving, to my satisfaction at least, that the rooting of the crowd does affect visiting players.  It is evident that the custom of rooting wildly for the break to come in the seventh inning has the effect of shaking the nerve and the confidence of the opposing teams and from a study of those 184 scores it looked as if the effect was principally upon the pitcher.”

“Did They Send him any Flowers?”

13 Dec

In 1927, W. Rollo Wilson of The Pittsburgh Courier called Chappie Johnson “one of four men who have been real managers in colored baseball.”  Johnson, he explained, did his own “booking, financing, and directing,” in addition to managing his clubs on the field.

chappie

Chappie Johnson

Johnson, who began playing his playing career with the Page Fence Giants in 1895, was also a former player who didn’t insist that the game must have been better in his youth because that’s how he chose to remember it.  He told Wilson:

“I am an old-timer myself, but the game today would be too fast for the men who started out with me and before me.  These men now are more highly trained and the game has a greater technique.  Things are done now, plays are pulled that would never have been thought of in the nineties.  These days there is smart pitching and scientific batting, and a few years back base-running reached its highest development.  Frank Grant is the only batter of those ancient times who could hold his own now, I’ll venture to say.  George Wilson of the Page Fence Giants was the only pitcher who would have a look-in.  Then they made no study of the game of the players.  Now the boys learn to play while in grade schools and baseball has become a profession.  There were no smart managers then which is evidenced by the fact that none of the old boys is in harness.”

Johnson acknowledged that he was the exception—a player from his era now managed–but said that was because:

“I am also owner of the club.”

Johnson gave much of the credit for the progress the game had made in the previous two decades to John W. Connors, the restaurant owner who formed the Brooklyn Royal Giants in 1904 and had died on July 9, 1926 at 51 after suffering a stroke:

connors.jpg

John W. Connors

“The Negro baseball player lost his best friend when John Connors died last summer.  He was really the father of modern Negro baseball and did more for players than anyone else ever did or ever will.”

Johnson, who played for Connors, chided players for not recognizing the debt they owed the former owner (the inability of the press to figure out the correct spelling of Connors’ name is evident in this article as his name is spelled alternately Connor and Connors within the same paragraph—it also often appeared as Conner), :

“He made it possible for them to get a living wage and forced the other owners to meet his prices or lose their stars.  Did they say anything when he passed on?  Did they send him any flowers?  Not yet! Everyone who knew him loved him—save the players, and they should have been willing to give their life’s blood to keep him living.”

Conner’s death had been covered in the black press, but Johnson felt he had not received the credit he deserved:

“He started the Brooklyn Royal Giants as a sandlot team and named them for the Royal Cafe in Brooklyn and then made them a salaried outfit.”

Johnson said when Nat Strong took over ownership of the club in 1913:

“(T)he Royals never knew the glory that was theirs when Connors had them.”

Johnson credited Connors for stating the first Negro League games in the Polo Grounds “and the old Highlanders’ park on Broadway,” as well as being the only owner to provide his players with three uniforms, “including coats and sweaters.”

He said:

“John Connors wanted everyone to look nice and have the best of things to work with.”

Johnson said Connors, who owned a stake in the Bacharach Giants from 1919-1921, had intended to return to Negro League baseball:

“(B)ut death ruled otherwise.  Do you know that in New York he left three sets of uniforms already made up for his new team?”

Then, as was The Courier’s routine when interviewing past players, Wilson asked Johnson to name his all-time team:

“I’ll pick you one and will challenge anyone to name a better outfit. On this team of my choosing there will be nothing but smart men…Here’s your team and note that old-timers are few and far between:

Pitchers: George Wilson, Nip Winters, Phil Cockrell, Rats Henderson, Rube Foster, Joe Williams, Bullet Rogan

Catchers:  Biz Mackey, Bruce Petway, George Dixon

1B:  Ray Wilson

2B: John Henry Lloyd

SS: Dick Lundy

3B: Oliver Marcelle

Utility: John Beckwith

OF: Pete Hill, Oscar Charleston, Jesse Barber, Cristobal Torriente

poplloyd

John Henry Lloyd

Of Lloyd’s inclusion at second base rather than shortstop, Johnson said:

“John Henry Lloyd stands out as the greatest second baseman of all time, and he is supreme player at that bag yet.  Of course, he made his greatest reputation as a shortstop, but I always thought second base was here he belonged.”

Johnson invited any of The Courier’s readers to reach him through the paper if they wanted to argue his choices:

“Why, I could clean up the National League, the American League , the Epworth League with that bunch of ball hounds.

“G’bye.  I’ll be seein’ yuh.”

“I’ve Selected them in the Order as Their Greatness Appeals to me”

31 Oct

Dizzy Dismukes probably wrote more about the players he saw during and after his career than any other Negro League player.  The Pittsburgh Courier regularly published his observations in 1930.  Like this one:

“Strolled into a barber shop (in St. Louis) a few days ago and arguments were rife as to the best pitcher of all times.”

diz

Dismukes

Dismukes said that each participant in the discussion “based his argument on one particular game” they had witnessed.  He told the group he would share his top nine “I had seen during my 21 years” in the pages of the paper:

“I’ve seen some might fine work done by some pitchers whose names won’t be included in the list because of the short duration of their performances.  For instance, there was  Bill Lindsay, who died early in his career (at age 23 in 1914), Pat Dougherty, who had as much zip on a fast ball as any pitcher who ever through a pellet, he imbibed too much of intoxicants, and numerous others.”

Dismukes said “consistency of performance for a reasonable number of seasons” was his criteria.  Unfortunately, Dismukes chose not to go into the detail he did when selecting outfielders, or The Courier did not give him the space, so the pitcher list lacks a lot of the insights of the previous one, but listed them in order:

“Here goes:

  1. Rube Foster

  2. Cyclone Joe Williams

  3. John Donaldson

  4. Steel Arm John Taylor

  5. Bullet Rogan

  6. Dick Redding

  7. Frank Wickware

  8. String Bean Williams

  9. Walter Bell”

RubeFoster

Rube Foster

Of the list, he said:

“I’ve selected them in the order as their greatness appeals to me.  There will be very little opposition to the placing of the first names two, although some may prefer juggling numbers 3, 4, 5, and 6.

“Some might argue as to the effect the lively ball would have had on their performances.   In the list above are two notable examples:  In the list above are two notable examples: ‘Cyclone’ Williams and Rogan.  How many times during a season were they shelled off the hill?”

Next, he rated catchers.  Josh Gibson, then 18, had not yet begun his first season with the Homestead Grays, and was not on Dismukes’ radar:

“The crop of young catchers breaking into the game in the past ten years have been so poor that I can only find three, namely: Frank Duncan, of the Kansas City Monarchs, Raleigh (Biz) Mackey of Hilldale, and Larry Brown of the Memphis Red Sox showing enough skill to qualify.”

His first choice:

“Topping the list is none other than Bruce Petway, whom I claim to be the greatest catcher I ever saw.  His best days were spent during the base-running craze.  There were not as many fast me afoot playing baseball then as now but there were more base runners.  One could possibly count all the thefts against Petway during a season on one hand and then have a few fingers left.”

 

petway

Dismukes said some people thought Petway was a poor catcher because he dropped a lot of balls, but he claimed:

“Petway would intentionally drop balls to encourage base runners to start, as very few had the nerve.”

Dismukes said Petway was a great base runner and “an uncanny judge” of foul pop ups.

Second was George “Chappie” Johnson:

“With Chappie behind the plat, a pitcher did not have to have much on the ball…(and he) was the greatest conversationalist in baseball…Chappie had the opposing batters dumbfounded with a never-ceasing flow of ‘lingo’ crossing the batter up by telling him exactly what the pitcher was about to deliver then standing far to one side of the plate telling the pitcher to ‘get this one over.’ The pitcher then shot one across the plate and he gracefully reached in with one hand to receive a strike.  He excelled in receiving with one hand.  Many young catchers have ruined a career trying to emulate Chappie.”

The third pick was Pearl “Specs” Webster:

“He could do everything expected of a great catcher.  In competition he proved the fastest runner in colored baseball and in bunting and getting to first base as well as circling the bases he was a wonder.  He truly was one of baseball’s greatest catchers.  Specs died overseas in the service of the USA.”

specks

Next was “a scrawny kid from Kansas City,” Frank Duncan:

“He gets the call for No. 4 position.  A great receiver, thrower, fast on bases, and a dangerous hitter.”

Dismukes’ next choices:

“Pete Booker, another of the old school, gets post No. 5, while Russell Powell, reporting to the Indianapolis ABC’s as an infielder and converted into a catcher, is choice No. 6.  He was one of the few catchers who seldom made false moves back of the plate.  When he threw at a base runner there was always a chance of getting him.  He excelled in trapping runners off third base with snap throws.”

His seventh choice:

“Wm. McMurray, who could look at batter’s feet and come near telling what batter could or could not hit, gets the lucky No. 7 position…whenever you put Mac in a game you always had a well-caught game.”

His final two choices were Biz Mackey and Larry Brown:

“(Mackey) a super hitter, and one who comes near as any recent catcher in having a throwing arm resembling that owned by the one and only Petway, in No. 8 in line, while ninth, last but not least is Larry Brown, who shows unusual skill in handling of pitchers.  (Dolf) Luque, formerly of the Cincinnati Reds and now with Brooklyn of the National League, praises Brown as being the best receiver he ever pitched to.”

Lost Pictures: “They All Look Alike to the Leland Giants”

4 Jul

  

Rube Foster and the Leland Giants were nearly unbeatable, it seemed, in 1907 as depicted in a cartoon from The Chicago Defender. 

Foster, along with outfielders Pete Hill and Harry Moore, catcher Pete Booker, and shortstop Nate Harris left Sol White‘s Philadelphia Giants to Koin the Leland’s that season.

With the infusion of new talent the club was nearly unbeatable, posting a 110-10 record, including 48 straight wins.