East meets West in Negro all-star game
This article was published in the 1972 Baseball Research Journal.
Considerable effort has been expended in the last few years on researching Negro League records and history. This effort has been highlighted by Robert Peterson's fine work "Only the Ball was White", but there also are a number of others doing serious studies. John Holway has written detailed articles based on taped interviews with former stars. Ocania Chalk is doing a book on the history of Negroes in professional sports (including baseball). Ray Nemec is compiling a complete record of all Blacks in O.B. prior to 1900. John Coates has a survey piece on living stars in this publication. There are others working in this fertile and frustrating field of baseball research.
I say "frustrating" because records are incomplete and it is difficult to compile a year-by-year record of one so well known as Josh Gibson. It is almost impossible to keep track of the official league games and the exhibitions and the jumping of star players from one club to another. Even compiling summary totals of the annual all-star games makes necessary the use of the asterisk. Here is a brief summary of the history of that game.
The Negro East-West All-Star Game was first played in 1933. Thereafter it was held on an annual basis into the 1950's. The one exception to this schedule was in 1946 when two games were played. Prom 1933 thru 1936 the players came from the teams of the Negro National League (the only major Black circuit at that time), and other leading Negro teams.
In 1937 the Negro American League was formed, and from that year thru 1948 the Negro AL represented the West and the Negro NL the East. In 1948 the Negro NL folded and four of their teams joined the Negro AL which was then split into Eastern and Western Divisions. These divisions supplied the players for the 1949 and 1950 games. This summary does not deal with any of the games after 1950 because most of the outstanding Black players were playing in O.B. by then and the importance of the all-star game was diluted. In this 18-year period, the teams were evenly balanced, the West winning 11 of the 19 tilts played.
The team that had the most players performing in these games was the Chicago American Giants with 33 all-stars. The Kansas City Monarchs were next with 29, followed by the Philadelphia Stars 25, Memphis Red Sox 22, New York Cubans 22, Baltimore Elite Giants 20, Pittsburgh Crawfords 19, Newark Eagles 18, Homestead Grays 17, and the Birmingham Black Barons 16. To the casual fan there are a few familiar names that attract attention, such as Campanella, Gilliam, Irvin, Minoso and others of more recent major league fame. But essentially all the names would be familiar to fans of the old Negro Leagues.
Surprisingly, these games were not dominated by such known stars as Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson, although both performed well. Paige pitched in five games, winning two and losing one. He had 13 strikeouts, the most based on available figures (the 1937 game gave no strikeout totals). Gibson played in 11 games, batting an even .500. He led in hits with 16, two of which were homers. Teammate Buck Leonard led in homers with 3, runs 8, total bases 24, and tied Alex Radcliffe in games played with 12. The league leading batter, based on at least 10 at bat; was Horacio Martinez with .545, and the leading slugger was Mule Suttles with .882. Nine players tied with 2 stolen bases, including Cool Papa Bell, one of the all-time fastest. RBI figures are not available for four of the games and that's what I mean about incomplete records. Still, it's an interesting area of research.
Did you think Rip Sewell originated the "blooper" pitch? Bill Loughman calla attention to this quote from the New York Mercury of January 27, 1877: "John C. Chapman, now Manager of Louisville, was one of the beat general players in the profession some ten years ago. He once won a game for the Atlantics by his peculiar pitching. The ball was delivered very slowly and in order to make it go over the plate, it was tossed high into the air and descended over the plate at the spot which the striker designated as the place where he wanted the ball."
And where have we heard this one before? The New York Mercury stated on December 6, 1879: Our "National Game" is gradually petering out and but few will regret it since it has degenerated into a fourth rate entertainment whose object is not so much sport as gate money.
This article originally appeared in the 1972 "Baseball Research Journal."