Discover Greatness: Part 4

1932-1946: Heyday

1932 — East-West League organized; folds mid-season.

1933 — First East-West All-Star Classic held in Comiskey Park, Chicago.

1937 — Negro American League of the West and Negro National League of the East are created.

1944 — Terris McDuffie of Newark Eagles and Dave “Showboat” Thomas of New York Cubans try out for Brooklyn Dodgers owner Branch Rickey — the first time since 1901 that a Black player has tried out for a Major League team. Sam Jethroe of Cleveland Buckeyes and Marvin Williams of Philadelphia Stars try out for Boston Red Sox. None of the players are signed.

1944 — Commissioner Judge Landis dies. A.B. “Happy” Chandler named new commissioner, and says he will not oppose introduction of Black players into the Majors.

1946 — On April 18, Jackie Robinson bats for Dodgers Montreal franchise, the first time in 57 years that a Black athlete has played in the International League.

1946 — White pitcher Eddie Klepp joins Cleveland Buckeyes, integrating Negro Leagues.

Josh Gibson

Gibson was perhaps the greatest home-run hitter in the Negro Leagues. His legendary power is often compared to Babe Ruth’s. Famed for his tape-measured blasts, Gibson is reportedly to be the only man ever to hit a home run out of Yankee Stadium. Historians say he once hit 84 home runs in one season.

Dr. Lawrence Hogan, Emeritus Professor of History at Union County College, on Josh Gibson

Satchel Paige

A slender, talkative traveler named Satchel Paige was the premier gate attraction for many teams. With a legendary gift for gab and fastballs called “long tom,” “bee ball” and “bat dodger,” he was arguably baseball’s greatest showman. “Satch” had impeccable control and a hiccup windup that some folks called “The Hesitation.”

New York Black Yankees, 1932

The Black Yankees were members of the short-lived East-West League, a post-Depression league that failed to survive a full season. The Black Yankees (later owned by famed toe tapper Bill “Bojangles” Robinson) featured a tough righty and lefty combination in Jesse Hubbard (BR,1L) and Ted “Highpockets” Trent (BR,2L).

Oscar Charleston Tutors His Power Hitters

1932 Pittsburgh Crawfords’ manager Oscar Charleston tutors his power hitters before a game. The fearsome foursome are (left to right) Herbert “Rap” Dixon, Josh Gibson, Julius “Judy” Johnson and Jud “Boojum” Wilson.

Bob Kendrick, President of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, on Oscar Charleston

Kansas City Monarchs, 1935

In 1935 the Monarchs were not in a league. Instead, this barnstorming club decided to capitalize on their popularity and play the small town market for financial gain. Top players shown here are Chet Brewer (1L), Andy “Lefty” Cooper (6L), Willard “Home Run” Brown (7L), Bullet Rogan (6R), Newt Allen (5R) and Newt Joseph (2R).

Pittsburgh Crawfords, 1935

This Crawfords team was hand-picked by Gus Greenlee to assemble one of America’s most talented teams. It included a record five future Hall of Famers: Oscar Charleston (1L), Judy Johnson (7R), Cool Papa Bell (6R), Josh Gibson (4R) and Satchel Paige (2R). This picture was taken in front of Greenlee Field.

Harold Reynolds, former Major League Baseball player and television analyst, on the talent of the Negro Leagues

Hilton Smith

Lowkey legend Hilton Smith often pitched in shadows. Smith was noted for his roundhouse curve and pin-point fastball. He appeared in six East-West All-Star games and played on six K.C. Monarch championship teams. In 1938, he pitched a no-hitter against the Chicago American Giants.

Stuart “Slim” Jones

Jones was a hard-throwing lefty for the Philadelphia Stars. In 1934, he dueled Satchel Paige of the Pittsburgh Crawfords to an 11-inninglawrne tie in Yankee Stadium, in what was called by many former players “the greatest game ever played.” Jones struck out nine, including Cool Papa Bell and Josh Gibson twice, while allowing only three hits.

Trujillo’s All-Stars, 1937

The Ciudad Trujillo All-Stars of Santo Domingo were the creation of Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo. In order to gather public support for an upcoming election, he assembled this superstar team. The champions featuring Josh Gibson (TR,1L), Perucho Cepeda (TR,2R), Satchel Paige (MR,1R), Leroy Matlock (BR,2L), Cool Papa Bell (BR,4L) and Silvio Garcia (BR,2R) guaranteed Trujillo a political victory. (Cepeda was father of later Major Leaguer Orlando Cepeda.)

Homestead Grays Sluggers, 1944

The 1944 Homestead Grays became Negro League World Series champions after beating the Birmingham Black Barons, four games to one. It was their fifth straight World Series appearance. Shown here are “sluggers” Sam Bankhead (4L), Josh Gibson (5L), Buck Leonard (6L), Jerry Benjamin (2R) and Cool Papa Bell (1R).

Lawrence Hogan on the Homestead Grays

John “Buck” O’Neil

O’Neil is the last great coach and manager from the Negro Leagues. He is credited with sending over 40 Negro Leaguers into Major and Minor League organizations. O’Neil was also an outstanding first sacker for the Kansas City Monarchs and won the Negro American League batting title in 1946.

Lawrence Hogan on “Buck” O’Neil

Willard Brown and Ted Strong

The dynamic duo of Willard “Home Run” Brown and Ted Strong were the beef of the Kansas City Monarch line-up. Brown later played for the St. Louis Browns in the American League, while Strong spent his winters from 1940 to 1947 playing guard for the Harlem Globetrotters.

Sam Bankhead

An outstanding middle fielder for the Homestead Grays, Bankhead was the oldest of five brothers in the Negro Leagues. A constant companion of Josh Gibson, he became the first African American to manage in the Minor Leagues. In 1951, with Josh, Jr. under his wing, he piloted the Farmham club of the provincial Canadian League.

Roy Partlow

Roy Partlow of San Juan was a hard-throwing lefty with superb control. He won two games for the Homestead Grays in each of the 1942 and 1943 Negro World Series and also hurled a no-hitter against the Chicago American Giants in 1942. After the color barrier was smashed, Partlow teamed briefly with Jackie Robinson on the 1946 Minor League Montreal Royals.

Quincy Trouppe and Sam “Jet” Jethroe, 1946

Trouppe and Jethroe were the anchors of the 1945 World Champion Cleveland Buckeyes. Trouppe, a former catcher and formerly a St. Louis Golden Gloves heavyweight champion, was manager. Jethroe, a Negro League batting champion, later become the Rookie of the Year in 1950 with the Boston Braves of the National League.

Abe and Effa Manley

Owners of the Newark Eagles, Abe was a big-time numbers racketeer while Effa knew how to promote the game. The couple showcased some of Black baseball’s finest players — Monte Irvin, Larry Doby, Biz Mackey, Lennie Pearson, Don Newcombe, Willie Wells and Leon Day. In 1946, Newark won the Negro World Series.

Bob Feller and Satchel Paige

In 1946, two of baseball’s fastest pitchers, Satchel Paige (left) and Robert Feller (right), each formed a coalition of All-Star players. Barnstorming the nation, they played postseason exhibition games in Cleveland, Chicago, Cincinnati, New York, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Dayton, Wichita, St. Louis, Kansas City and seven other cities before record crowds. Also shown is Pete Gray, the one-armed outfielder, next to Feller.

Lawrence Hogan on barnstorming

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