The Negro Leagues gave black athletes banned from playing in Major League Baseball a chance to play the game. Although the Negro Leagues only officially ran from about 1920 to 1947, they featured some of the best players of the early 20th century.
Which are your favorite Negro Leagues players?
Here are six to choose from. Keep in mind that these players were selected from the Negro Leagues only, not the many amateur and professional players that came before the leagues were formed.
It seems impossible to consider favorite Negro Leagues players without listing Robinson. Best known for being the first black player in the majors, he first played for the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues. He had a .414 batting average with the team before moving onto international ball. While his greatest success came in the majors, he was a product of the Negro Leagues.
Page played in the Negro Leagues from 1927 until 1947. He also played in the majors afterward. The lanky, six-foot-three Paige was both a great pitcher and self-promoter, so sometimes it’s hard to separate fact from fiction. What is known is that Paige dominated as a pitcher, with a great fastball and excellent command. Proof of how good he was in the Negro Leagues are his statistics in the majors. At the age of 42, he began a two-season stint with the Cleveland Indians in which he was fourth in the league in ERA and sixth in strikeouts. At 42!
Charleston has been compared to Babe Ruth in terms of power, Tris Speaker in how he ran everything down playing centerfield and Willie Mays for his five-tool prowess (high batting average, hitting for power, running bases well, throwing well and fielding well).He played from 1920 to 1941 with a variety of teams, including Harrisburg Giants and the Pittsburgh Crawfords.
The catcher played from 1930 to 1946 with many teams, including the Pittsburgh Crawfords and the Homestead Grays. Many who saw him say he was the greatest hitter they had ever seen. He also was an exceptional catcher, working with Paige as his battery mate when both were in Pittsburgh. He died young, of a brain hemorrhage, in 1948.
Leonard didn’t join the Negro Leagues until he was 27 years year, having worked for years as a shoeshine boy, mill hand and on the railroad in North Carolina. Once he started playing, though, he made an impression. A left-handed power hitter, Leonard became a legendary hitter during his time playing for the Homestead Grays (1934-1950). He was the second player inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, along with Gibson (Paige was first).
Suttles played from 1923 to 1944 in the Negro Leagues, starring for many different teams. His longest stints were with the Birmingham Black Barons and the Newark Eagles. As with all Negro Leagues players, there are not complete statistics, but it is known he hit .374 in exhibition games against white major league players.
So, which of these six ranks as your favorite Negro League player of all time? Let us know by voting for your favorite below & check out more history of of the Negro Leagues!