The Negro League Players
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It is important to consider, when attempting to project how long-past and more recent major league players would fare against each other, that the major leaguers prior to 1947 faced watered-down competition, as black players were barred from the major leagues by the ungentlemanly “gentleman’s agreement” dating back to the 19th century. The 2005 ESPN Baseball Encyclopedia, edited by Pete Palmer and Gary Gillette, estimates that had the black leagues and the white leagues been merged into a 30-team major league during the first half of the 20th century, an average black team during this period would have had 14 major league caliber players on its roster, 7 of whom could have been major league regulars and 3 of whom could have been stars. What the level of play would have been, had blacks been able to compete on (more or less) even terms for spots in the 16-team major leagues during this period, one can only surmise.
Major league baseball, more than any other sport, has an historic record, and the skills of its players are amenable to measurement on the basis of statistics derived from that record. Moreover, that statistical record is growing in depth and sophistication daily through reexamination and analysis. By contrast, the statistical record for the Negro Leagues isn’t nearly as complete, nor as stable, because the leagues themselves weren’t as stable as the major leagues. Players moved more freely from team to team. Negro League schedules were much shorter, with teams deriving a much more substantial proportion of their income from non-league exhibitions against all levels of competition from barnstorming collections of major league players to local semi-pro outfits. Much of the historical record, in the form of score sheets and box scores, has been lost, and that which remains lacks much of the detail of major league records.
When it was first proposed that the superstars of Negro League baseball be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the original plan was that there would be a separate wing for these players. The outcry against this plan – that it would enshrine the injustice perpetuated against these players – resulted in its abandonment. Recently, the results of a ballot to consider the admission of 30 more Negro League and 9 pre-Negro League players, managers and executives were announced, with 12 more players and 5 executives (including the first woman to be admitted to the Hall, team owner Effa Manley) joining the 18 already enshrined.
We believe that the Diamond Mind Online® career-based player pool would be incomplete if it omitted Negro League players who were unjustly excluded from playing in the major leagues. The problem was to determine how these players would have performed relative to white major leaguers. The approach that we took was to ascertain the type of player each one was, in terms of ability, style, and physical attributes.
Four elements were combined to develop a composite picture of each player:
- Descriptions of the player from available sources.
- Major League players with whom the player was compared.
- Other Negro League players with whom the player was compared.
- The statistical record, sketchy as it is.
There often are discrepancies between sources about such fundamental details as the proper spelling of a player’s name, the player’s height and weight, and even their handedness. The details below resolve any such discrepancies on the basis of a comparison of the information provided in the various sources examined.
Baseball underwent a period of transition from 1947, as Negro League players shifted to the white leagues, with some reaching the majors relatively early in their careers (for example, Larry Doby at 23 and Roy Campanella at 26), some well into their prime years (such as Monte Irvin at 31, Sam Jethroe at 32 and Luke Easter at 34) and others past their primes (like Satchel Paige, 41). In our view, players in the second category should not necessarily be measured solely on their major league statistics, and players in the third category not at all.
The initial group of Negro Leaguers included in our player pool omitted many outstanding players, some of whom, like William Bell, Andy Cooper (who was elected for admission) and Roy Parnell, even appeared on the Hall of Fame special ballot. These three players have now been added, and we anticipate adding more Negro League players to the player pool in the future.
The following is a list of the Negro League players currently included in the Diamond Mind Online® player pool and a description of each.
Player – Primary Position(s) (Secondary Positions) B/T Height Weight (Career Yrs Negro Leagues)
^ = Player admitted to National Baseball Hall of Fame; * = Player on Hall of Fame special ballot.
Newt Allen* – 2B (SS, OF) R/R 5’ 8” 160 (1922-44)
Generally described as top fielding 2B of his era, extremely quick with a shortstop’s arm. Line-drive hitter, good bunter, aggressive baserunner. Good bat control, an ideal #2 hitter. Compared by Bill James to Tony Taylor, Manny Trillo, Julian Javier, Cookie Rojas and Frank White. Some sources have Allen as a switch-hitter, but Riley says best evidence is that he abandoned switch-hitting early in his career.
Sam Bankhead – SS (OF, 2B, 3B) R/R 5’ 8” 175 (1930-50)
Strong-armed SS who also played 2B and OF. Good speed, proficient base-stealer, moderate power, but best known for his cannon arm. Described as “steady” at bat and in the field. Appeared in Negro League All-Star games at five different positions (best position besides SS reputedly RF).
John Beckwith* – 3B/SS (C, 1B, OF) R/R 6’ 3” 220 (1916-38)
A right-handed power hitter built like Bobby Bonilla, who pulled the ball so consistently that teams played a shift against him. Prodigious power. First player to hit a ball completely out of Redland Field. No true position.
Cool Papa Bell^ – CF S/L 5’ 11” 150 (1922-46)
Legendary speed and base-stealing ability. Negro Leagues historian James Riley says he was the fastest man ever to play baseball. Reputedly timed circling the bases in just 12 seconds. Began as pitcher, shifted to outfield after arm injury. Never had strong throwing arm as a result. Described by Bill James as a Lou Brock-type player, but better, and a certain 3,000 career hit man had he played in the majors. Brock would have had more power than Bell, but Bell’s incredible speed produced a lot of extra-base hits and no doubt some inside-the-park HRs. Reputedly had outstanding range in CF.
William Bell* – P R/R 5’ 11” 160 (1923-37, 1948)
Consistent workhorse with excellent control. Decent hitter, adequate fielder, slow baserunner.
Gene Benson – CF L/L 5’ 8” 180 (1933-49)
Described by Bill James as a Tony Gwynn type: short, squat, line-drive hitter (though probably not in Gwynn’s class). Bad ball slap-type LH hitter who reputedly hit lefties better than righties. Most sources identify him as a CF who may have passed on the basket catch to Willie Mays, though James calls him a good LF who played some CF.
Chet Brewer* – P S/R 6’ 4” 185 (1925-48)
Finesse pitcher with good control, retentive memory and assortment of pitches: running fastball, sweeping curve, overhand drop, sinker, screwball, emery ball. Contemporary of Paige good enough to draw “as good as” comparisons, though he was probably not quite in Satchel’s league.
Dave Brown – P L/L 5’ 10” 170 (1918-25)
Power pitcher with good curve and control whose relatively short “official” career began when Rube Foster paid $20,000 to get him paroled from a robbery conviction and ended when he dropped out of sight after allegedly killing someone. If John Donaldson was the top lefty pitcher of the Negro Leagues in the 1920s, Brown may have been next on the list.
Larry Brown – C S/R 5’ 7” 170 (1919-49)
Rifle-armed iron man defensive catcher compared by Bill James to Benito Santiago, Tony Pena and Jim Sundberg, but probably not as good a hitter as they were. According to Kyle McNary he “could hardly hit a lick.”
Ray Brown^* – P (OF) S/R 6’ 1” 195 (1930-48)
Outstanding pitch was curve. Added knuckler later in career. Compared by McNary to Bert Blyleven, though among his contemporaries Ted Lyons might be comparable as well. Good hitter who often pinch-hit and filled in as OF.
Willard Brown^* – CF/RF R/R 6’ 0” 195 (1935-50)
A five-tool player with a reputation of not hustling at times, who had a brief shot with the Browns in 1947 at age 36. Free-swinging, notorious bad-ball hitter. Compared by James to Jose Canseco, Juan Gonzalez, Andre Dawson or Frank Robinson.
Pee Wee Butts – SS R/R 5’ 7” 145 (1938-50)
Formed top DP combo of his era with Junior Gilliam. Spray hitter with modest power for size, good bunter and hit-and-run man. Based on James Riley’s description, his Baseball Library bio probably overstates his hitting ability.
Bill Byrd* – P S/R 6’ 1” 210 (1932-50)
Not an overpowering pitcher, he was the type of pitcher who put the ball in play, with variety of pitches including spitter and knuckler. Often used as PH and fill-in OF/1B; decent power but very slow baserunner.
Tank Carr – 1B (3B/OF) S/R 6’ 2” 230 (1917-34)
Stockily built middle-of-the-order hitter with power and triples speed, good base-stealer. Career purportedly cut short by drinking problem.
Pelayo Chacon – SS R/R 5’ 8” 140 (1909-31)
Speedy slap-hitting defensive whiz. Outstanding arm, good base-stealer, smart baserunner, little power but used speed to stretch hits into doubles, good bat control and hit-and-run man.
http://www.baseball-reference.com/bullpen/Pelayo_Chacón Oscar Charleston^ – CF L/L 6’ 0” 190 (1915-41)
Bill James ranks Charleston the fourth best player all time after Ruth, Wagner and Mays. Very fast, aggressive baserunner, excellent drag bunter, compared to Speaker in his ability to play a shallow CF and still get back on balls hit deep. Hit with power to all fields, though perhaps less a pure HR threat than Mays.
Andy Cooper^* – P R/L 6’ 2” 220 (1920-41)
Finesse pitcher who had excellent control of an assortment of breaking pitches. Noted for superb move to first.
Jimmie Crutchfield – CF/RF L/R 5’ 7” 150 (1930-45)
Speedy contact hitter, good bunter and hit-and-run man and good outfielder; compared contemporaneously to Lloyd Waner, though probably not quite the hitter Waner was. Some sources mistakenly say he was a right-handed hitter.
Ray Dandridge^ – 3B (SS) R/R 5’ 7” 175 (1933-49)
Super defensive 3B who could have played SS if not on the same team with Willie Wells. Fast, terrific spray hitter to all fields, seldom struck out, great at hit-and-run, not a power hitter but regularly led league in hits, runs and total bases.
Cherokee Davis – RF R/R 6’ 3” 215 (1941-50)
Big, good-natured pull hitter who had trouble hitting the curve and was a slow baserunner but a decent glove man. Had some success as a part-time pitcher in winter ball but was basically an OF in Negro Leagues. At 33 was targeted by White Sox but broken ankle cost him the opportunity.
Leon Day^ – P (OF/2B) R/R 5’ 9” 170 (1934-50)
Hard-throwing no wind-up pitcher with variety of pitches. Compared by Monte Irvin to Bob Gibson, though that may have been a bit of an overstatement. Hall of Famer who reputedly won 75% of his games and averaged over a strikeout per inning during his Negro League prime. Excellent hitter with power, very fast (Irvin claimed Day was faster than he was) and a good defensive OF and 2B as well.
Bingo DeMoss – 2B (SS) R/R 6’ 2” 180 (1910-30)
Moved from SS after arm injury early in his career. Stellar defensively, fast, excellent bunter and hit-and-run man who was difficult to strike out, productive line drive hitter. Riley considered him the top black second baseman of the first quarter of the 20th century.
Martin Dihigo^ – P/RF/2B/3B/CF/1B 6’ 4” 195 (1923-45)
Probably the greatest “all-round” player ever. An excellent defensive player at virtually any position (though the positions for which he has received particular recognition are 2B, 3B and RF), outstanding pitcher, terrific hitter for average and power, and fast runner. He actually pitched relatively little until around age 30, well into his career. Thereafter he continued to play in the field, though his focus turned increasingly to pitching as his hitting started to fall off, a likely result of the difficulty of alternating regularly between the starting rotation and the starting lineup.
Dizzy Dismukes – P R/R 5’ 10” 160 (Estimate) (1910-30)
A submariner who reputedly coached Carl Mays, though probably closer to Elden Auker than Mays in ability.
Rap Dixon* – RF R/R 6’ 2” 185 (1922-37)
Power-hitting RF with good speed and a strong arm. A “five-tool” type, decent range in field, good curveball and two-strike hitter who did not walk a lot. Hit 3 HR in first Negro League game played in Yankee Stadium.
John Donaldson* – P (OF) L/L 6’ 0” 185 (1913-34)
Strikeout pitcher with sharp-breaking curve and good control. Pop Lloyd said Donaldson was the toughest pitcher he ever faced, and John McGraw said he would have paid $50,000 for Donaldson (a huge figure at the time). Good hitter who also played some OF, good bunter, speedy baserunner.
Bill Drake – P R/R 6’ 0” 205 (1915-30)
Trick-pitch artist known as Big Bill or “Plunk” (for his practice of keeping hitters loose at the plate). He developed an assortment of pitches to compensate for a sore arm that took his fastball.
Frank Duncan – C (OF) R/R 6’ 0” 175 (1909-28)
Compared to Larry Brown by Kyle McNary; defense so good that teams overlooked weak hitting. Rifle arm, moderate power, low BA, aggressive but slow baserunner, good bunter.
Eddie Dwight – CF, LF R/R 5’ 8” 165 (1925-37)
Contact hitter without power, good bunter, speed and base stealing ability compared to Cool Papa Bell. Reputedly a spectacular outfielder, but with an ordinary arm. His son was first black selected by NASA for astronaut training and later gained prominence as a sculptor.
Rube Foster^ – P R/R 6’ 2” 200 (1902-26)
In his transition from star pitcher to founder of the Negro National League, Foster could be dubbed the Black Spalding. A very intelligent pitcher. Mistakenly credited with teaching Mathewson his famous “fade-away”.
Willie Foster^ – P S/L 6’ 1” 195 (1923-38)
Half-brother of Rube Foster. Seen by some as greatest Negro Leagues lefthander, compared by Kyle McNary to Warren Spahn. Fastball, “12-6” curve, deceptive change, good control.
Jonas Gaines – P R/L 5’ 9” 158 (1937-50)
Diminutive control-type lefty. Fair hitter and base runner. Long regarded as a major league prospect, he lost three seasons to military service during WWII and was 33 by the time integration began in 1947. In 1953 he was one of the first Americans to play in Japan.
Silvio Garcia – SS (3B/P) R/R 5’ 11” 190 (1940-47)
Tommy Lasorda described Garcia as one of the toughest hitters he ever pitched against; Leo Durocher said he was better defensively than Marty Marion. Complete player with a little power.
Jelly Gardner – RF/CF L/R 5’ 7” 160 (1919-33)
Very fast line-drive-hitting leadoff man, punch hitter, good drag bunter, could work a walk, lots of “leg hits”, very fast baserunner adept at taking extra bases on bunts and hit-and-run plays. Some difficulty with lefty pitching. Rangy outfielder with powerful throwing arm.
Josh Gibson^ – C R/R 6’ 1” 210 (1929-46)
Bill James says there is little doubt he was the greatest catcher in the history of baseball. Compares him as a hitter to Jimmie Foxx. Good but not great defensive catcher. Fast for a big man until knee problems took their toll.
George Giles – 1B L/L 6’ 1” 180 (1927-39)
Sometimes called the “Black Bill Terry,” described by James as a left-handed Buck O’Neil (who he in turn describes as a right-handed Mark Grace/Mickey Vernon-type player). Fast baserunner, good bunter and hit-and-run man, open-stance slasher to all fields. Top-notch defensive 1B whose speed allowed him to play very deep and extend his range into short RF.
Frank Grant^* – 2B R/R 5’ 7” 155 (1886-1905)
Known as the “Black Dunlap” for his fielding prowess. Played for Buffalo in the International League until the color line was firmly established. One-fourth of his IL hits were for extra bases.
Joe Greene – C R/R 6’ 1” 200 (1932-48)
Strikeout-prone power-hitting catcher with strong arm, solid but unspectacular defensive skills and no speed.
Vic Harris – LF L/R 5’ 10” 170 (1923-50)
Leadoff man with little power, aggressive baserunner, short stroke made him good hit-and-run man, reputed weakness for high fastballs. A hustling type and a good outfielder.
Rats Henderson – P R/R 5’ 7” 180 (1923-31)
Stocky sidearm power pitcher with fastball and 12-6 curve. Career cut short by bad arm.
Pete Hill^* – LF L/R 6’ 1” 220 (1899-1926)
Consistent line-drive hitter often compared to Cobb, though Bill James says probably more comparable in style, if not quality, to Crawford. He was a speedy, disruptive base-stealer and very rangy outfielder with strong arm.
Bill Holland – P S/R 5’ 9” 180 (1920-41)
Mainstay of NY Black Yankees in ‘30s. First black pitcher to pitch in Yankee Stadium. Array of pitches including emery ball. Apart from his pitching Riley says he was at best mediocre in other aspects of his game: an average fielder and a below-average hitter and baserunner.
Dave Hoskins – P (OF) L/R 6’ 1” 180 (1942-47, 1949)
Part of the Homestead Grays' "murderers' row" of the mid-1940's. Began with Grays as pitcher but moved to OF for his bat. Signed by the Indians, the organization initially was uncertain whether to utilize him as an outfielder or pitcher. He ultimately reached the the majors as a pitcher in 1952-53.
Highpockets Hudspeth – 1B L/L 6’ 6” 235 (1920-33)
Power hitter, didn’t run well, good fielder though had some trouble with low throws. After a few very good seasons his hitting dropped off.
Sammy T. Hughes* – 2B R/R 6” 3” 190 (1931-46)
Bill James describes him as a Ryne Sandberg type at 2B, though physically more comparable to Barry Larkin. According to Riley, he had doubles power but not a consistent HR threat. Perfect no. 2 hitter, excellent baserunner, very good fielder.
Fats Jenkins* – CF L/L 5’ 7” 180 (1920-40)
Speedy contact hitter, good base-stealer, star point guard in off-season. Rangy fielder but ordinary arm.
Home Run Johnson* – SS (2B) R/R 5’ 10” 170 (1895-1916)
Deadball era power-hitting shortstop who played professionally until age 58. Reputedly out-hit Cobb and Crawford in a 12-game series in Cuba in 1910 when he was playing for the Havana Reds. Could hit for average and some power; a selective hitter who studied pitchers and used extremely heavy bat.
Judy Johnson^ – 3B R/R 5’ 11” 150 (1918-37)
Intelligent player, high-average hitter, top-notch fielder. Bill James compares him to Ray Dandridge only not as fast.
Slim Jones – P L/L 6’ 6” 185 (1932-38)
Reputedly faster than Lefty Grove, Jones was a dominant strikeout pitcher until arm trouble ended his career after just a few seasons. Gave up Josh Gibson’s legendary HR hit out of Yankee Stadium. Defeated Dizzy Dean and the ‘34 Cards in a post-season exhibition.
Newt Joseph – 3B R/R 5’ 6” 185 (1922-39)
Stocky build, faster and with more power than Judy Johnson but not the batting average or glove. Lower-order batsman. James Riley says he had a good arm but not good hands, had trouble with sharply-hit balls but good on toppers and bunts.
Jumbo Kimbro – CF L/R 5’ 8” 175 (1937-50)
Leadoff hitter, combined speed and power, good glove. Compared to Marquis Grissom.
Buck Leonard^ – 1B L/L 5’ 10” 185 (1933-50)
Hit for average and power, though more line-drive than tape-measure power. Very hard to strike out, with a short stroke Bill James compares to Henry Aaron. Reputation as a clutch performer. Slick fielder, good speed, references to him as the “Black Lou Gehrig” probably are indicative more of the fact that they were the standout players at the same position than that they had similar skills. Ranked by Bill James as the 65th best player all-time.
Pop Lloyd^ – SS L/R 5’ 11” 180 (1902-32)
The “Black Wagner”, reputedly admired by Wagner himself. Hit .500 in exhibition series in Cuba against the Detroit Tigers. Some unfairly accuse James Riley of lauding every Negro Leagues player as a superstar, which he doesn’t. However, about Lloyd he states unequivocally that he was the greatest shortstop of his era and that no major leaguer, bar Wagner in his prime, could compare with him. Bill James ranks Lloyd the 27th greatest player of all time.
Dick Lundy* – SS S/R 5’ 11” 180 (1916-39)
Rangy SS who James says was probably superior to Pop Lloyd defensively. Very strong arm allowed him to play deep SS. Steady hitter with some power, base-stealing threat. Compared by Satchel Paige to Lou Boudreau.
Jimmie Lyons – LF/CF L/R 5’ 8” 175 (1910-25)
Slap-hitting drag-bunting lead-off man, reputedly one of the fastest players of his era, top-notch fielder and base-stealer.
Biz Mackey^* – C S/R 6’ 0” 200 (1920-47)
Dangerous switch-hitter and premier Negro Leagues defensive catcher. Rifle arm, fired snap throws from squat position.
Dave Malarcher – 3B (2B/OF) S/R 5’ 7” 145 (1916-34)
Decent hitter, could bunt, hit-and-run, work a walk, but most of his value was in his head, legs and glove.
Max Manning – P L/R 6’ 4” 180 (1938-49)
Imposing strikeout pitcher with “coke bottle” glasses and enough wildness to keep batters loose. Sidearmer, reputedly had more trouble with punch hitters than sluggers. Never the same after arm injury.
Oliver Marcelle* – 3B R/R 5’ 9” 160 (1918-34)
Fiery defensive whiz. Not as good a hitter as Ray Dandridge or Judy Johnson, but the latter rated Marcelle better than he was defensively. Picked ahead of both on 1952 Pittsburgh Courier all-time Negro Leagues team, as well as by Pop Lloyd. Slash hitter, speedy, aggressive.
Verdell Mathis – P (RF, LF, 1B) L/L 5’ 11’ 150 (1940-50)
Slender curveballer was tough competitor considered the best lefty in the Negro American League in the early 40’s. Top pickoff move copied from Luis Tiant, Sr. Good hitter who began his career as an outfielder and often played OF or 1B when not pitching. Career cut short by elbow injury.
Leroy Matlock – P L/L 5’ 9” 175 (1929-42)
Reputedly went 17-0 in 1935, in all winning 26 straight from 1934-36 and leading the league in ERA in ‘35 and ‘36. Variety of breaking pitches, fastball and change, good control. The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers describes him as “famously tough” on LH hitters. Good-hitting pitcher, average power and speed on bases, good fielder.
Webster McDonald – P L/R 6’ 0” 190 (1920-40)
Dizzy Dismukes taught him submarine delivery. Was dubbed “56 Varieties” for his style of mixing his pitches. Spent several prime seasons of his career pitching for a white semipro team in Minnesota. Compiled 14-4 record in exhibitions against major leaguers, including four wins over Dizzy Dean in 1934-35. Difficulty fielding bunts.
Terris McDuffie – P (OF) R/R 6’ 1” 200 (1930-45)
Flashy and confident, went by “Speed” (though not a power pitcher) and “Terris the Great”. Could be a bit wild. Began career as fast base-stealing outfielder, but didn’t hit enough and shifted to pitching.
Hurley McNair – LF S/R 5’ 6” 150 (1911-37)
Speedy outfielder reputedly the best two-strike hitter in the Negro Leagues. Despite size led Monarchs in HRs one season.
Jose Mendez^* – P (SS) R/R 5’ 8” 160 (1908-26)
Dominant power pitcher from the deadball era whom McGraw said was surpassed only by Mathewson and Three-Finger Brown. Later in his career he was full-time shortstop player-manager and occasional pitcher.
Bill Monroe – 2B (3B/SS) R/R [unknown] (1896-1914)
Outstanding black 2B of deadball era. Called by Rube Foster greatest player ever. Acknowledged by McGraw as top player. Fast, flashy fielder, middle-of-the-order batsman. Reputedly better than Jimmy Collins when playing 3B.
Dobie Moore* – SS R/R 5’ 11” 230 (Estimate) (1920-26)
Strong-armed high-average hitter who Bill James says was “probably the best 230-pound shortstop in baseball history” (and who is listed at 230 by Riley, although photo evidence suggests that, while he was of stocky build, he was nowhere near that heavy). Career cut short when his leg was shattered in a shooting incident.
Porter Moss – P R/R 5’ 11” 185 (1938-44)
Submarine style pitcher known as “Ankleball” for ability to keep pitches low. While still in his prime for Memphis Red Sox, was accidentally shot while team was traveling by train through Tennessee. After being denied treatment at several stops because he was black, was finally taken to hospital and operated on 12 hours after being shot, but died several hours later.
Alejandro Oms* – CF/RF L/L 5’ 9” 190 (1917-35)
Colorful player known for behind-the-back catches and similar crowd-pleasing stunts. Consistent high-average hitter with power compared by Bill James to Paul Waner, though was bigger, probably hit for a bit less average but with more HR power, and probably walked less than Waner. Good range but not a strong arm.
Buck O’Neil* – 1B R/R 6’ 2” 190 (1937-55)
Graceful line-drive hitter for decent average. Intelligent baserunner but only average speed. Top-notch glove but only average arm. Not to be confused with Buck Leonard.
Satchel Paige^ – P R/R 6’ 4” 180 (1926-50)
Legendary Hall-of-Famer rated by Bill James the 17th best player all time (and the second-highest ranking pitcher after Walter Johnson at #8 and ahead of Lefty Grove at #19, Pete Alexander at #20, and Cy Young at #23).
Roy Parnell* – LF, RF R/R 5’ 10” 180 (1926-43)
All-rounder hit for average with moderate power, good eye, good bunter. Ordinary speed but good baserunner. Dependable fielder, good range but average arm. Reputed drinking problem.
Bill Perkins – C (LF) R/R 5’ 11” 195 (1928-48)
Satchel Paige’s favorite catcher. Decent hitter with power, slow runner. Backup to Josh Gibson and part-time LF for several seasons with powerful Homestead Grays.
Bruce Petway – C S/R 5’ 11” 170 (1906-25)
Predecessor to Mackey as premier rifle-armed black defensive catcher. Similar hitter for average, though without power, and a base-stealing threat.
Spotswood Poles* – CF S/R 5’ 7” 165 (1909-23)
The so-called “Black Cobb”, presumably because they shared a position and Poles, like Cobb, was a daring baserunner and prolific base-stealer. High-average, singles-hitting leadoff man (which distinguishes him from Cobb, who had more power). Speed compared to Cool Papa Bell, reputedly once timed in less than 10 seconds in 100-yard dash. Good bunter, only moderate power. Riley says he had excellent range, good hands, accurate arm in field.
Alec Radcliffe – 3B R/R 6’ 0” 205 (1932-46)
Brother of Double Duty, adequate fielder with strong arm, average speed, good hitter for average with some power. According to Riley not known for his hustle. Played in more East-West All-Star games than any player other than Buck Leonard.
Double Duty Radcliffe – C/P R/R 5’ 10” 190 (1928-50)
Still pitching and catching into his 50’s, hit for a solid average with some power, 6 All-Star appearances, 3 each as a catcher and pitcher. Key pitch was emery ball. Didn’t run well. Well-liked and popular, he died in 2005 at age 103.
Dick Redding* – P R/R 6’ 4” 210 (1911-38)
Burly fastball pitcher, as nickname “Cannonball” suggests. Noted for exceptional stamina, almost always pitching a complete game and sometimes back-to-back doubleheaders.
Frog Redus – LF R/R 5’ 7” 160 (1924-40)
Speedy LF hit for average and surprising power for size. Good contact hitter, could bunt and hit-and-run. Riley says lacked good speed and was only average defensively, but was a successful base-stealer. Possibly comparable to Gee Walker, although Redus was a hustling-type player while Walker was a bit of a flake and inattentive on the base paths. Redus also probably stole a bit less often and walked a bit more often than Walker.
Bobbie Robinson – 3B (SS) R/R 6’ 0” 170 (1925-42)
Noted mainly for his glove. Described by Riley as a mediocre hitter with only fair power, average base runner and not a base stealer. Claimed Donie Bush “told me more than once that if I was a white boy I would have been his third baseman.”
Bullet Joe Rogan^ – P (OF) R/R 5’ 7” 180 (1917-38)
No-windup pitcher who added forkball, palm ball and spitter to good fastball and sharp curve. Described by Riley as a durable workhorse who was rarely relieved. Reputedly the best-fielding pitcher in Negro League history. An excellent hitter who often batted cleanup for the powerhouse KC Monarchs, three times leading the team in HR and SB. Second only to Dihigo in versatility according to Robert Peterson (Only the Ball Was White), played virtually every position at one time or another and played them well, though not as much as Dihigo.
Louis Santop^* – C L/R 6’ 4” 240 (1909-26)
Huge power-hitting superstar famed for hitting tape-measure shots in dead ball era. Solid but unspectacular defensively with limited mobility and strong arm.
George Scales* – 2B (3B/OF/SS/1B) R/R 5’ 11” 195 (1921-48)
RH hitter with power called the best 2B he’d ever seen by Quincy Trouppe and best at hitting a curve by Buck Leonard. Strong arm, fast for a big man, compensated for limited range with positioning. Called “Tubby” for tendency to put on weight. Bill James compares him to Bill Madlock as a hitter, though might have hit for more power and less average.
Pat Scantlebury – P L/L 6’ 1” 180 (1944-50)
Lefthander with deceptive delivery and variety of pitches, including a spitball. Often used as pinch hitter in minor leagues. Appeared briefly with Reds in 1956 at age 38 (having shaved 8 years off his actual age), rooming with Frank Robinson. http://www.baseball-reference.com/bullpen/Pat_Scantlebury
Dick Seay – 2B/SS R/R 5’ 8” 150 (1925-47)
Light-hitting defensive specialist described by James as “tiny jitterbug-type player.” Riley says he was considered the best defensive 2B in black baseball during the ‘30s. Not great speed. Interspersed a few decent seasons with the bat with some real stinkers. Excellent bunter.
Bonnie Serrell – 2B (3B) L/R 5’ 11” 160 (1942-50)
Slim, speedy LH hitter with some power, called “the vacuum cleaner”. Good bunter, contact hitter, hit-and-run man. Settled in Mexico in 1945 and was replaced by Jackie Robinson, who was three years older and at the time not considered as good a player.
Chino Smith – RF L/L 5’ 6” 170 (1925-31)
Second only to Josh Gibson as a hitter according to Satchel Paige. Good defensive outfielder and baserunner. Line drive power to all fields. Good eye and rarely struck out. Career cut short when he died of yellow fever aged 29.
Hilton Smith^ – P (1B/OF) R/R 6” 2” 180 (1932-48)
With Satchel Paige, black baseball’s biggest drawing card and so called upon to pitch virtually every day. Smith became best known as Paige’s relief pitcher during their years as teammates. Reputed to have the best curve in black baseball. A good hitter, he played 1B and OF when not pitching. Riley says he was no more than adequate as an everyday player, with his arm and hustle helping to compensate for a lack of speed and other defensive deficiencies.
Turkey Stearnes^ – CF/LF L/L 6’ 0” 175 (1923-42)
High-average leadoff man with very unorthodox batting stance who could also hit with power. Rangy outfielder, good base-stealer.
Paul Stephens – SS (2B) R/R 5’ 7” 150 (1921-37)
A.k.a. “Country Jake.” Tiny energetic player, acrobatic fielder, but a weak hitter.
Ed Stone – RF, LF, CF L/R 6’ 0” 195 (1931-50)
Hit between Devil Wells and Mule Suttles in Newark Eagles middle order. Line drive type power with plate patience. Good speed but not a base stealer. Competent fielder best known for powerful throw.
Ted Strong – RF (1B, SS) S/R 6’ 6” 210 (1937-48)
Hard-hitting outfielder, strong-armed and versatile in the field, described by Bill James as a kind of switch-hitting Dave Winfield. Played basketball as well for Globetrotters. Average speed but good base-stealer. Free swinger, poor bunter.
Mule Suttles^* – 1B/LF R/R 6’ 3” 215 (1918-44)
Defensively challenged slugging star of black baseball. According to James, “Swung at everything and struck out a lot, but hit prodigious home runs.”
Ben Taylor^* – 1B (P) L/L 6’ 1” 190 (1910-40)
Top black 1B before arrival of Buck Leonard. High-average line-drive hitter, top-notch fielder. Was a solid pitcher early in his career, but not really a two-way player as he made transition to full-time 1B.
Clint Thomas – CF/LF/RF R/R 5’ 8” 180 (1920-38)
Five-tool-type player of the 1920s and ‘30s. Good baserunner, outstanding range and arm, sharp eye at plate.
Showboat Thomas – 1B L/L 6’ 0” 180 (1928-46)
Razzle-dazzle fielder, inconsistent hitter without much power. Despite great glove did not have good arm or speed.
Luis Tiant Sr – P R/L 6’ 0” 160 (1930-47)
Sometimes called the “Cuban Carl Hubbell” because of his screwball. A left-handed version of his son, he threw a variety of pitches from different arm angles with a herky-jerky motion. A mean streak and would throw at batters who dug in at the plate. Deceptive pickoff move.
Cristobel Torriente^* – CF L/L 5’ 9” 190 (1913-28)
Hit vicious line drives, power to all fields, fast. Notorious bad-ball hitter, good base-stealer. So good in CF that Charleston played LF when they were teammates. Chosen ahead of Hall of Famers Cool Papa Bell and Turkey Stearnes on 1952 Pittsburgh Courier Negro Leagues all-time team. Similar perhaps to a L hitting Kirby Puckett with more range in CF.
Ted Trent – P R/R 6’ 3” 185 (1927-39)
Mainstay during late ‘20s and ‘30s said to have struck out Bill Terry four times in an exhibition game. Outstanding overhand curve. Needed extra rest between starts; was the St. Louis Stars’ “Sunday pitcher”.
Quincy Trouppe – C S/R 6’ 3” 210 (1930-49)
Solid defensive catcher with some power from both sides of the plate, good curveball hitter, not much speed. Got brief shot with Cleveland in 1952 at age 40.
Fleet Walker – C R/R 6' 0" 159 (Estimate) (Not Applicable)
Moses Fleetwood ("Fleet") Walker was the first black player to play in the major leagues, with Toledo of the American Association in 1884, before the color line had been firmly and irrevocably established. He continued to play with various minor league teams until his career ended in 1889.
Frank Warfield – 2B (SS/3B) R/R 5’ 7” 160 (1915-32)
Combative defensive wizard, great range, very fast slap hitter. Outstanding bunter, good hit-and-run man, could work a walk, steal a base.
Willie Wells^ – SS R/R 5’ 8” 160 (1924-49)
Outstanding hitter with power, sure-handed but weak-armed SS. Also a top base-stealer. Perhaps a cross between Robin Yount and Barry Larkin. (On his list of 100 greatest players all-time, Bill James ranks Yount #55, Wells #86 and Larkin #93.)
Chaney White – LF/CF/RF R/L 5’ 10” 195 (1919-36)
Bill James calls him the Don Baylor of the Negro Leagues, though that might be a stretch. According to Larry Brown, White was “built like King Kong, but ran like Jesse Owens.” Good outfielder but weak arm. Aggressive hitter, baserunner, fielder.
Frank Wickware – P R/R 6’ 1” 210 (Estimate) (1910-25)
Hard-throwing deadball era star who won two out of three exhibitions against Walter Johnson in 1913/14. Both were from Coffeeville, Kansas. Given those facts, not surprisingly he was sometimes called “the black Walter Johnson”. However, abuse of alcohol adversely affected his career, preventing him from fulfilling that potential.
Smokey Joe Williams^ – P R/R 6’ 4” 190 (1905-32)
Fast strikeout ace voted best Negro League pitcher of all time in Pittsburgh Courier poll. Ty Cobb said would have been a 30-game winner in major leagues. Went 20-7 in exhibitions against major league teams. On his list of 100 greatest players all-time, Bill James ranks Williams #52.
Jud Wilson^* – 3B (1B/2B) L/R 5’ 8” 185 (1922-45)
Powerful hitter, said by Satchel Paige along with Chino Smith to be the toughest he’d faced. Weak defensively. Riley calls him a “savage, pure hitter” who would have been an ideal DH.
Nip Winters – P L/L 6’ 5” 225 (1920-33)
Eastern League star during the 20’s with good speed and great curve, somewhat wild especially early in career. Occasionally pinch-hit and played some 1B when not pitching. Skills eroded midway through his career, perhaps due to alcohol.
Wild Bill Wright – RF/CF/LF S/R 6’ 4” 220 (1932-45)
Clean-up hitter for high average and power with great speed as well. Compact swing, good contact hitter. Adept at bunting for hits. Had seasons leading the league in BA, HR and SB with one triple crown season. Rangy OF with strong but sometimes inaccurate arm. Compared by Monte Irvin to Dave Parker.