SABR

Many old Negro League stars still around

By John M. Coates II

This article was published in the 1972 Baseball Research Journal.

The recent election of Satchel Paige to the Hall of Fame brings back memories of the old Negro leagues and the men who starred in them. Paige, now 65 and a Kansas City resident, is by far the best known of these old stars. What about the other great players? Of course, Josh Gibson and some of the other big names have passed on, but a lot of the legendary stars are still alive and well and living in -- well, why don't we call the roll of some of the more familiar names, men like . . .

Nat Rogers... .Now 78 years old and a waiter at Memphis' Peabody Hotel, Nat writes that he played for 45 consecutive seasons in organized baseball, compiling a batting average of over .340. Rogers was one of the few players, black or white, who hit Satchel Paige consistently well. Nat remembers a 31-game hitting streak as his best moment in baseball.

Ray Dandridge. . . .Fifty-eight year old Ray Dandridge lives in Newark, N.J., and is a scout for the San Francisco Giants. A lifetime .312 hitter, Ray remembers 1950 as a banner year when he was selected as MVP in the Triple-A American Association, while playing with the Minneapolis Millers. A great 3rd baseman, Dandridge compiled a .455 batting average in 3 Negro All-Star games.

Willie Foster. .. . Called by many the greatest left-handed pitcher in the black leagues, Willie won 4 World Series games in his long career, and may be the only pitcher, black or white, to have pitched a complete 9-inning All-Star game. Foster still retains a strong interest in baseball. He is Dean of Men at Alcorn College in Lorman, Mississippi, and also serves as baseball coach.

James Bell. . . . Cool Papa Bell was probably the fastest ball player ever to don spikes. Bell, who regularly went from 1st base to 3rd on sacrifice bunts, enjoyed his peak years with the St. Louis Stars and Pittsburgh Crawfords in the early 1930's. Now 66, Bell lives in St. Louis where he is a guard at City Hall.

Ted Page. . . . Ted starred with the great Josh Gibson on the Pittsburgh Crawfords and Homestead Grays in the 1930's. An outfielder and a solid hitter, Page resides in Pittsburgh, where he operates a bowling alley. Ted says shortstop John Henry Lloyd was the greatest ballplayer he ever saw.

Holsey Lee.. .A great pitcher for over 20 years, Scrip Lee spent most of his long career in the Eastern Colored League. Remembered as one of the few hurlers Josh Gibson had trouble hitting against, Lee writes that Martin Dihigo was the greatest player he ever saw. His biggest thrill came in the 1924 Negro World Series when he shut out the Kansas City Monarchs for 7 innings in relief. Lee lives in Washington, D.C.

George Scales. . . .One of the strongest-hitting 2nd basemen of his time and a .311 lifetime hitter, George played in the big-time for nearly 25 years with 6 different clubs. He cites being selected to manage the East All-Star team in 1939 as his biggest moment. A native of Talladega, Alabama, Scales now lives in New York City.

Willie Wells... .A .338 lifetime hitter, Willie Wells is often called the best shortstop to play in the black leagues. The 5'7" Texas native was certainly one of the smartest players of his day. A member of 8 All-Star squads, Willie remembers a home run he hit in 1931 to win the pennant for St. Louis as his greatest baseball thrill. Wells, 66, is a New York City resident.

Jack Marshall. . . .A star 2nd baseman for most of the top Chicago ballclubs, Jack still lives in the Windy City. He now operates a sporting goods store on the South Side. Marshall remembers occasionally playing 4 games a day when he was with the Philadelphia Stars and he says Satchel Paige was the fastest pitcher he ever saw.

Frank Duncan... .A Kansas City native, Frank, 69, now operates a tavern in his home town. A good right-handed hitter, Duncan is always mentioned as one of black baseball's best catchers. During his long career, Frank played on 7 pennant-winners with the Kansas City Monarchs.

Bill Evans. . . . Bill (Happy) Evans enjoyed a brief career with the Homestead Grays in the early 1930's. Born average. Now a Los Angeles resident, Evans remembers playing against almost every great ballplayer, black and white, during the late 1920's and early 1930's.

Newt Allen... .For 20 years, Newt starred as the Kansas City Monarchs slick-fielding 2nd baseman. A speedy switch-hitter, Newt writes that Martin Dihigo and Dave Brown were the two greatest pitchers he ever faced. Allen's best baseball memory is an unassisted triple play he made in the early l930's. Newt still makes Kansas City his home.

Sam Streeter.. . .The star pitcher for the Pittsburgh Crawfords in the 1930's, Sam pitched for the West in the inaugural Negro leagues All-Star game in 1933. Now 71, and a Pittsburgh resident, Sam says that Smokey Joe Williams was the greatest pitcher he ever saw while slugger Mule Suttles gave him the most trouble at the plate. Streeter's biggest thrill in baseball was to hit a home run.

Jimmie Crutchfield. . . .A slender outfielder, Jimmie signed with the great Pittsburgh Crawfords when he was only 19 years old. An excellent all-round ballplayer and a teammate of such greats as Josh Gibson and Oscar Charleston, Jimmie is a Chicago resident where he is employed at the post office.

Buck Leonard... .Walter (Buck) Leonard combined with Josh Gibson for Negro baseball's best 1-2 home-run punch. A high average hitter and an excellent first baseman, Buck played in 12 All-Star games. He says his greatest thrill was a home-run he hit in the 1940 classic in Chicago. Buck lives in Rocky Mount, N.C., where he owns a realty agency.

WANTED: INFORMATION ON DAVE BROWN. The star pitcher for the Chicago American Giants of the Negro National League in the early 1920's was a young left-hander named Dave Brown. A native of Texas, Brown is reported to have pitched as early as 1917 with the Dallas Black Giants. He jumped to the Lincoln Giants of the Eastern Colored League in 1923 and pitched with them for 2 years. Following the 1924 season, he disappeared after a homicide in New York. Although Brown was never formally charged, there was not much question that the police suspected him. It has been 47 years since anyone last saw this man. To this day, no one apparently has any idea of his whereabouts or even whether he is still living.

 

This article originally appeared in the 1972 "Baseball Research Journal."

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