Ameal Brooks (Courtesy of Gary Ashwill)

Ameal Brooks

This article was written by Margaret M. Gripshover

Ameal Brooks (Courtesy of Gary Ashwill)Ameal Brooks played for semipro and Negro League teams from the late 1920s to 1950. He was known primarily for his work as a versatile catcher and outfielder, his clouting abilities at the plate, and an affinity for alcohol, which may explain his habit of jumping from team to team, sometimes in midseason. For more than 20 years, he was known by many names, suited up for numerous teams, and was adept at multiple defensive positions. His life on and off the field is often difficult to document in part because of the many spelling variations for his given name, “Ameal.” In some cases, Brooks was mistakenly identified as one of three different persons. “Ameal Brooks,” “Alex Brooks,” and “Alvin Brooks” were once thought to be three separate individuals, when in truth, they were all the same person – Ameal Brooks.1 Brooks’s given name took many other forms including Arnold, Eamel, Emil, Emanuel, and Emmanuel.2 On more than one occasion, his name appeared in print in a form that bore no relation at all to “Ameal,” such as Clarence, Frank, John, Joseph, Manny, and Ralph.3 In addition to his shapeshifting first name, he was also bestowed with various nicknames including Ardi-Milla (or Ardmilla), Macon, and Bucket Brooks.4 With more than a dozen variations of his given name, and the relative common occurrence of his surname, it is not surprising that researchers and record-keepers have frequently confused Brooks with other players or believed that Alex and Ameal Brooks were two different persons. They were not. They were one-and-the-same.

Over the course of his long career, Brooks wore the uniforms of at least 19 semipro and/or Negro League nines including the Chicago Union Giants, Chicago Royal Giants, Chicago American Giants, Texas Colored Giants, Chicago Colored Athletics, Foster’s Cleveland Cubs, Columbus Blue Birds, Homestead Grays, Philadelphia Stars, Cleveland Red Sox, Brooklyn Royal Giants, New York Black Yankees, Cincinnati Ethiopian Clowns, New York Cubans, North All Stars, Jacksonville Eagles, Newark Eagles, Milwaukee Tigers, and the Harlem Globetrotters baseball team. He also played winter league ball in Venezuela and Puerto Rico.5 Of the many teams on his résumé, he was most frequently in the lineups for the New York Black Yankees, Brooklyn Royal Giants, and the New York Cubans. Of these three, he stepped up to the plate most often for the New York Cubans.

Brooks batted left-handed and threw right.  He had early success as a catcher but was just as adept at patrolling the outfield or defending the infield, most frequently at third base. On a few rare occasions, at the beginning and end of his career, he could even be pressed into service on the pitcher’s mound.6 Brooks was known for being fleet of foot as an outfielder and on the basepaths, and for his power at the plate. During his time in the Negro Leagues, Brooks accrued a respectable .259 career batting average and banged out 54 extra-base hits, 14 of which were home runs. And he likely clouted even more extra-base hits in nonleague games.

Ameal Brooks was born on June 3, 1907, in New Orleans.7 His father, Joseph Horace “Joe” Brooks, was born in Mississippi in 1884, and his mother, Sarah Williams Brooks, was from Louisiana. Brooks had six siblings, only two of whom lived to adulthood. Three of his siblings were born in Louisiana. His eldest sibling, John Westley Brooks, was born in 1905 in Wilson, Louisiana. Two other brothers were born in Shreveport, Louisiana; both died in infancy. By 1918, the Brooks family had left Shreveport for Chicago, joining the “Great Migration” of African Americans who moved from the South to Northern cities in the early twentieth century.8 Brooks’s three youngest siblings were born in Chicago, including his only sister, Gladys Irene Brooks, who was born in 1918. In 1923 tragedy struck twice in the Brooks household. Ameal Brooks’s mother, Sarah, gave birth to a stillborn son, and within five months his mother was also dead.

Little is known about the circumstances of Brooks’s childhood, but the available evidence suggests that it was a difficult one. The Brooks family lived in the South Side of Chicago, where his father worked as a hostler at the nearby New York Central Railroad yards. By 1920, Brooks’s parents took two foster children into the family’s home. During that same time, Ameal Brooks was living at the Chicago Parental School, a residential facility for “troubled” and truant children.9 By mid-1923, his father, Joseph, had buried three children and his wife. In 1933 Joseph married Eva Tracy Russell, with whom he had one son, Brooks’s half-brother, Richard Brooks, who was born in Chicago in 1934. Although some genealogical sources and researchers claim that John Christopher Beckwith was Ameal Brooks’s half-brother, no verifiable evidence of such a familial relationship exists.10 When Beckwith was born, in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1900, the Brooks family was living in Louisiana. But by the time his father remarried, Ameal Brooks was long gone from the family household and had embarked on what would become a nearly 25-year-long career in baseball.

Brooks likely began his baseball career in the late 1920s with various iterations of the Chicago Royal Giants, Union Giants, and Chicago American Giants. As early as 1926, a pitcher named Brooks was a member of the barnstorming Chicago Royal Giants.11 Given that he lived in Chicago and played for the Royal Giants in subsequent years, it is reasonable to assume the pitcher was Ameal Brooks. He did not appear in any game reports for the Chicago Royal Giants in 1927, but he resurfaced in the summer of 1928 as a catcher described as a former member of the Chicago Union Giants.12 In the spring of 1929, Brooks made his Negro League debut as a backstop for the Chicago American Giants. Early in the season, he had the distinction of claiming the second-highest batting average in the Negro National League (NNL), a sizzling .667.13 As impressive as that may sound, consider that in 1929, Brooks had just three plate appearances in two games with the Chicago American Giants.

Brooks’s brief tenure with the American Giants ended in early June. Within a few weeks, he was signed as a catcher for the Texas Colored Giants, a barnstorming team composed mainly of players from Chicago and owned by a Canadian promoter, Rod Whitman of Lafleche, Saskatchewan, who lived nowhere near Texas.14 The team was billed as “real ball players” and “natural comedians” who were “recruited from the pick of players in the Chicago colored league.”15 They also made the far-fetched claim that they were the “1928 champions of the Southern States,” but it made for good promotional copy.16 Brooks spent most of the summer of 1929 traveling with the Texas Colored Giants to Canadian cities including Edmonton, Regina, Moose Jaw, and Saskatoon, and gaining valuable experience along the way.17 Brooks, described as the team’s “peppy center fielder and catcher,” was one of the stars of the show and lit up scoreboards by stealing bases and clouting extra-base hits, including some thunderous home runs.18 In a sense, the summer of 1929 was Brooks’s apprenticeship, and it prepared him for what was to become his peripatetic life as a Negro League ballplayer.

The Texas Colored Giants took the road again in 1930 but without Brooks on their roster. Although Brooks and the Texas Colored Giants crossed paths during their travels, during the summer of 1930, he wore the uniform of the Chicago Colored Athletics. The Athletics’ booking agent was Abe Saperstein, who promised potential opponents that “these dusky boys, with their comical ways natural to their race, will provide you with an excellent game of entertainment for your fans.”19 The Athletics toured the Midwest before heading for Canada, following a path blazed for them by the Texas Colored Giants, and staged contests with local nines in Regina, Edmonton, and Calgary, and, on occasion, with the Texas Colored Giants themselves.20 Brooks had a terrific summer with the Athletics – behind and at the plate. In early June, he went on a home-run tear, knocking the horsehide out of the park on a regular basis. On June 9, the Athletics “lost the valuable services of Brooks, their catcher, in the seventh when he caught his foot on the bag at second and sprained his ankle.”21 He was out of the lineup for more than three weeks, but upon his return, Brooks picked up where he left off and hit two home runs in a losing effort against the Texas Colored Giants in Edmonton.22 But Brooks, “who was nursing an injured leg,” was eventually replaced behind the plate by the end of July.23 In late August, after 120 games in less than three months, the Texas Colored Giants headed back to the Midwest for their final games of the season, without Brooks in the lineup.24 He did not appear in another semipro or Negro League game until 1932.

After a year off from baseball, Brooks regained his form. He started the 1932 season with the short-lived barnstorming Rube Foster’s Chicago Memorial Giants, a team that was reconstituted as Foster’s Cleveland Cubs.25 During their tour of the South in the spring of 1932, Brooks was noted as one of Cleveland’s top performers and home-run hitters.26 By early June, he was signed by the Chicago American Giants (also known as “Cole’s American Giants”) as the backup for starting catcher John Hines. Brooks was one of six catchers used by Chicago that year.27 Despite their inability to decide on a starting backstop, the American Giants were the Southern Negro League champions in 1932. Brooks played in at least 11 games for Chicago and batted .281. William “Dizzy” Dismukes, in the Pittsburgh Courier, named Brooks and his Chicago teammate Kermit Dial as hot prospects for 1933, having “flashed signs of becoming stars” during the 1932 season.28 Dismukes’ prediction held somewhat true for Brooks, but not for Dial, who played only two more seasons for Negro League teams. Perhaps Dismukes’ focus on Brooks and Dial in his newspaper column had more to do with self-promotion than for his enthusiasm for specific players. In the spring of 1933, Dismukes became the manager of the Columbus Blue Birds, that featured many former Chicago players, including Brooks and Dial.

Brooks began the 1933 season with the Columbus Blue Birds but finished it with a different team, the Homestead Grays. When he was with the Blue Birds, Brooks was the starting catcher and an occasional outfielder. He was having a good year before Columbus collapsed in late July and was repackaged as the Cleveland Giants and Akron Grays, two independent traveling squads that were thought to be a more lucrative alternative for the teams’ owners.29 In his final game with the Blue Birds, on July 23, 1933, Brooks capped off his tenure with Columbus with a triple and homer in a doubleheader defeat of the Detroit Stars.30 Although the Blue Birds dispersed their flock and flew the Negro National League coop in the summer of 1933, Brooks made the most of his scrambled season in the form of long friendship with teammate Leroy Morney. After the Columbus team folded, Brooks and Morney migrated to the Homestead Grays to finish out the 1933 season, playing three and eight games respectively for the Grays. They later reunited as members of the 1938 New York Black Yankees, and in the summer of 1938 Morney served as one of the witnesses for Brooks’s marriage to Mary Myers.

In the minds of the Homestead Grays’ management, Brooks and Morney were set to return to the club in the spring of 1934. Much to Cum Posey’s consternation, however, the two men, along with the Grays’ outstanding left fielder, Vic Harris, jumped to other teams.31 Brooks signed with the Cleveland Red Sox while Morney and Harris joined up with the Grays’ crosstown rivals, the Pittsburgh Crawfords. It was an interesting season for Brooks. He started the year with a team that finished in last place in the NNL2 and ended it with the Philadelphia Stars, the 1934 Negro League champions. Brooks was Cleveland’s backup catcher to starter Dennis Gilchrist, who played with Brooks on the 1933 Columbus Blue Birds. But the Red Sox, like the Blue Birds, did not last a full season in the NNL2.32 Cleveland’s record of 3-22 in league play placed them deep in the cellar. Brooks had more RBIs (5) than the team had total wins (4) in 1934. And Brooks had an equally abysmal record in Cleveland with a paltry .189 batting average, although three of his seven hits in 12 games he played for Cleveland were for extra bases.

When the Cleveland Red Sox disbanded in July, Brooks was quickly picked up by the league-leading Philadelphia Stars. Brooks was added to catchers on the Stars’ roster who included starter William “Mickey” Casey and future Hall of Famer Biz Mackey. Although Brooks appeared in only 14 games for the Stars and batted .263, six of his 10 hits were for extra bases, including two home runs. Certainly, the highlight of his year and career to date was his appearances in the 1934 NNL2 championship series between the Philadelphia Stars and the Chicago American Giants, albeit with one exception. The Negro League championship was not played in consecutive games and was interrupted by the Stars’ and Giants’ participation in two lucrative four-team exhibitions at Yankee Stadium in September that also involved the Pittsburgh Crawfords and the New York Black Yankees.33 Brooks participated in the first of the exhibitions as a pinch-hitter for Dick Seay and had the ignoble distinction of being dramatically fanned for the last out in the ninth inning by Satchel Paige, an event that was floridly described by New York Age sportswriter Jocko Maxwell and included in his “Sports Biggest Thrill in 1934.”34 Maxwell recounted the event vividly:

“… Brooks batting for the weak hitting Seay. Paige winds up, strike one – called no siree. Brooks swung and how, but he hit that ozone out of the park. Again that dark-skinned sinewy arm takes that cranklike [sic] windup, here she comes, it’s in there! Umpire Forbes hawkes [sic] out strike two and Brooks unwinds himself, he’s swung again, and gotten humiliation as his reward! Boy, oh boy, what is this, can Paige do it again, can he? Brooks calls time out, he talks to himself, no one ever will know the exact words that’s not important. He tightens his belt, he’s ready and so is Satchell [sic] Paige. The wind up, slow, now fast, 30,000 eyes on one man in the dark shadows of Yankee Stadium, that man is Paige! That ball has left his hand, it’s speeding through the ozone. Silence! All eyes are on Brooks’s [sic], there is the swing. HE MISSED IT. Umpire Forbes turns his back – thousands of baseball fans jam the playing field. There is the crowd literally ripping the uniform of Satchell [sic] Paige from his back.”35

No doubt this same moment was not a thrill for Brooks. If he was hoping for redemption in the championship series games, his wish was only partially granted. Brooks had had three hits in nine at-bats for the series and scored at least one run.36 However, the only newspaper column-inches he garnered for his efforts were for an incident during Game Six in which he shoved umpire Johnnie Craig not long after umpire Bert Gholston was on the receiving end of a punch thrown by Brooks’s teammate, future Hall of Famer Jud Wilson.37 Chicago manager Dave Malarcher vehemently protested the game but to no avail.38 Brooks did not appear in the final and deciding Game Eight, in which the Stars defeated the Giants, 2-0, and were crowned the 1934 National Negro League II champions.39 Wilson, who generated so much controversy for his violent outburst in Game Six, was named the series’ Most Valuable Player.40 Wilson returned to the Stars lineup in the spring of 1935. Brooks never wore a Philadelphia Stars uniform again.

As in previous years, Brooks began the 1935 season with one team but finished on the roster of another. In the spring he was with the Brooklyn Royal Giants. He made a few appearances with the New York Black Yankees before hopping aboard the Pennsylvania Red Caps of New York as his last stop for the 1935 season. Brooks, with his defensive versatility and offensive firepower, proved to be an asset for all three teams. He was the Royal Giants’ primary catcher but also saw action at third base, shortstop, and outfield. Brooks was in the Black Yankees’ lineup by late June and quickly demonstrated his aggressive offensive style in one game by scoring two runs and badly spiking the Brooklyn Bushwicks’ shortstop, Dutch Woerner.41 This was the first of five seasons Brooks spent with the Black Yankees, but it also was his briefest tenure with the team.

After a few weeks with the Black Yankees, Brooks jumped to the independent Penn Red Caps. The Red Caps were named for the porters who worked at Pennsylvania Station in Manhattan, some of whom were African American baseball players who worked for the railroad during the offseason.42 The 1935 edition of the Red Caps was described as being able to “hold their own with the best semi-pro teams in the metropolitan district including … the Bushwicks, Farmers, and Philadelphia teams.”43 By the time Brooks joined the Red Caps, he was known as “one of the hardest hitters in the game,” and that “[if] he gets the range of the right field fence at the stadium the fans are likely to see some home runs.”44 And there was some extra inducement for Brooks to swing for the fences because his manager, George Brooks (no relation), paid his Red Caps players a $2 bonus for every home run they hit.45 Brooks probably did not cash in on that offer too often that season. His extra-base hits were mainly doubles, but he did hit an inside-the-park home run in late August, albeit during one of his dalliances with the New York Black Yankees.46 There was no word on whether or not Black Yankees manager Bob Clarke offered Brooks a $2 bonus.

From the mid- to late 1930s, Brooks played primarily for two teams: the Brooklyn Royal Giants, a well-established independent team, and the New York Black Yankees of the NNL2. In 1937, for the first time in his career, he spent the entire season in the uniform of one team – the Brooklyn Royal Giants. He was the Royal Giants’ go-to outfielder and dependable infielder, stationed mainly at third or second base. Royal Giants’ manager John Beckwith occasionally called upon Brooks for backstop duties, but that responsibility mainly fell to Joe Lewis. Brooks had a good offensive year with the Royal Giants but the team itself was dreadful. Most of its losses were to veteran independent clubs in the Northeast region such as the Bushwicks and Bay Ridge.47 The few wins that Brooklyn enjoyed in 1937 were mainly the results of contests against weaker local nines like the Stroudsburg Poconos.48

Even as the Royal Giants were dethroned by their opponents, more often than not newspaper accounts of their games were peppered with reports of Brooks’s talent for extra-base hits and his RBI production. For example, in his first start for Brooklyn, he hit a triple in a doubleheader loss to Bay Ridge.49 In a late May win over the Belmar Braves, Brooks hit three doubles, and he repeated the feat two days later against the Cuban All-Stars.50 In early July, the Royal Giants fell to the Red Bank Pirates despite Brooks’s grand slam.51 In the first week of August, in a game against the Scarlets of Mount Vernon, New York, Brooks hit another grand slam, described as a, “four-ply wallop [that] cleared the centerfield fence … in one hop, the first time any fence in this field has ever been cleared.”52 Brooks’s exploits with the Brooklyn Royal Giants in 1937 did not go unnoticed. In his end-of-the-year column in the Pittsburgh Courier, Cum Posey named Brooks as the Giants’ best outfielder and in the company of those whose defensive and offensive skills represented the elite of Negro League baseball, including Oscar Charleston, Rap Dixon, Vic Harris, and Cool Papa Bell.53

If 1937 was a season of stability for Brooks, 1938 was a year of inconsistency and major life changes. Unlike in the previous year, Brooks played for multiple teams in 1938. He debuted with the New York Black Yankees and ended the regular season with the independent Cuban Stars, after which he sailed off for a brief winter stint with the Indios de Mayagüez of the Puerto Rico Winter League. The 1938 edition of the Black Yankees gave fans little to cheer about and the only team that kept them from the depths of the NNL2 cellar was the even more pitiful Washington Black Senators, who won just two league games in 1938. As the Black Yankees’ losses piled up, Brooks’s bat fell silent. While his defensive skills in the outfield and at third base continued to draw praise, thanks to his speed and “sparkling catches,” he had no homers and just three RBIs.54

But it was the intersections between Brooks’s baseball career and his personal life that took the most unusual turns in 1938. At the end of June, Brooks played his last game of the year with the New York Black Yankees – an 11-6 loss to the Newark Eagles.55 Brooks then left the Black Yankees for the Cuban Stars. He made his first start for the Cuban Stars on July 4 in a doubleheader against his old team, the Brooklyn Royal Giants, in which he made three errors as a second baseman and right fielder; a disappointing performance given his usually sharp defensive skills.56 Perhaps it was an omen. That same day, he married Mary Myers before a judge in Manhattan. One of the witnesses to the ceremony was Brooks’s longtime friend and former teammate, Leroy Morney. Brooks, the groom, was 31 years old. His new bride was 16 years old and more than likely pregnant with their first child. The marriage license listed Brooks’s occupation as a “physical instructor,” but perhaps “professional ballplayer” was not an option on the form. Myers’ occupation was listed as “servant.” The marriage had a similar outcome as the Cubans’ games against the Royal Giants – it was a split decision. By 1940, the couple had at least two children, but Ameal Brooks was not living in the same household and the marriage crumbled.

In the winter of 1938-1939, Brooks left his expectant wife behind and headed to Puerto Rico to participate in a newly formed winter league. He signed with the Indios de Mayagüez, but this partnership also was not destined to last. One of his Indios teammates described him as “an interesting character who spent almost twenty years in the Negro leagues … [but] did not last long with the Indians due to, according to some, an exaggerated fondness for the nightlife of the Sultana club.”57 Brooks’s reputation for drinking and carousing at the expense of his career was well-known among his fellow players and may account for his tendency to switch teams multiple times during a season, his offensive ups and downs, and his failed marriage. Frazier Robinson, who played against Brooks in Negro League games in the 1940s, remembered him as one of the few players who could “go yard” on Satchel Paige but noted that Brooks’s superhero feats were neutralized by his kryptonite – alcohol:

“Another was a boy by the name of Ameal Brooks, who used to catch for the New York Black Yankees and the Brooklyn Royal Giants. Brooks was an alcoholic – he’d drink all the time – but he could hit Satchel. This guy Brooks could even take Satchel over the fence. [Jim] West and Brooks just seemed to know what Satchel was going to throw, and they’d sit on his fastball. Then they wouldn’t take a vicious cut, just swing at it and make contact.”58

In January 1939 Brooks returned from his Puerto Rican misadventures, along with Indios and New York Black Yankees teammate Ralph Burgin, aboard the SS Borinquen. Brooks spent the entire 1939 season with the Black Yankees, playing most of the time in the outfield. He finished the year batting .280 but had just one extra-base hit and a meager eight RBIs. That was less than half of the runs generated by Black Yankees’ third baseman Walter Cannady, who played in the same number of games as Brooks. It was a mediocre year for both Brooks and the Black Yankees. The team finished in third place in the NNL2 with a record of 19-18. Brooks did not appear on their roster again for seven years.

Brooks signed with the Brooklyn Royal Giants for the 1940 and 1941 seasons. It was like déjà vu all over again. The Royal Giants were no better than they had been when Brooks played for them in 1937. In fact, they may have been worse. It was not unusual for Brooklyn to lose by a 10-run margin to seemingly inferior squads, despite Brooks’s doubles and home runs.59 The season ended with a thud in mid-September, when the Royal Giants were embarrassed by a twin-bill sweep at the hands of Queens Club, 13-3, and 10-9.60 In October, with baseball season over, Brooks registered for the US Army draft. He was described on his draft card as 5-feet-8 tall, 165 pounds, and with a scar behind his left ear and a mark near his left eye. Brooks was unemployed and lived in an apartment on West 138th Street in New York City. When asked to name a “person who will always know your address,” he chose his father, Joseph Brooks of Chicago, rather than Mary Brooks, his wife of two years in New York.

Brooks returned to the hapless Brooklyn Royal Giants for the first half of the 1941 season. With the 1940 season and his failed marriage behind him, things were looking up; in fact, 1941 turned out to be a great year for Brooks. His lumber awoke from its slumber, and Brooks once more was described in newspapers as “Home Run Brooks” and as “one of the most feared players” in the league.61 In August he was picked up by the Homestead Grays, who used him mainly in left field and as a catcher, and he lived up to his billing. In September, he went on a home-run tear along with teammate and future Hall of Famer Buck Leonard.62 The highlight of his 1941 season was the role he played in the Grays’ NNL2 championship run. Brooks helped clinch the title by hitting home runs in both games of the doubleheader before a crowd of 12,000 at Yankee Stadium.63 It was a thrill he likely had not experienced since hitting a home run off Satchel Paige in that same ballpark in 1934. It may have also served as his atonement to Cum Posey for jumping from Homestead to Cleveland that same year.

Brooks never replicated the success he enjoyed in 1941. Then again, by the time the 1942 season started, the United States and the much of the world were at war and things would never be the same again. During the World War II years, Brooks experienced more career lows than highs. In 1942 he started the season with the Cincinnati Ethiopian Clowns. The team marketed him as “Wahoo Brooks,” someone “who can play any position, [is] the ‘Babe Ruth’ of colored baseball, [was] last season’s Homestead Gray’s leading hitter, [and] who walloped two long home runs in one afternoon out of the park” at Yankee Stadium.64 The statistics shared by the Clowns with the press included inflated and unreliable promotional claims such as Brooks being the Homestead Grays’ leading home-run hitter in 1942 (that honor went to Buck Leonard), and that as a member of the Cincinnati aggregation, Brooks had hit 14 home runs in the spring alone and had batted .419.65 Both of those achievements are dubious at best, but the Clowns were more interested in generating turnstile clicks than accurate statistics. Brooks’s ride in the Clowns’ car ended in July when he signed with the New York Cubans.

Of the four seasons that Brooks spent with the New York Cubans, 1943 was his best. That year, he hit a career-high number of extra-base hits, including 7 doubles and 4 home runs, and generated 26 RBIs. In 1943 Brooks was 36 years old. He played in at least 33 NNL2 games for the Cubans and batted a respectable .265. The Cubans finished the year in second place behind the champion Homestead Grays. Brooks had two memorable games with the Cubans in 1943, both in late September. First, and most notably, was a game at Yankee Stadium between the Cubans and the Kansas City Monarchs in which, before 20,000 riveted fans, Brooks hit a towering home run off Satchel Paige.66 For that game, “‘Bucket’ Brooks … was the slugging sensation of the day by hitting one of Satchell [sic] Paige’s high fast ones 325 feet into the right field bleachers,” and “sewed things up with his first and longest wallop of the day, a 375-foot drive into Ruthville.”67 It was also noted that these two rockets were among the six home runs that Brooks hit at Yankee Stadium that year, and that Brooks “hit twice as many home runs [there] as any Negro player.”68 Brooks faced Paige once more, at the end of the season, this time in the North-South All-Star Game in New Orleans. Brooks only managed to cop two singles off Paige in the Crescent City as the South All-Stars got the best of the North All-Stars, 5-2.69 Perhaps more important was the fact that the game netted over $100,000 in War Bond sales.70

Brooks reupped with the Cubans for the 1944 season, but it was the beginning of the end for his professional baseball career. As in 1943, the Cubans ended the year as the second-best team in the NNL2 to the champion Homestead Grays. Brooks played in 24  league games but did little to light up the scoreboard. Newspapers described him as “Ameal ‘Home Run’ Brooks,” but that turned out to be mostly false advertising.71 He did manage to hit one home run in an exhibition game in Dayton, Ohio, against the Birmingham Black Barons.72 However, even that highlight was spoiled by Brooks’s instigation of a bench-clearing brawl when he accused the opposing pitcher, John Huber, of “altering the ball in order to better control.”73 He batted a meager .176 in league games with just one extra-base hit, a double, and racked up just four RBIs. His duties were mainly in the outfield, but he sometimes was called upon as a pinch-hitter; more often than not, he was demoted to batting near the bottom of the order.74 Brooks ended his season as a participant in the North-South All Star Game in New Orleans.75 He went hitless in one at-bat in relief of the North’s starting catcher and Brooks’s Cubans teammate, Lou Louden.

After 1944 Brooks played three more years in the NNL2, each year for a different team. In 1945 he had three official appearances with the second-place New York Cubans, but he also played in several games against independent teams, either as a catcher or pinch-hitter.76 He went hitless in all three attempts in NNL2 games for the Cubans, and if started in the field, he was frequently pulled for a pinch-hitter late in the game.77 Brooks spent the first half of the 1946 season in the outfield for his former team, the cellar-dwelling New York Black Yankees, mustering just 4 hits in 20 at-bats. In late June, Brooks jumped to the Jacksonville Eagles, remaining with the Florida-based team through the end of the season.78

In early May of 1947, Brooks made his final appearances in the Negro Leagues when he played in two games for the Newark Eagles. Retrosheet shows that his only hit for the Eagles was a solo home run in a losing effort against the Baltimore Elite Giants.79 By the end of May, Brooks had flown the Eagles’ coop for the barnstorming Milwaukee Tigers, a team whose record would be better suited for a litter box than for the annals of baseball glory. It was initially announced that Brooks would be the team’s manager, but ultimately those duties fell upon Alex Radcliffe, the brother of Ted “Double Duty” Radcliffe. The nadir of Brooks’s summer with the Tigers likely came when he found himself playing against such local amateur nines as the Waterloo, Iowa, “Chicken Basket,” or during Milwaukee’s 22-7 loss to the “Clark Tructractors” of Battle Creek, Michigan.80 The Tigers were toothless and an embarrassment. In Battle Creek they were described as “the most miserable conglomeration of misfits ever to get a place on the local schedule,” and the game was considered a “farce.”81 The Tigers were billed as having a record of 27 wins against just 5 losses, a claim that was unsubstantiated by newspaper accounts of their games and was most certainly a fiction conjured up purely to generate ticket sales.82 In the game between the Tigers and the Tructractors, one indignant sportswriter reported that “[u]mpire Bill Price mercifully called time after six and one-half innings of play. To have detained the fans longer under the guise of a baseball game would have been unadulterated mayhem, no less.”83

Things did not improve for Brooks and the Tigers. In a mid-July game against an amateur aggregation from Winona, Minnesota, local fans seeing the Milwaukee squad for the first time, “witnessed a spectacle in which a ‘semi-professional’ baseball team conducted itself like a group of sandlotters.”84 It was a forgettable game for Brooks as well. For the first time in decades, he was tapped as the starting pitcher, and after contesting an umpire’s call, Brooks initially “stalked off the field in a display of childish pouting and gesturing and proceeded to pack up the Tigers’ equipment.”85 Brooks returned to the mound but his “pitches consisted of leisurely tosses, until darkness finally forced the umpires to call the game in the seventh.”86 For the remainder of the summer, Brooks and the Tigers slogged their way from the Midwest to the East Coast, finishing out the year with a game against a local nine in Washington, Pennsylvania. After an abysmal season with the Tigers, Brooks went out on a high note as he belted a three-run homer to decide the game.87

After the demoralizing summer spent with the Milwaukee Tigers in 1947, Brooks appears to have taken a baseball sabbatical in 1948. No records or newspaper accounts of his play have been located for that year. It is possible that he played for a team outside of the United States, but at age 41, and with the demise of Negro League baseball, there were few professional outlets for his diminishing talents. All of that changed for Brooks in 1949 when he was signed by Abe Saperstein to play for the Harlem Globetrotters baseball team.88 Brooks was tapped as a “utility player” and backup catcher for the Trotters’ player-manager Paul Hardy.89 Brooks appeared in a handful of games for the Globetrotters in the summer of 1949, but he did little to garner any headlines and the paucity of box scores for the team’s games makes it difficult to determine his contributions. The following spring, Brooks was named as one of the “topnotch” players on the Globetrotters’ 1950 roster and was described as having “formerly caught for the New York Cuban Giants.”90 However, after this initial announcement in May, Brooks was not mentioned again as a member of the team. In fact, he vanished from the Globetrotters’ lineup after May 14, 1950.91

Brooks’s baseball career came to a grinding halt in 1950. After more than 20 years and untold miles spent traveling with a multitude of teams, Brooks ended his career in the Negro Leagues with a .259 batting average. He had played his best baseball with the New York Black Yankees and New York Cubans, and had been effective with the bat well into his 30s. His personal demons of a quick temper and alcohol abuse likely robbed him of a more notable career. The final two decades of Brooks’s life were filled with as much mystery and uncertainly as were the first few decades of his life. Details of his activities after baseball are scarce and offer few insights into his private life. What is known is that he spent his remaining years in the Bronx, where he died in 1971 at the age of 64. No obituary or record of his death was published, and the location of his final resting place is unknown.



Special thanks to Dr. David J. Keeling for providing Spanish-language translation of documents used for this research.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Gary Ashwill.



Unless otherwise indicated, all Negro League statistics and records were sourced from was used to access census, birth, death, marriage, military, immigration, and other genealogical and public records.



1 James A. Riley, The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues (New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc., 1994), 112.

2 “Milwaukee Tigers Here for Twilight Battle Wednesday,” Battle Creek (Michigan) Enquirer, July 6, 1947: 16; “Cuban Star Threat,” Detroit Michigan Chronicle, June 10, 1944: 15; “Powerful New York Cubans to Play Savitt Gems Here Tonight at 8:30,” Hartford Courant, August 30, 1944: 12; “New York Cubans to Meet Memphis Red Sox at Stadium,” Springfield (Ohio) Daily News, June 16, 1943: 11; “League Players and New York Cubans to Tangle,” Sandusky (Ohio) Register, September 7, 1943: 9.

3 “Royal Giants Now Boasting Strong Lineup,” Brooklyn Citizen, April 12, 1935: 6; “Brooklynites to Play Here Tonight,” Ithaca (New York) Journal, August 5, 1937: 12; “New York Cubans Down Lafayette Team in Fine Exhibition Struggle, 11 to 7,” Lafayette (Indiana) Journal and Courier, August 5, 1943: 18; “New York Cubans Have Classy Club,” Dayton (Ohio) Journal Herald, August 8, 1945: 9; “Milwaukee Tigers Play Double Header Sunday,” Milwaukee (Wisconsin) Journal, June 29, 1947: 39; “Manheim Barons Meet New York Black Yankees Tonight,” Lancaster (Pennsylvania) Intelligencer Journal, June 15, 1939: 13.

4 “Negro National Leaguers Will Play Here Today,” Paterson (New Jersey) Morning Call, June 25, 1938: 22; “Negro Leaguers Clash at Hinchliffe Stadium Tonight,” Paterson Morning Call, July 2, 1938: 22; “Satchell [sic] Paige Shut Out by Cubans,” New York Age, September 18, 1943: 11.

5 William F. McNeil, Black Baseball Out of Season: Pay for Play Outside of the Negro Leagues (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Co.), 217.

6 “Chicago Royal Giants Defeat Florence 3 to 2,” Denver Post, September 21, 1926: 24; “Milwaukee Tigers Play Like Sandlotters Against PNA’s,” Winona (Minnesota) Republican-Herald, July 18, 1947: 11.

7 Ameal Brooks’s birth date was determined from his World War II draft card and a 1938 marriage license. Other documents state that Brooks was born in either 1904 or 1906.

8 Brian McCammack, Landscapes of Hope: Nature and the Great Migration in Chicago (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2017), 159, 250.

9 Cynthia K. Barron, History of the Chicago Parental School, 1902-1975. Dissertation, Loyola University of Chicago (1993).

10 Gary Ashwill, Agate Type: Irvin Brooks, PR Man, March 30, 2009,, accessed September 1, 2022.

11 “Chicago Royal Giants Defeat Florence 3 to 2,” Denver Post, September 21, 1926: 24; “Wichita Leaguers Tossers Triumph,” Wichita Eagle, October 18, 1926: 10.

12 “Bendix Slate Royal Giants,” South Bend Tribune, August 28, 1928: 16; “Royal Giants to Tackle Bendixers at Playland To-Day,” South Bend Tribune, September 2, 1928: 13.

13 “Batting Average of Natl. Negro League, Indianapolis Recorder, June 8, 1929: 6.

14 “Texas Colored Giants to Play Here Saturday Afternoon,” Edmonton (Alberta) Journal, June 19, 1929: 9; Western Canada Baseball, Texas Colored Giants,, accessed June 30, 2022.

15 “Texas Colored Giants to Play Here Saturday Afternoon”; “Baseball,” Saskatoon (Saskatchewan) Star-Phoenix, July 20, 1929: 15.

16 “Texas Colored Giants to Play Here Saturday Afternoon.”

17 “Colored Giants, Mill City Team Divide Honors,” Regina (Saskatchewan) Leader-Post, July 15, 1929: 10; “Giants Take Final Brace,” Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, July 22, 1929: 11; “Colored Giants Trim Transcona,” Winnipeg (Manitoba) Tribune, August 28, 1929: 15.

18 “Ruthilda Drops Second Game of Series,” Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, August 14, 1929: 10.

19 “Bears to Meet Chicago Team on Local Lot,” Davenport (Iowa) Quad-City Times, May 9, 1930: 32.

20 “Moosomin Nine Lose Twice to Chicago Team,” Regina Leader-Post, June 5, 1930: 13; “Texas Giants Win by 16-11 Against Chicago Athletics,” Edmonton Journal, July 14, 1930: 7; “Colored Nines Each Win Game,” Calgary (Alberta) Herald, July 21, 1930: 6.

21 “Dusky Baseballers Defeat Local Select,” Regina Leader-Post, June 10, 1930: 13.

22 “Texas Giants Win by 16-11 Against Chicago Athletics.”

23 Colored Nines Each Win Game.”

24 “Chicago Colored Athletics Will Play Bettendorf,” Davenport (Iowa) Daily Times, September 16, 1930: 12.

25 Paul Debono, The Chicago American Giants (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Co., 2011), 129-130.

26 “Grey Sox Upset by Giants, 8 to 3,” Montgomery (Alabama) Advertiser, March 27, 1932: 8; “Memphis Takes 3 Straight from Cleveland,” Chicago Defender, May 21, 1932: 9.

27 Delbono, 132.

28 William Dismukes, “Retrospective and Perspective,” Pittsburgh Courier, December 24, 1932: 15.

29 Riley, 188; “Blue Birds Reorganize,” Columbus (Ohio) Journal Dispatch, July 16, 1933: 37; Russell J. Cowans, “Thru the Sports Mirror, Detroit Tribune, July 29, 1933: 8.

30 “Detroit Stars Drop 2 Games to Blue Birds,” Detroit Tribune, July 29, 1933: 8.

31 Cum Posey, “Pointed Paragraphs,” Pittsburgh Courier, December 22, 1934: 14; James E. Overmeyer, Cum Posey of the Homestead Grays (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Co., 2020), 143.

32 Riley, 180.

33 William E. Clark, “30,000 Attend Four-Team Double Header at Yankee Stadium; Black Yanks Lose; Stars-Crawfords Tie,” New York Age, September 15, 1934: 5.

34 Jocko Maxwell, “Sports Biggest Thrill in 1934,” New York Age, December 29, 1934: 7.

35 Maxwell.

36 John Holway, The Complete Book of Baseball’s Negro Leagues: The Other Half of Baseball History (Fern Park, Florida: Hastings House Publishers, 2001), 313.

37 Holway, 312; Neil Lanctot, Negro League Baseball: The Rise and Ruin of a Black Institution (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004), 36, 37.

38 “Chi Manager Protests Game with Philly,” Pittsburgh Courier, October 13, 1934: 14; Debono, 137.

39 Stars Upset Giants Win National Title,” Philadelphia Inquirer, October 3, 1934: 22.

40 Holway, 313.

41 “Bushwicks Rout Black Yankees in First Game, Throw Away Second; Bill Woerner Is Badly Spiked,” Brooklyn Citizen, July 1, 1935: 6; “Dutch Woerner Out of Bushwick’s Lineup Due to an Injured Leg,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 1, 1935: 17.

42 Neil Lanctot, Fair Dealing and Clean Playing: The Hilldale Club and the Development of Black Professional Baseball, 1910-1932 (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1994), 151; Leslie A. Heaphy, The Negro Leagues, 1869-1960 (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Co. Inc., 2003), 152.

43 “Penn Red Caps to Meet Black Yankees Here Saturday,” Paterson Morning Call, August 1, 1935: 22.

44 “Penn Red Caps Will Face Black Yankees Here Today,” Paterson Morning Call, August 3, 1935: 19.

45 “Penn Red Caps Will Face Black Yankees Here Today.”

46 “Enzmann Hurls Dexters to Victory,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, August 22, 1935: 20.

47 “Parkways, Bay Ridge in Auspicious Starts with Double Victories,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April 26, 1937: 20; “Curvers Clicking, Bushwicks Brace and Win Twin Bill,” Brooklyn Times-Union, May 17, 1937: 12.

48 “Mack Wagner Stars in Relief Role but Poconos Lose to Brooklyn Giants,” Middletown (New York) Times Herald, June 15, 1937: 8.

49 “Parkways, Bay Ridge in Auspicious Starts with Double Victories.”

50 “Brooklyn Giants Take Braves in Opener,” Long Beach (New Jersey) Daily Record, May 29, 1937: 5; “Royal Giants Win Twice,” Brooklyn Times-Union, June 1, 1937: 14.

51 “Pirates Win Ninth; Beat Royal Giants, by 6 to 5,” Long Branch Daily Record, July 7, 1937: 7.

52 “O’Brien Wins Second After Scarlets Lose,” Mamaroneck (New York) Daily Times, August 2, 1937: 7.

53 Cum Posey, “Posey’s Points,” Pittsburgh Courier, December 4, 1937: 16.

54 “12,000 See Black Yankees Take Two Games from Bushwicks, 5-1, 1-0,” Brooklyn Citizen, April 25, 1938: 6.

55 “Newark Eagles Are Victors in National Negro League,” Paterson Morning Call, June 27, 1938: 18

56 “McDuffie Pulls Iron-man Feat,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 5, 1938: 16.

57 Jaime Cordova, Beisbol de Corazon (San Juan, Puerto Rico: Ediciones Callejón, 2007), 202.

58 Frazier Robinson, Catching Dreams: My Life in the Negro Baseball Leagues (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1999), 85.

59 “Double Win Over Brooklyn Royal Giants Entrenches Scarlets in First Place,” Mount Vernon (New York) Argus, June 17, 1940: 12; “Bay Parkways Win Two Games; Gray Stars,” Brooklyn Citizen, July 1, 1940: 6.

60 “Ferrick Now Dexter Top Man,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, September 16, 1940: 17.

61 “Dahn Sees Club ‘Holding’ Brooklyn Royal Giants,” Poughkeepsie (New York) Eagle-News, July 2, 1941: 10.

62 “Grays Defeat Cubans 11 to 8,” Kane (Pennsylvania) Republican, September 2, 1941: 5; “Homestead Grays Take Decision Over Cubans,” Washington (Pennsylvania) Reporter, September 3, 1941: 10.

63 Buster Miller, “Homestead Grays Win 1941 Negro Nat’l League Pennant,” New York Age, September 27, 1941: 11.

64 “Semi-Pro Champions to Play Here,” Tampa Bay (Florida) Times, April 12, 1942: 25.

65 “Clowns Here for Four-Game Series,” Detroit Tribune, May 30, 1942: 7.

66 “Satchell [sic] Paige Shut Out by Cubans,” New York Age, September 18, 1943: 11.

67 “Satchell Paige Shut Out by Cubans.”

68 “Satchell Paige Shut Out by Cubans.”

69 “18,000 See Satchel Paige Win with South All-Stars,” New Orleans Item, September 27, 1943: 10.

70 “18,000 See Satchel Paige Win with South All-Stars.”

71 “New York Cubans at Park Tonight,” Lafayette (Indiana) Journal and Courier, June 8, 1944: 20.

72 “Black Barons Edge Cubans,” Dayton (Ohio) Journal Herald, September 7, 1944: 6.

73 “Black Barons Edge Cubans.”

74 “Eagles Plan More Contests as They Split,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 5, 1944: 15; “Josh Hits 2 Homers in N.Y.,” Pittsburgh Courier, July 22, 1944: 12; Sam Gunst, “Taylor Pitches Well but Savitt Gems Lose, 6-3,” Hartford Courant, August 31, 1944: 13.

75 “North-South Title Battle Saturday,” Nashville Tennessean, September 18, 1944: 10; “Cubans Will Play Here Tomorrow,” Atlanta Constitution, September 23, 1944: 5.

76 “Moscowitz Too Slick on Hill for N.Y. Cubans,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 19, 1945: 16; “Bushwicks Lose 2 After 13 Victories,” New York Daily News, July 30, 1945: 38.

77 “Bushwicks Lose 2 After 13 Victories.”

78 “Jacksonville Noses Out Lloyd in 10th, 5-4,” Chester (Pennsylvania) Times, June 27, 1946.

79 Retrosheet, “The 1947 Batting Log for Ameal Brooks,”, accessed November 1, 2022.

80 “Basket to Meet Milwaukee Negro Nine Friday Night,” Waterloo (Iowa) Courier, June 17, 1947: 13; “Clarkmen Slay Milwaukee Club,” Battle Creek (Michigan) Enquirer, July 10, 1947: 23.

81 “Clarkmen Slay Milwaukee Club.”

82 “Tructractors Out to Prove Amateur Supremacy Tonight,” Battle Creek Enquirer, July 9, 1947: 18; “Clarkmen Slay Milwaukee Club.”

83 “Clarkmen Slay Milwaukee Club.”

84 “Milwaukee Tigers Play Like Sandlotters Against PNA’s,” Winona (Minnesota) Republican-Herald, July 18, 1947: 11.

85 “Milwaukee Tigers Play Like Sandlotters Against PNA’s.”

86 “Milwaukee Tigers Play Like Sandlotters Against PNA’s.”

87 “Myer Nine Goes Through Tough Weekend,” Washington (Pennsylvania) Reporter, August 18, 1947: 8.

88“Brooklyn Royal Giants to Play Famous ’Trotters Here Monday,” Indianapolis Recorder, May 29, 1949: 11.

89 “Royal Giants and Globetrotters to Play Here Tonight,” Owensboro (Kentucky) Messenger, June 2, 1949: 12; “Trotters, House of David Meet Here Tonight at 8:15,” Pocatello (Idaho) Tribune, June 29, 1949: 7.

90 “Harlem Nine to Play Here Saturday,” Austin (Texas) American, May 9, 1950: 18.

91 “Negro Nines Play Twin-Bill Next Sunday,” Louisville Courier Journal, May 14, 1950: 32.

Full Name

Ameal Brooks


June 3, 1907 at New Orleans, LA (USA)


November , 1971 at Bronx, NY (USA)

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