Gread McKinnis

This article was written by Rich Bogovich

Gread McKinniss“That McKinnis is one of the best pitchers I have ever seen,” said future Hall of Famer Alex Pompez, owner of the New York Cubans, in mid-1943. Pompez had experience dating back to 1916, and the Hall of Fame describes him as an “adroit talent evaluator.”1 Therefore, his was high praise indeed for 29-year-old lefty Gread McKinnis, who was in his third Negro American League season. And the best was yet to come, including three consecutive East-West All-Star teams plus a no-hitter and a one-hitter in the NAL, both against the Kansas City Monarchs. But his ban for entering the outlaw Mexican League in 1946 undercut his prominence.

McKinnis was born in Bullock County, Alabama, on August 11, 1913. He may have been born in the county seat, Union Springs, though the 1900 and 1910 censuses identify his parents, William and Emma Jane McKinnis, as farmers near the (Old) Union Church, close to the Montgomery County border. Conversely, in the 1920 census they farmed in Montgomery County, though close to Bullock.2 The 1910 census indicated that one of Gread’s siblings had passed away before he was born. Gread was 12th of 13. His sister Hattie died in 1928 around the age of 20.

African Americans were a large majority of Bullock County’s population,3 even after many began migrating to Northern cities around the time of Gread’s birth, but White politicians dominated. “Bullock County’s elected officials’ failure to uphold basic civil liberties played a great part in the exodus,” according to its Tourism Council. “Bullock County had seven documented lynchings from 1889-1921 with the 1911 public lynching of Aberdeen Johnson resulting in the National Guard being called out by Governor O’Neal.”4 Alabama’s Supreme Court later upheld the sheriff’s termination for dereliction of duty, and Chief Justice R.T. Simpson was furious in his written opinion.5

One of Gread’s sisters moved to Montgomery before 1920, and by 1930 the entire family joined her. Gread appeared twice in that census, first with his parents, and later as “Graydy” in a separate household with five siblings. On the latter page he was marked as illiterate, but in both the 1930 entry with his parents and in 1920 Gread had recent schooling. The first school for African Americans in Bullock County predated Gread by about 40 years.6 However, in early 1911, at least one of those schools was open only two months a year.7

McKinnis’s whereabouts from 1932 to 1939 are unknown. His mother was widowed by 1940 but still resided in Montgomery. He lived in Birmingham, according to a city directory, and worked for the American Cast Iron Pipe Company. ACIPCO had an African American baseball team in the semipro Birmingham Industrial League. McKinnis was a newcomer in 1940 but became the pitching ace. His 1940 military registration showed his height as 6-feet-1 and his weight as 170 pounds. It also identified a wife, Lillian.8

McKinnis joined the Birmingham Black Barons of the NAL in 1941. Opening Day was May 11,9 but his debut was apparently on May 25, starting the first game of a doubleheader against the visiting Jacksonville Red Caps in front of 4,200 fans at Rickwood Field. He pitched a complete-game 7-2 victory, offsetting five walks and a hit batsman with seven strikeouts while surrendering only five singles. He also overcame errors by his four infielders.10 On June 10 he beat the same team 3-1.11 Late that month he had a complete-game win over the Chicago American Giants, 4-3.12

A high point for McKinnis in his first pro season occurred on August 24 against the St. Louis Stars in front of 6,000 Birmingham fans. In the seven-inning second game of a doubleheader, he hurled a 4-0 four-hitter.13 He matched that low number of hits at the end of the regular season, on September 11, against the Kansas City Monarchs in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. That game ended as a 5-0 triumph.14

The Barons held their spring training for 1942 in Algiers, Louisiana. McKinnis reported late.15 On May 10 he started the second game of the Opening Day doubleheader against Jacksonville at home, but he did not last half the game.16 He ended the month with a tougher loss. “McKinnis pitched masterful ball for the Barons, holding the Monarchs scoreless until the sixth,” noted a Kansas City newspaper, but the home team won, 3-1.17 The Monarchs tormented him again on June 7 in the seven-inning second game of a doubleheader at home. The Barons led 4-0 after five innings but McKinnis was unable to finish the sixth as the Monarchs tied the score. The visitors scored the decisive run in the next and final inning.18

A brighter moment took place on June 28 at home, in a 2-1 win against the Memphis Red Sox in which he held the opposition to four singles.19 He won by the same score in the seven-inning second game of a doubleheader hosting the Monarchs on July 5, which was redemption for the fact that in the first game’s first inning, he had not retired a single batter and had been the losing pitcher.20

McKinnis subsequently bounced around between no fewer than five teams. On July 12 he pitched for the Minneapolis-St. Paul Gophers. However, “baseball historians don’t even bother to call it a franchise,” according to SABR members Peter Gorton and Steven Hoffbeck. “The league they joined, the Negro Major Baseball League of America, was a flimsy patchwork that existed merely to provide opponents for the Cincinnati Clowns, which had been denied entry into the Negro American League.”21 One of the league’s co-founders was Abe Saperstein of Harlem Globetrotters fame, who also co-owned the Black Barons.22 The Gophers’ opponents, the Chicago Brown Bombers, also belonged to that upstart league. Before 1,500 fans, McKinnis struck out 12 Bombers in a 3-0 two-hitter in which he also homered and doubled.23

From July 19 into the first week of August he was a Black Baron again. On July 22 he led them to a 4-1 win against the Cubans in Nashville, “before 3,000 white and colored spectators, the largest crowd of the year,” according to one paper there.24 Then on August 19 McKinnis was reportedly with the New York Lincoln Giants.25

On September 6, he relieved for the Clowns against the Monarchs in the second game of a four-team doubleheader before 8,000 fans at Chicago’s Wrigley Field. The Black Barons played Memphis in the first game.26

On September 13, McKinnis pitched in a doubleheader at Yankee Stadium before a crowd of 20,000 to 30,000. The day began with the third game of the Negro World Series between the Monarchs and the Homestead Grays of the Negro National League. McKinnis pitched the seven-inning second game for the Monarchs, but it was merely an exhibition. Nevertheless, the lineups differed little. One newspaper called McKinnis’s performance “masterful” as he hurled a 5-0 three-hitter.27 By the following Sunday, he was again with the Black Barons in a rough outing against the New York Cubans.28

The Black Barons’ 1943 spring training began at home on March 29, though they spent time in New Orleans starting on April 21. They played the Monarchs on April 25, and McKinnis started a game against Satchel Paige before 14,000 fans at Pelican Stadium. McKinnis pitched a complete game in a 3-0 loss (though Paige exited after four innings).29 On May 2 McKinnis won a rematch in Birmingham, 4-2, on “Satchel Paige Day” as he again went the distance.30

Birmingham did not play its home Opening Day doubleheader until May 30, when the team squared off against Memphis before about 12,000 fans. McKinnis pitched another complete game in the first contest as the Black Barons won, 6-2.31 One week later, a home crowd of comparable size saw McKinnis shut out the Clowns — newly admitted to the NAL — a game in which he struck out 11 batters, four consecutively.32

McKinnis’s win against the New York Cubans on June 23 may have been the motivation for the compliment given him by Alex Pompez. It was a seven-inning night game before 3,700 fans in Columbus, Ohio, and McKinnis scattered six hits as the Black Barons prevailed, 2-1.33

On Independence Day, McKinnis hurled a 5-1 complete game that clinched first place for the NAL’s first half and home-field advantage in the postseason playoff.34 On August 1 McKinnis played in his first East-West All-Star Game, at Chicago’s Comiskey Park, which was attended by 51,723 fans, a staggering number for a baseball game. McKinnis pitched the middle three innings and allowed just one single as his West squad earned a tense 2-1 triumph.35

No more than three days later, McKinnis became a Monarch for the second time, and pitched at least twice for the team. On August 4, he started against the Philadelphia Stars at Shibe Park, where 11,786 watched. McKinnis used 13 pitches to strike out the first three Stars, and he used 12 more to retire the next four hitters. He exited with a 2-1 lead after only four innings but was credited with the win. Paige finished the game. Six days later, McKinnis relieved for Paige in an easy win against the Homestead Grays in Washington, before more than 20,000 fans in Griffith Stadium.36 

By August 18, McKinnis was back with the Black Barons, and he won a 5-0, five-inning game against Memphis, the second of a doubleheader at Cincinnati’s Crosley Field. He also won late in the month against the Cleveland Buckeyes on the road, 3-1.37

On September 13 McKinnis lost the first game of the NAL championship series against the American Giants, 3-2, in Toledo.38 He apparently didn’t pitch in the remainder of the series, but Birmingham advanced to the Negro World Series against the Homestead Grays. McKinnis suffered losses on September 26 and 29, though both were shutouts by the Grays’ Johnny Wright, who later joined the Montreal Royals alongside Jackie Robinson in the spring of 1946. In his first loss, McKinnis yielded three runs in four innings.39 In his second loss, by a score of 8-0, it’s unclear how many runs were earned.40 The Grays won the decisive eighth game on October 5, in Montgomery, 8-4. McKinnis relieved at the end.41

The spring of 1944 began uneventfully for McKinnis, but on May 8 he was assigned to the American Giants to complete the trade for Ted “Double Duty” Radcliffe more than a month earlier. Surprisingly, this swap between Negro League franchises was even reported in The Sporting News.42 McKinnis’s debut with the American Giants may have been in a loss to Memphis before 10,000 fans at Comiskey Park on May 14.43

On the night of June 7, the Giants played a White team near Columbus, Ohio, with famous guests pitching the first three innings. Satchel Paige hurled opposite Dizzy Dean. Dean later played first base and his side won, 10-2. McKinnis’s one inning was bad, and he was charged with the loss.44 On June 18 McKinnis suffered a complete-game loss, 3-1, in the seven-inning second game of a doubleheader against the Cleveland Buckeyes in front of 10,000 to 13,000 fans at Comiskey Park. The outing was noteworthy for the fact that he retired the first three batters on one pitch each.45 

Beginning on Independence Day, McKinnis had a better stretch. The Giants hosted Memphis and 15,000 fans for a doubleheader at Comiskey Park. In the seven-inning second game, McKinnis hurled a 7-0 three-hitter. Five days later, he hurled his second consecutive seven-inning shutout at Comiskey as he outdueled Paige, 2-0.46 Through July 29, McKinnis’s record in NAL games was 4-5, and two days later he added a complete-game win against the Black Barons. By early August he was named to his second East-West All-Star Game, on August 13.47

On August 6 McKinnis and Paige faced off again for 26,689 fans at Detroit’s Briggs Stadium. The Monarchs scored twice in the ninth to win it, 2-0.48 On August 10, the day before his 31st birthday, McKinnis crafted a seven-inning no-hitter before 4,000 fans in Indianapolis to outduel Paige, 4-0. McKinnis struck out seven Monarchs.49 

Attendance for that year’s East-West classic was 46,247. McKinnis allowed two runs in 1⅓ innings, but his West team won, 7-4.50 Afterward McKinnis was among several players whom Gus Greenlee signed to his independent Pittsburgh Crawfords.51 McKinnis reportedly received $200 to jump. Details are minimal, but he apparently won his first (and possibly only) game for the Craws on August 16, by a score of 13-2. McKinnis may have been spotted back with the Giants at Comiskey Park on August 20, though not in uniform.52 He was thought to be with both the Giants and the Craws more than a week later.53 Instead, on September 14 he pitched for the Black Barons against the Cubans in Knoxville, in a 3-1 loss.54 On October 1 a reliever named McKinnis pitched for the Black Crackers against the Clowns in Birmingham.55

The Crawfords were reportedly McKinnis’s first team of 1945. They had joined the upstart United States League, which continued play into 1946. McKinnis may have taken part in three weeks of workouts.56

However, on April 22, a paper in Knoxville reported that McKinnis had recently joined that city’s Grays, of the Negro Southern League. He pitched in a preseason game that day.57 Still, during the first half of May he was also said to be with the American Giants.58 He was simultaneously reported to be on the Craws as late as June 2.59

Wherever McKinnis may have roamed, early in the season he certainly pitched for Knoxville. On April 29, before 15,000 fans in Washington’s Griffith Stadium, McKinnis was the losing pitcher in the first game of a doubleheader against the Homestead Grays, 2-1, and then Knoxville was no-hit by two hurlers in the nightcap, 5-0.60 He was also the losing pitcher in the first game of Knoxville’s Opening Day doubleheader on May 6 in which the team hosted the Atlanta Black Crackers,61 but he soon fared much better.

Just two days later, McKinnis contained the Crackers at home, 6-0. “McKinnis, as you no doubt knew, is one of the greatest pitchers in baseball,” sportswriter J.C. Chunn asserted.62 A day later, Albert G. Barnett of the Chicago Defender happened to list a few top players, and specified “Satchel Paige and Lefty McKinnis, pitchers; Archie Ware, Buck Leonard and other ace first basemen and Josh Gibson, catcher,” and that spoke volumes about Knoxville’s new ace.63

Knoxville was scheduled to visit the New Orleans Black Pelicans for a doubleheader on Sunday, May 13, but rain delayed it for two days. Newspaper coverage of that series was surprisingly minimal, but McKinnis reportedly no-hit the Pelicans that week by an unstated score. Chunn was a primary contemporaneous source, though well over a week afterward.64 In the absence of details, William J. Plott, author of a thorough history of the NSL, called this no-hitter “unconfirmed,” but if it did happen, he put the date as May 15.65 However, one paper that printed Chunn’s report also included scores of three games between the Pelicans and the Grays, without dates but none was played later than May 19. The first two could not conceivably have been no-hitters because of the Pelicans’ high run totals: Knoxville 11, New Orleans 10, and New Orleans 9, Knoxville 3. If the sequence was correct, those were the scores of the doubleheader on May 15. The third score was Knoxville 9, New Orleans 1. That was likely McKinnis’s no-hitter, and May 16 seems more probable than May 15.66

Through games of May 26, McKinnis had a record of 4-1. On May 27 he added a four-hitter against the Mobile Black Bears in an easy 8-2 win.67 McKinnis was reacquired by the American Giants around May 31, and on June 3 he gave them two scoreless innings of relief.68 On June 11, he hurled a 6-1 three-hitter in Milwaukee against Birmingham in which he struck out 11 Black Barons. On July 2 he went the distance in a 12-inning, 7-3 triumph over the Clowns in Dayton, Ohio, and struck out 15 batters.69

Beginning on July 13, McKinnis began to see a heavier workload. That day he pitched into the eighth inning of a game against Memphis that the Giants won in the 10th, and two days later he defeated the same team with a seven-inning complete game, 4-1.70 On July 18 McKinnis tossed a 5-0 five-hitter against Memphis in Racine, Wisconsin. A local reporter noted that the Red Sox had only 28 plate appearances, one above the minimum possible for a nine-inning game. One runner was out at second trying to steal, and McKinnis picked off three more.71 Two days later, he hurled the final eight innings of a 13-inning tie against Memphis in Dayton, and just two more days after that he won a seven-inning game against Birmingham back at Comiskey Park, 3-2.72 In his first five NAL games that counted in the standings, he had a record of 2-3.73

By that time, Gread McKinnis had been named to the East-West All-Star Game for the third straight year. It was held on July 29. That recent workload may have caused the forearm injury that kept him from pitching in it, but players received $100 just for being on the rosters.74

Two weeks later McKinnis lost the seven-inning second game of a doubleheader at Griffith Stadium opposite a perfect game by future Hall of Famer Ray Brown of the Homestead Grays.75 Another two weeks later, before 4,000 fans at Comiskey Park on August 26, McKinnis approximated Brown’s feat: McKinnis hurled a nine-inning, one-hitter against the Monarchs, and Chicago romped, 15-0. The only hit was by the very first Monarch, Jesse Williams. McKinnis retired the Monarchs in order from the second through the eighth innings, except for a walk in the sixth. He walked one more Monarch in the ninth in his otherwise superlative game.76

On September 16 Birmingham ended the American Giants’ 14-game home winning streak by defeating McKinnis in the first game of a doubleheader, 4-2. That was Chicago’s final home date of the regular season, and they finished in second place in the second half of the season. All told, McKinnis reportedly compiled a record of 16-4.77

Around that time, Winfield Welch, who had been McKinnis’s manager in Birmingham, announced that he would take an all-star team to the Pacific Coast in October, and McKinnis was included on the roster. Reporting of the games was minimal, but on October 24 McKinnis helped another hurler or two shut out the Saltillo Pericos of Mexico at Los Angeles’ Wrigley Field.

In the spring of 1946, McKinnis’s preseason began with the American Giants.78 However, on April 17 he joined teammates Art Pennington and Jesse Douglas on a drive to Mexico, to play for the Monterrey Industriales in the outlaw Mexican League. McKinnis and Pennington played in a 5-1 loss to La Junta on May 2, and likely had participated in earlier games already.79

Monterrey had a good team,80 but toward the end of May the trio wanted to return home and phoned the American Giants “at their own expense,” said the sports editor of the Chicago Daily Times. They requested reinstatement but the NAL had banned them indefinitely.81 Although the three players had gone to Mexico as a “package deal,” Pennington said they had no assurance the three would remain together.82 About three months after they jumped, Pennington was still with Monterrey, but Douglas was on the Mexico City Reds and McKinnis was not on any roster.83

On June 5 a Lefty “McGinnis” pitched a complete-game loss for the Chicago Brown Bombers, an “associate” member of the aforementioned United States League.84 Three days later, McKinnis won a game for the Chicago Monarchs, a strong semipro team over more than two decades.85 Additional games for either team may have gone unreported.

In pursuit of other baseball options, in June or July he took Abe Saperstein’s advice and visited a boxing promoter in Rochester, Minnesota, named Ben Sternberg. Sternberg got McKinnis onto a team in nearby Zumbrota; he debuted on July 28 under the name Al Saylor. The real Saylor, a right-hander and thus not Zumbrota’s “Lefty Saylor,” played for Birmingham from 1943 to 1945.86 Four weeks later “Saylor” helped Zumbrota to win the playoffs of the eight-team Southeastern Minnesota Baseball League and to qualify for the state tournament.87

Saylor was then ruled ineligible, but tourney officials insisted race was not involved. However, almost 20 years earlier, the Association of Minnesota Amateur Baseball Leagues had advised members to adopt a bylaw that “all colored players are barred.” After that, none played in the state tournament until 1947. By rule, Saylor had to play in more than two of Zumbrota’s regular-season games, but he played only once after July 28. Without its ace, Zumbrota was pulverized in its tournament game, 23-2.88

In mid-September, McKinnis joined Saperstein’s Cincinnati Crescents to play in Hawaii, and Jesse Owens accompanied them.89 They flew from San Francisco on September 20. In the trip’s opener he was the winning pitcher against a team called the Braves as he struck out 10 batters in seven innings.90 The Crescents went 12-0, and McKinnis appeared in six games.

The Crescents also played in California after flying back. On October 17 McKinnis started before 2,500 fans in Emeryville, a city near Oakland. In the decisive sixth inning, New York Giants rookie Bill Rigney — an All-Star two years later — ignited a rally for his team with a homer.91

In 1947 Sternberg signed McKinnis to his Rochester (Minnesota) Queens, in the league that had included Zumbrota. McKinnis’s salary was so low that he also shined shoes at Rochester’s Boston Shoe Shine and Hat Shop to earn more money.92 On June 10 and 11, the NAL and NNL held meetings during which McKinnis and Ray Brown had their five-year suspensions relating to the Mexican League lifted.93 McKinnis eventually rejoined the American Giants for a brief time. He was mentioned in previews of games into early August, and he did pitch on July 24 against the Kansas City Monarchs. The score was 1-1 after two innings when McKinnis exited the game for an unspecified reason.94

McKinnis helped Rochester play its way into the Minnesota state tournament again. On September 7, his 3-0 one hitter won them the regional championship.95 A week later he hurled a two-hit shutout against Nashwauk from northeastern Minnesota. McKinnis and Nashwauk shortstop Charlie Moore “reopened the door to black players in the state tournament,” noted Frank M. White, RBI Consultant for the Minnesota Twins.96 On September 20 McKinnis’s homer was the only run as his second two-hitter put the Queens in the next day’s finale. He started against Chaska in front of 7,715 fans but tired in the third inning as Rochester lost, 10-6. Nevertheless, he was named the tournament’s most valuable player.97 McKinnis averaged an astonishing 16 strikeouts per game as he compiled a record of 26-4.98

In 1948 Sternberg signed McKinnis by mid-February.99 Before rejoining the Queens, he reunited with an old Black Barons teammate, Tommy Sampson, on the Sampson Stars. On April 11 they played the Atlanta Black Crackers in Birmingham.100

The Queens joined the Bi-State League for 1948 and, on June 6, McKinnis was the winning pitcher in their fourth regular-season game.101 Three days later he was reported to be a member of the Twin City Colored Giants in Michigan.102 By the end of June, he was with the South Bend (Indiana) Studebakers in the semipro Michigan-Indiana League, and he played with them into late August, past his 35th birthday.103

McKinnis was back with Rochester on August 30, and on September 2 he struck out 17 Winona Merchants to win Rochester’s first playoff game. He struck out 19 Merchants six days later to put the Queens into the state tournament again. Rochester could not recapture its 1947 magic.104 Almost 30 years later, Sternberg recalled a conversation with McKinnis:

“During the 1948 season he told me he had a kid who could help the team at any position. He said his name was Willie Mays. What did I know? I said we didn’t want a 16-year-old kid. Now skip a few years to 1950 or 1951, whenever it was when Willie was hitting about .500 for the [Minneapolis] Millers. Me and Lefty went up to see him play and I introduced myself. He looked at me for some time and then said, “Ben Sternberg, I was supposed to play for you, wasn’t I? I think I could have helped your ball club.”105

McKinnis participated in spring training with the American Giants in 1949. He won the Opening Day assignment, on May 1, but rain ended the game early.106 In his first five games, he struck out 31 hitters in 32 innings.107

McKinnis was the first NAL pitcher to reach 10 wins. He had 74 strikeouts in 85 innings around the time he was named to his fourth East-West All-Star team.108 On August 14, a crowd of 30,000 to 35,000 was at Comiskey Park for the game. McKinnis’s side lost, 4-0. He pitched 1⅔ innings and gave up two runs.109

At the end of August, McKinnis started for the Giants in Winona, Minnesota, against the Cleveland Buckeyes. He struck out four batters in the first two innings and led, 2-0, but then exited for an unstated reason.110 It is possible that this appearance marked his last game with Chicago in 1949. McKinnis had a record of 12-7, and his 2.35 earned-run average was just behind Bob Griffith of the Philadelphia Stars at 2.31.111

By September 15 McKinnis had joined the New York Stars for a flight to Venezuela. Future Hall of Famer Buck Leonard explained to the Afro-American that the Stars scheduled nine games against teams representing Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the host country. On October 6 the Stars were to travel to Barranquilla, Colombia, for three more games over the following six days.112  

In 1950 McKinnis started the season with the Rochester Royals of the South Minnesota League, where he played alongside a number of other former Negro League standouts.113 The Royals’ holdover from 1949 was Marlin Carter, a longtime infielder for the Memphis Red Sox and a member of the American Giants in 1948. Another was Gene Smith, a veteran pitcher who was with the American Giants in 1949.114 Before mid-June, Sternberg signed two former Memphis pitchers, Verdell Mathis and Willie Hutchinson.115

On July 5 McKinnis “suffered severe lacerations of his throwing hand,” as Winona’s daily newspaper reported. In a freak accident, “McKinnis injured the hand when he struck a chandelier in the office of manager Ben Sternberg while demonstrating a pitching delivery.” He was expected to be out two weeks.116 At that point he had the South Minny’s best record, at 8-1, and he still finished atop the league’s hurlers at 11-3 while striking out 121 batters in 117 innings and walking only 48.117

In 1951 McKinnis rejoined the American Giants for at least part of their preseason and also pitched in at least two regular-season games.118 On May 13 he was the losing pitcher in a 2-1 game in New Orleans, and on May 23, he relieved in a loss to the Black Barons in Chattanooga.119 However, by the end of May, McKinnis joined the Brandon Greys, one of five franchises in the independent Manitoba-Dakota (ManDak) League. On May 30 he helped Brandon defeat Winnipeg, 5-2. He experienced a tough loss at home to Carman on July 18 in which both pitchers lasted all 14 innings. A high point was on August 6, when he hurled a five-hit shutout against Minot. Three weeks later he threw a complete game as the Greys clinched the pennant.120

The Greys faced elimination in the subsequent playoff semifinals, but McKinnis forced a sixth game against Carman with a complete game on September 5. Two days later, he secured Brandon’s comeback by recording the final out in a 1-0 nailbiter. As Brandon swept Winnipeg in the finals, he logged a win and a save. In the regular season he had pitched to a record of 11-6 in 19 games.121

On March 11, 1952, McKinnis reportedly signed with the Waseca Braves, about 55 miles west of Rochester. Instead, he played in a four-team league in the Dominican Republic.122 On April 1 McKinnis flew from New York with catcher Luther “Shanty” Clifford and Bob Griffith to the island nation, where all three joined the Estrellas Orientales.123

Within three weeks of his mid-June return stateside, McKinnis was back in Canada. When future Hall of Famer Willie Wells was named player-manager of Brandon in early July, McKinnis was expected to rejoin them. Instead, on July 7, McKinnis lost a game with the St. Thomas Elgins of Ontario’s semipro Intercounty League.124

August was momentous for Gread McKinnis, because he entered White Organized Baseball, shortly before turning 39, with the Tampa Smokers of the Class-B Florida International League.125 He debuted on August 1 by recording the final two outs of a 9-2 loss in St. Petersburg. He was the second reliever behind starter Camilo Pascual, whose 18-year major-league career began the following season.126

McKinnis’s 10 other games were all starts. His first appearance at home, on August 9 against the Lakeland Pilots, was astonishing. In the seven-inning first game of a doubleheader, he impressed 912 fans by working speedily and retiring the first 13 batters. That streak ended when an error gave Lakeland its first baserunner. McKinnis then walked a batter, and another in the sixth inning, but without further incident. With a 4-0 lead, McKinnis retired the first two hitters in the seventh and final inning. A curveball to Lakeland’s 24th batter resulted in a grounder that Tampa’s first baseman fielded without difficulty, but no Smoker got to the base in time for a putout. A fielder’s choice then ended it, and McKinnis had a one-hitter. What’s more, he started the doubleheader’s second game, following “a quick shower and rubdown,” as one local paper reported, and he hurled four more scoreless innings. He exited after giving up two runs in the top of the fifth, but Tampa eventually won, 3-2.127 

On August 21 McKinnis went the distance to earn his second win, at home against Key West, 7-2. Both runs resulted from miscues.128 McKinnis was the losing pitcher in a 4-1 contest on September 6 that concluded the Smokers’ regular season. He did not pitch in Tampa’s five playoff games after having compiled a 3-5 record with a 3.21 ERA for the season.129

Before the 1953 season, the Crawfords had hopes McKinnis would join them,130 but he remained with Tampa. On March 23 he reported for the opening of the Smokers’ training camp.131 On April 7 he started against Charleston of the Triple-A American Association. He yielded just one hit in five scoreless innings, and was the winning pitcher.132

McKinnis got his first start of the regular season in St. Petersburg on April 17. He hurled the Smokers to a 3-1 win, and that lone run was unearned.133 His next four decisions were losses, including one by a score of 2-0 on May 16.134 Shortly afterward, he simply quit due to an argument with his new manager, Ben Chapman, who managed the Phillies when Jackie Robinson was a rookie and infamously taunted him with racial slurs.135

On May 17 Chapman fined McKinnis $25 for missing that day’s game and other uncommunicated absenteeism. “I’ve tried to be fair and square with every man on the club and intend to continue with that practice,” Chapman said. “I expect every man to do his part and when he doesn’t or won’t then he is going to be fined or may even be traded. There is no room for prima donnas on the club.”136 A Tampa Daily Times reporter felt McKinnis got off “lightly,” to which an unnamed Smoker official replied, “McKinnis is the only lefthander on the club and the club has to have a lefthander.”137

On May 27 Tampa business manager Milton Karr asked the Florida International League to declare McKinnis ineligible. “We have tried everywhere to locate McKinnis,” Karr said. “We have tried to call him at his address in St. Petersburg, sent a representative to look for him and can’t find him.” According to stats in the Tampa Daily Times, McKinnis pitched 45 innings in 12 games and gave up 26 runs. If those were all earned, then his earned run average was 5.20. He gave up 52 hits and 22 walks, with 18 strikeouts.138

By May 21, Brandon manager Willie Wells resecured McKinnis, and he arrived three days later. He pitched well in a start on May 27 but ended up with no decision.139 On his 40th birthday, he came within one out of a shutout but still won, 5-2, while also contributing a single and a double.140 He compiled a record of 7-5 for Brandon and won two playoff games.141

On August 29 McKinnis started against Minot in a game that decided the regular season’s championship. Tensions increased in the top half of the eighth inning after Brandon’s first-base coach was ejected, but the Greys led, 4-2, going into Minot’s half. Minot had a runner on first base when the home-plate umpire called three straight balls on McKinnis. As McKinnis bolted toward the plate to argue, he misplayed his catcher’s return throw, and the runner advanced a base. McKinnis then threatened that ump, flung the ball over the grandstand, and was ejected, as was Wells moments later. McKinnis grabbed a bat and turned toward home, but teammates pushed him into the dressing room. Minot scored seven runs that inning and won, 9-4.142

McKinnis’s next start was in the playoffs, against Carman on September 7. He pitched a complete-game 6-1 victory, and the Greys advanced to the finals against Minot.143 McKinnis started the third game, which Brandon won after he was no longer the pitcher of record. He helped force a seventh game with a win in relief on September 15 before more than 3,500 Brandon fans, the season’s largest crowd. He entered the next day’s finale in the third inning, though after Minot was well on its way to victory and the championship.144

Not quite a month later, McKinnis applied for a marriage license in St. Petersburg. He married Naomi Doris Fluitt, who had attended J.R.E. Lee High School in Wildwood, about 100 miles northeast of St. Petersburg. Early the next year she joined an organization for new wives at Bethel Metropolitan Baptist Church and, in May, she was named young mother of the year.145

The newlyweds received hopeful news to start 1954 when the Tampa Smokers reinstated McKinnis around January 18. He was not among the 13 pitchers signed when spring training began on March 15, but he was in camp within a week. Still, the Times said he would “leave as soon as the club can make a deal for his sale.” In fact, his Sporting News index card indicates he was released on March 24.146

In early April, McKinnis struck out 17 Lacoochee Pirates for the St. Petersburg Tigers of Florida’s semipro West Coast Negro League to win a four-hitter, 4-2. Later that month, the Rochester Royals announced his return for a tryout.147 He reached Rochester on May 7 and played his first preseason game four days later.148 He added a complete-game win shortly before the regular season, but he was released toward the end of June with a record of 1-2 and an earned-run average of 6.72.149

Around Independence Day, McKinnis rejoined the Tigers. On July 18 he pitched very well in long relief for a West Coast all-star team. His record was 6-1 when he was selected to start a contest in mid-August between his league’s all-stars and counterparts from the Florida State Negro League. Coverage afterward was minimal.150

Gread McKinnis began his second and final stint in White Organized Baseball around April 22, 1955, when he joined the St. Petersburg Saints, a new franchise in the Class-D Florida State League. His signing may have resulted from a journalist’s criticism after the regular season began.151 “It is my impression that the Saints have already passed up a couple of fine prospects because they were Negroes,” wrote St. Petersburg Times sports editor Bill Beck on April 20. “The inclination here would be to pass up no prospects for any reason. Baseball fans are interested in players, not colors.”152

On April 23 McKinnis pitched a complete-game loss for the Saints in Gainesville. The score was 7-6, though three Gainesville runs were unearned.153 Three days later, he doubled twice to help defeat Lakeland, 7-4, and won the next day in relief. He was 2-2 within his first week.154

McKinnis started May with an impressive complete-game loss. At Daytona Beach, he allowed a run on two hits in the first inning, and the home team’s only other run resulted from two errors. He allowed just two more hits, but the Saints were shut out.155

On May 16 McKinnis won a starting assignment for the final time in his professional career, and he hurled a complete game. On May 20 he entered a game in the eighth inning with two outs, the bases loaded, and the tying run on first. His strikeout extinguished the threat, and he then pitched a scoreless ninth.156 McKinnis’s final two victories of his professional career were in relief on June 6 and 7, at home. In the first of those, the Saints scored the tying and game-ending runs on the same play.157

McKinnis’s final success for the Saints was in a loss at home on June 24, in front of 623 fans. He entered for the sixth inning, and struck out the first six Sanford batters he faced. The only run off him was after a two-base error.158

On July 2, the St. Petersburg Times noted that McKinnis had struggled recently, and was almost out of chances. He was clobbered during a short relief outing that very day, and roughed up at home on Independence Day. He was released the next day. McKinnis started seven of his 28 games, and only two Saints had pitched more innings. He finished at 5-8 with a 4.58 earned-run average.159 McKinnis rejoined St. Petersburg’s team in the West Coast Negro League, and compiled a record of 7-3 by October 9.160

In early 1956, Naomi joined the Merrymakers Federated Club, and little more than two months later, the City Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs named her chairwoman of its 1956 Coronation Ball.161 Gread’s professional baseball career did continue briefly in the first half of 1956, back in the ManDak League (without Manitoba teams that season). By early May he signed with the Minot Mallards. He pitched in a preseason game on May 19 and was the Opening Day starter on May 25. He faced six batters, retiring just one. His final game as a professional was in Williston on June 1. McKinnis yielded five earned runs in seven innings, though Minot was shut out.162 

It’s unknown whether McKinnis pitched later in 1956, but on March 23, 1957, he struck out 21 batters in a preseason game for the St. Petersburg Braves. A week later he struck out 16 batters and allowed just one hit in a six-inning relief outing. He relieved for the Braves in their Opening Day win on April 14, and a week later he was on the wrong end of a 2-0 game.163 After that, coverage of the team plummeted.

In early October, the Merrymakers reported that Naomi had moved to Chicago.164 Gread and Naomi raised children there and eventually welcomed grandchildren.165 In early 1969, Gread and Naomi were among 27 plaintiffs with the Contract Buyers League who sued 10 developers to undo a “Black tax” in home sales. In April 1970 they suffered retaliatory evictions. Gread was among 20 residents arrested, and Naomi was pictured in the Chicago Tribune examining belongings removed from their home. Gread accused authorities of beating and choking him, causing him to miss work more than a week. The US Justice Department opened an investigation.166 The League won the war, if not that battle.167

Gread McKinnis died in Chicago on March 4, 1991. His grave is in suburban Dolton. In 2005 the Gread “Lefty” McKinnis Memorial Foundation was established to award a $1,000 scholarship annually to a male African American high school senior in Chicago.168

In 2009, at the age of 76, Naomi received an award from the Illinois Department on Aging for her work at Chicago’s Atlas Senior Center and volunteerism for a food pantry at St. Ailbe Catholic Church.169 As a baseball player, Gread McKinnis did not let age slow him down much. Clearly, his wife didn’t let age hinder her, either.



Unless otherwise indicated, NAL statistics through 1945 are from, while all statistics after 1945 are from



1 Wendell Smith, “’Smitty’s Sports Spurts,” Pittsburgh Courier, July 10, 1943: 18. See also

2 Gread was presumably the second-to-last of the 12 McKinnis children listed in the 1920 census, though his name looks more like Gladys. His death record indicated his birthplace was in Bullock County and an airline passenger list in 1949 specified the county seat, Union Springs, not Union Church. As of this writing, some websites list his birthplace as Union in Greene County, Alabama, but that is located near Mississippi and thus not in the eastern half of Alabama. Some genealogical sources identify his mother’s maiden name as Vaughn(s) but others show it as Barnes.

3 “No Garden, No Money, Says Alabama Judge,” Pittsburgh Courier, October 14, 1933: 5.

4 Tourism Council of Bullock County, “Bullock County’s African American Heritage: Their Southern Legacy,” pamphlet excerpt available at

5 “Successful Impeachment,” The Freeman (Indianapolis), June 3, 1911: 7. The Freeman noted that Dr. Booker T. Washington had condemned the sheriff in the Montgomery Times earlier that week.

6 See Note 4, and

7 Dr. Booker T. Washington, “Defending the Negro,” Washington Bee, January 14, 1911: 1. Dr. Washington had delivered “an Emancipation address at Union Springs,” the Bullock County seat, on New Year’s Day.

8 Negro Southern League Museum, “American Cast Iron and Pipe (ACIPCO),” pages 11 and 12, available at The 1940 roster also included “future Negro League players” Lorenzo “Piper” Davis, William Powell, Ed Steele, and Artie Wilson.

9 McKinnis wasn’t among rookies mentioned in these reports: “Black Baron Outfit at Shreveport Camp for Month’s Practice,” Birmingham News, April 6, 1941: 22. “Black Barons to Battle Black Yankees in First Home Tilt of Season,” Birmingham News, April 20, 1941: 21. “Black Barons to Open ’41 Season With Knasas [sic] City,” Weekly Review (Birmingham), May 9, 1941: 7. “Negro American Loop Season Will Open at Rickwood Park Sunday,” Birmingham News, May 11, 1941: 19.

10 “Black Barons Take Double-Header From Jax Red Caps, 7-2, 6-5,” Birmingham News, May 26, 1941: 12. The paper referred to him as a “new Black Baron twirler,” possibly implying he had in fact just been signed.

11 “Baseball,” Weekly Review, June 13, 1941: 7.

12 “Black Barons Capture First Game, 4 to 3, But Lose Second, 4-0,” Birmingham News, June 30, 1941: 16.

13 H.J. Williams, “Barons Win Double Bill,” Weekly Review, August 29, 1941: 7.

14 “Black Barons Win by a 5 to 0 Score from Monarchs,” Oshkosh (Wisconsin) Northwestern, September 12, 1941: 17. “Black Barons Defeat Kansas City, 5-0,” Birmingham News, September 12, 1941: 40. Satchel Paige pitched the final two innings for the Monarchs, though “with an underarm throw,” according to the Northwestern, which printed a detailed article and a full box score.

15 “Speaking in General about Baseball,” Atlanta Daily World, April 21, 1942: 5. He had an 11-inning, complete-game loss, according to “Buckeyes Trim Birmingham, 3-2,” Chicago Defender, May 6, 1942: 20.

16 “Black Barons and Red Caps Split, 9-2, 6-3,” Birmingham News, May 11, 1942: 13.

17 “K.C. Out Muds Barons,” Arkansas State Press (Little Rock), June 5, 1942: 7. “Monarchs Go to Top,” Kansas City Times, June 1, 1942: 12.

18 “Black Barons Divide Couple with Monarchs,” Birmingham News, June 8, 1942: 17.

19 “Black Barons Win Double Bill From Memphis, 2-1, 7-4,” Birmingham News, June 29, 1942: 14.

20 “Black Barons Take Second Game, 2 to 1, in Hurling Match,” Birmingham News, July 6, 1942: 15.

21 Peter Gorton and Steven R. Hoffbeck, “John Donaldson and Black Baseball in Minnesota,” The National Pastime, Spring 2012: 121. See

22 Norm King, “Abe Saperstein,”

23 “Twin City Negroes Divide Double Bill,” Minneapolis Morning Tribune, July 13, 1942: 6. “Gophers Defeat Brown Bombers; Lose to Clowns,” Chicago Defender, July 18, 1942: 21. While in Minnesota he reportedly also hurled a one-hitter against St. Paul’s Lexington Park club (unless this bifurcated somewhat inaccurate details of the July 12 game), and on July 12 struck out 18 Chicago Brown Bombers, according to “Autos Expect Stiff Tussle with Giants,” Herald-Press (St. Joseph, Michigan), August 18, 1942: 11.

24 “Black Barons Get Split with Memphis Red Sox Sunday,” Birmingham News, July 20, 1942: 15. “Barons Beat Cubans on McGinnis’ [sic] Hurling,” Nashville Banner, July 23, 1943: 20. 

25 “Autos Face New York’s Lincoln Giants Under Arcs Tonight,” News-Palladium (Benton Harbor, Michigan), August 19, 1942: 6. McKinnis’s name wasn’t in the box score the next day, nor in the Enquirer’s box score on July 23. On August 20 the Lincoln Giants and the Black Barons split a doubleheader at Milwaukee’s Borchert Field but McKinnis didn’t play for either team in either game, according to box scores under the headline “Negro Teams Split Two Games Here,” Milwaukee Journal, August 21, 1942: 11. 

26 “Trophy to Be Presented,” Cincinnati Enquirer, August 31, 1942: 16. “Black Barons, Monarchs Win Negro Games,” Chicago Tribune, September 7, 1942: 27. See also “Clownagrams,” Weekly Review, September 5, 1942: 7. The latter said McKinnis “was the second pitcher called on by the West in the Negro all-star classic before 48,000 fans at Comiskey Park in Chicago, August 16,” but that is incorrect.

27 “Monarchs Trounce Grays for 3-0 Edge in Series,” Afro-American (Baltimore), September 15, 1942: 19. Fay Young, “Through the Years,” Chicago Defender, September 19, 1942: 23. The former said the attendance was 30,000, but a total of 20,000 was reported in “Paige Ousted, but Beats Grays, 9-3,” New York Daily News, September 14, 1942: 43. Splitting the difference with a figure of 25,000 was “Monarchs 3 Up in Negro Series,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, September 14, 1942: 9. The Chicago Defender’s summary of the game instead reported that he limited the Grays to two hits, but the Afro-American’s box score showed them with three, all singles.

28 “Ed Steele in Heated 8-1 Victory for Black Barons,” Atlanta Daily World, September 22, 1942: 5. This article called Birmingham’s opponents the New York Cuban Stars.

29 “Black Barons Open Sunday with Memphis,” Weekly Review, April 3, 1943: 7. “Negro Nines Here for Three Games,” Times-Picayune (New Orleans), April 22, 1943: 1. “Monarchs Win Double Bill from Black Barons,” New Orleans States, April 26, 1943: 10.

30 “Black Barons Tangle with Kansas City In ‘Satchel Paige Day,’” Birmingham News, April 25, 1943: 19. “Black Barons Take Double-Header From Kansas City Team,” Birmingham News, May 3, 1943: 14. “Yak” Collins, “Rambling Round the Realm of Sports,” Weekly Review, May 8, 1943: 7.

31 “Black Barons Open Season with Wins Over Sox, 6-2, 10-1,” Birmingham News, May 31, 1943: 12.

32 “Black Barons Hand Ethiopian Clowns Pair of Losses, 13-0, 2-1,” Birmingham News, June 7, 1943: 18. “Birmingham Black Barons Win Twinbill from Cincinnati Clowns, 13-0 and 2-1,” Atlanta Daily World, June 8, 1943: 5.

33 “Black Barons Edge New York Cubans, 2-1,” Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch, June 24, 1943: 17.

34 “Black Barons Halve Double-Header With Giants, 5-1 and 3-7,” Birmingham News, July 5, 1943: 28. The News didn’t mention the attendance, but it was “record-breaking,” according to R.S. Simmons, “American Giants and Black Barons Split,” Atlanta Daily World, July 5, 1943: 5. Simmons didn’t offer an estimate.

35 “Pitchers Star as West Beats East in Thriller,” Pittsburgh Courier, August 7, 1943: 19. McKinnis’s strikeout was reported about a year later in “How This Year’s Pitchers Performed in Past Classics,” Pittsburgh Courier, August 12, 1944: 12.

36 “11,786 Watch Paige Pitch, Stars Lose, 5-1,” Philadelphia Inquirer, August 5, 1943: 23. “Negro Star’s No Hit, No Run Streak Ends,” Sacramento Bee, August 5, 1943: 22. “Jolted by Monarchs, Grays Await Cubans,” Washington Evening Star, August 11, 1943: A17. McKinnis may have won for the Monarchs against the Grays a second time, as implied in “Grays Primed for Series with Birmingham Barons,” Pittsburgh Courier, September 4, 1943: 19.

37 “Barons Win Double,” Cincinnati Enquirer, August 19, 1943: 18. “Buckeyes Win, 5-4, After 3-1 Loss in Opener,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, August 30, 1943: 17.

38 “Black Barons Drop Opener to Giants,” Birmingham News, September 14, 1943: 17. McKinnis didn’t pitch a complete game, so it’s unclear whether he was actually the losing pitcher. The first game of the series was supposed to be at Comiskey Park on September 12, but the weather didn’t cooperate.

39 “Homestead Grays Beat Barons 9-0,” Chicago Sun, September 27, 1943: 17. “Grays Take Series Lead as Wright Clips Barons,” Washington Evening Star, September 27, 1943: 21. “Washington Grays Take Lead in Negro Series,” Baltimore Sun, September 27, 1943: 14. The latter two papers both used Associated Press accounts, but they disagreed on whether McKinnis pitched four or five innings and thus also on whether the six-run inning off Huber was in the fifth or the sixth inning. Regardless, as of this writing the six runs Huber gave up appear to have been charged to McKinnis on the Seamheads website.

40 “Grays Take 3-2 Lead over Barons; Win, 8-0,” Birmingham News, September 30, 1943: 21.

41 “Washington Trims Birmingham to Capture Negro Baseball Title,” Montgomery (Alabama) Advertiser, October 6, 1943: 8. One of the eight games early in the series was a tie. It’s unclear what the score was when McKinnis relieved late in the game, though it seems likely the Grays had already scored at least six of their eight runs.

42 “American Giants Get M’Kinnis, Turner,” Chicago Sun, May 9, 1944: 17. “Caught on the Fly,” The Sporting News, May 18, 1944: 30. After the trade, “McKinnis left without notice for his home in Birmingham,” according to “Jim Taylor Signs as Manager of Am. Giants,” Chicago Defender, January 13, 1945: 7. However, that doesn’t appear to have been correct, at least not for very long. For an example of McKinnis’s preseason work, see “Birmingham Trims Bucks,” Chicago Defender, April 15, 1944: 9.

43 “Memphis and Chicago Split,” Chicago Defender, May 20, 1944: 9. “Chicago Negro Giants Divide with Memphis,” Chicago Tribune, May 15, 1944: 22. The American Giants and the Black Barons were scheduled to play on May 9 but that game was rained out. They did play the next day but McKinnis didn’t pitch. He also didn’t pitch in Chicago’s game against the Clowns on May 12.

44 “Paige Beats Dizzy Dean on Mound,” Newark (Ohio) Advocate and American Tribune, June 8, 1944: 14.

45 “Chicago Splits with Cleveland,” Chicago Defender, June 24, 1944: 9. The lower attendance estimate of 10,000 was stated in “Chicago, Cleveland Divide in Negro Double Header,” Chicago Tribune, June 19, 1944: 16.

46 “American Giants Split with Memphis,” Chicago Sun, July 5, 1944: 13. “Giants Lose to Monarchs, 3-1, Then Beat Paige, 2-0,” Chicago Tribune, July 10, 1944: 17. “McKinnis Seeks 3d,” Chicago Daily Times, July 13, 1944: 29.

47 “Black Barons Play Giants Here Again Tonight,” Montgomery Advertiser, August 1, 1944: 6. “Managers Name 50 Players for East-West Classic,” Pittsburgh Courier, August 5, 1944: 12. McKinnis’s NAL record through July 29 was reported in “How This Year’s Pitchers Performed in Past Classics,” Pittsburgh Courier, August 12, 1944: 12.

48 “26,689 See Satch Win,” Detroit Times, August 7, 1944: 13.

49 “McKinis [sic] Hurls No-Hitter as Chicago Wins Twice,” Indianapolis Star, August 11, 1944: 16. Based on this article’s pair of line scores, each game of this doubleheader was limited to seven innings. See also “Negro American League Lead August 16th,” Weekly Review, August 26, 1944: 7.

50 Bob Tatar, “West Whips East in Negro Classic,” Chicago Sun, August 14, 1944: 13. Wendell Smith, “West Bombs East in ‘Dream Game,’ 7 to 4,” Pittsburgh Courier, August 19, 1944: 12.

51 This was Greenlee’s second Crawfords club. The original’s final season in Pittsburgh was in 1938, when he sold the franchise and it relocated to Toledo for 1939 and then to Indianapolis for 1940, before folding.

52 Fay Young, “Through the Years,” Chicago Defender, August 26, 1944: 7. “Gus Greenlee Signs Four Stars at Classic,” Philadelphia Tribune, August 26, 1944: 13. See also Greenlee’s biography by Brian McKenna at

53 “Chicago American Giants Hope to Crack Cleveland Buckeyes Here Tomorrow Night,” South Bend Tribune, August 29, 1944: 10. “Pittsburgh Here Tonight to Meet Globetrotters,” Dayton (Ohio) Herald, September 1, 1944: 19. Greenlee was an organizer of the first East-West game, but his revived Crawfords club wasn’t being received warmly by the NAL and NNL in mid-1944.

54 “St. Louis Plays Pitt Twice Here Sunday,” Knoxville News-Sentinel, September 15, 1944: 10.

55 “Clowns Top Crax, 9-4, Play to Scoreless Tie,” Birmingham News, October 2, 1944: 14. However, a few days later the scheduled starting pitcher for the Black Crackers was the recently acquired Junior McFarland, according to “Black Crackers Play Negro Yanks Friday,” Atlanta Constitution, October 5, 1944: 10. It’s conceivable that someone in Birmingham confused McFarland and McKinnis.

56 “Rookies Star in Crawford Training Camp Sessions,” Pittsburgh Courier, April 21, 1945: 17. “Crawford Sign Three Holdouts,” Chicago Defender, April 21, 1945: 7.

57 “Large Crowd Expected to Attend Tiff Today,” Knoxville Journal, April 22, 1945: 11. “Baltimore Giants Play Knox Grays Tomorrow,” Knoxville News-Sentinel, April 23, 1945: 8.

58 “Cleveland Buckeyes and Chicago Giants Play Here Tonight,” Montgomery Advertiser, May 1, 1945: 6. “Negro League Baseball Opens Season Sunday,” Dayton Herald, May 9, 1945: 16.

59 “Negro Teams to Battle Tonight,” Daily Mail (Hagerstown, Maryland), May 17, 1945: 14. “Cuban Hurls Crawfords to Victory Over Philadelphia,” Pittsburgh Courier, June 2, 1945: 17. The latter attributed his absence from the Craws to “sweating it out with his draft board.” The earlier article was a preview of a game between the Brooklyn Brown Dodgers and the Crawfords. “Lefty McGinnis” was identified as one of the Crawfords’ pitchers.

60 “Grays Show Pennant Class in Winning Double Bill,” Washington Evening Star, April 30, 1945: 10. “Grays Return in Good Shape for First Game,” Knoxville Journal, May 4, 1945: 17. McKinnis gave up six hits in the game.

61 “Knox Grays Defeated by Black Crackers,” Knoxville Journal, May 7, 1945: 9.

62 “Grays Defeat Crackers, 6-0, in 4th Game,” Knoxville Journal, May 9, 1945: 18. J.C. Chunn, “Nashville Black Vols Will Open Southern Here Sunday,” Atlanta Daily World, May 11, 1945: 5. Chunn said the score of the game was 3-0, not 6-0.

63 Albert G. Barnett, “Chandler Doesn’t Believe in Barring Negro Players,” Chicago Defender, May 12, 1945: 8. This was an interview with professional baseball’s new commissioner, Happy Chandler. Barnett asked, “Don’t you think, that in all fairness, due recognition should be given players of the caliber of Satchel Paige and Lefty McKinnis, pitchers; Archie Ware, Buck Leonard and other ace first basemen and Josh Gibson, catcher, whose hitting ability has won him the nickname, ‘the Negro Babe Ruth?’” Chandler quickly and convincingly answered in the affirmative.

64 “Black Pels and Knoxville Card Two Tilts Tuesday,” Times-Picayune (New Orleans), May 14, 1945: 12. “Southern League Getting Warmer,” New York Amsterdam News, May 26, 1945: 8B. In other weeklies, the latter was credited to J.C. Chunn (see Note 74). Through Saturday, May 19, McKinnis had a record of 3-1, according to “Grays Return Home After Trouncing Mobile Bears,” Knoxville Journal, May 20, 1945: 11. That record is consistent with his having won a game in New Orleans.

65 William J. Plott, The Negro Southern League: A Baseball History, 1920—1951 (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2015), 149, 202.

66 J.C. Chunn, “Negro Southern Leagues Are Fighting,” Weekly Review, May 26, 1945: 7. This was the same content as in the New York Amsterdam News on the same date (see Note 72), but added were scores of 16 NSL games (without dates or locations) and the circuit’s standings through May 19, which confirmed Chunn’s comment that the Pelicans were undefeated until the Grays beat them twice.

67 “Knoxville Grays Face Bears in Double Bill,” Knoxville Journal, May 27, 1945: 13. “Knoxville Grays Beat Bears, 8-2; Tie Second, 1 to 1,” Knoxville Journal, May 28, 1945: 7. League standings published in the Journal on June 3 and 10 didn’t jibe. The earlier standings showed the Grays in first place, with a record of 9-5, but a week later they were 6-7. The June 10 standings were accompanied by batting and pitching stats, the latter showing McKinnis’s record as just 3-2. 

68 “McKinnis to Giants,” Chicago Daily Times, June 6, 1945: 42. “Only 900 See Games in Chicago,” Pittsburgh Courier, June 9, 1945: 16. “Memphis and Chicago Divide Doubleheader,” Chicago Defender, June 9, 1945: 7.

69 “American Giants Beat Birmingham,” Milwaukee Journal, June 12, 1945: 7. “Giants’ Rally Bests Clowns,” Dayton (Ohio) Journal, July 3, 1945: 9.

70 “Am. Giants Win Three from Memphis Red Sox,” Chicago Defender, July 21, 1945: 7.

71 C.W. “Bub” Martin, “Mathis Handcuffs Memphis Red Sox as American Giants Win, 5 to 0,” Racine (Wisconsin) Journal Times, July 19, 1945: 18. The headline was supposed to name McKinnis, not Memphis pitcher Verdell Mathis, but Martin reversed the two in each of the first two sentences. McKinnis helped his own cause by starting a three-run rally in the seventh inning with a triple.

72 “Hurlers Duel to Deadlock,” Dayton Herald, July 21, 1945: 6. “13 Inning Tie Game,” Chicago Defender, July 28, 1945: 7. “Chicago Giants Win Two from Barons, 8-2, 3-2,” Chicago Tribune, July 23, 1945: 18. “Chicago Wins 2 from Barons,” Chicago Defender, July 28, 1945: 7. The Tribune’s line score showed the Barons with six hits, but the Defender’s showed them with five.

73 “How This Year’s Pitchers Performed in Past Classics,” Pittsburgh Courier, July 28, 1945: 12.

74 “Scalpers Take Good Beating,” Chicago Defender, August 4, 1945: 7.

75 “Brown of Grays Joins Perfect Game Clan,” Washington Evening Star, August 13, 1945: A8. “Ray Brown Hurls Perfect Game as Grays Divide,” Afro-American (Baltimore), August 18, 1945: 25.

76 “American Giants Win 2 over Monarchs, 15-0, 2-1,” Chicago Tribune, August 27, 1945: 20. “Chicago Wins 2 From Kansas City to Move Into 2nd Place,” Chicago Defender, September 1, 1945: 7. In a preview, one Chicago paper printed uniform numbers for both teams, and McKinnis’s was 18. See just above the headline of “American Giants to Play Monarchs,” Chicago Times, August 24, 1945: 25.

77 “Satchel Paige’s Succession-Baronite,” Weekly Review, September 29, 1945: 7. “American Giants Start Long Trip to Dixie Towns,” Chicago Defender, September 22, 1945: 7. “Royals, Barons Meet Tonight,” Los Angeles Times, October 31, 1945: 21. As of this writing, after his rookie season, shows McKinnis with losing records through 1945, for a total of 9-22 across those four seasons. However, despite valiant efforts, Seamheads has been hamstrung by a lack of box scores for many games, and 1943 provides a good illustration. Seamheads shows McKinnis’s Barons with winning records of 46-35-2 in NAL play and 60-49-2 overall, yet is also shows the pitching staff with a losing record of 18-24.

78 “Chicago Loses Two Games to Red Sox,” Chicago Defender, April 13, 1946: 10.

79 “Chicago Giants Lose Three to Mexican League,” Chicago Tribune, April 18, 1946: 31. “3 More Ex-Giants in Mexican Loop,” Reno Evening Gazette, April 24, 1946: 14. “La Junta Beats Monterrey 5-1,” Laredo Times, May 3, 1946: 9. McKinnis was one of four Monterrey hurlers but, as the starter, was the losing pitcher. As of this writing, both and don’t have McKinnis on Monterrey’s roster but they instead list a George McGinnis about whom they lack such basic details as birth date.

80 “Monterrey Keeps Leadership in Mexican League,” Laredo Times, May 6, 1946: 7.

81 Gene Kessler,” Lyons Goes to Work,” Chicago Daily Times, May 25, 1946: 29.

82 Brent Kelley, Voices from the Negro Leagues: Conversations with 52 Baseball Standouts of the Period 1924-1960 (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2005), 77.

83 “Ex-Major Leaguers, Tan Stars Teammates in Mexico,” Afro-American, July 20, 1946: 27.

84 “Autos Defeat Bombers, 6 to 2, Play Black Barons Here Friday,” News-Palladium (Benton Harbor, Michigan), June 6, 1946: 16. “92-Game Slate Is Adopted by USL,” Afro-American, May 11, 1946: 14.

85 “Braves Trim Truckers in Eighth Inning Rally,” Manitowoc (Wisconsin) Herald Times, June 10, 1946: 7. Leslie A. Heaphy, Black Baseball and Chicago: Essays on the Players, Teams and Games of the Negro Leagues’ Most Important City (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2006), 37.

86 Armand Peterson and Tom Tomashek, Town Ball: The Glory Days of Minnesota Amateur Baseball (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2006), 276. According to, in 1946 the real Al Saylor was with the Seattle Steelheads of the West Coast Baseball League.

87 Howard Brantz, “A Sporting Glance,” Winona (Minnesota) Republican-Herald, August 27, 1946: 11. During the intervening month, a preview of a game between the American Giants and the Black Barons scheduled for August 6 in Anniston, Alabama, mentioned McKinnis, though that could have been a result of information held over from the preseason or even the prior year; in fact, in the first sentence the article mentioned “1945” instead of 1946. See “Black Barons Face Giants Here Tomorrow,” Anniston Star, August 5, 1946: 8. There was no coverage of the game in that paper the day after the game.

88 “Sport Scraps,” Albert Lea (Minnesota) Evening Tribune, August 31, 1946: 8. Frank M. White, They Played for the Love of the Game (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2016), 57. “Saylor Not Barred Because of Color,” Albert Lea Evening Tribune, September 3, 1946: 12. The box score for Zumbrota’s painful loss to Albert Lea was printed to the left of the latter article.

89 “Paige May Forego [sic] Trip Here,” Honolulu Advertiser, September 17, 1946: 13.

90 “Negro All-Star Nine Hits Town for Stadium Games,” Honolulu Star-Bulletin, September 21, 1946: 11. Dick Klenhard, “Two Homers Aid Crescents in 8-3 Win Over Braves,” Honolulu Star-Bulletin, September 23, 1946: 12. Among the Braves were catcher Charles Luis, who had a batting average of .311 in the New York Yankees’ farm system in 1948, and Sal Recca, a five-year Yankees farmhand. Several other Braves had at least a year in the White minor leagues around that time.

91 “Raimondi Stars Beat Cincy 5-4,” San Francisco Chronicle, October 18, 1946: 13. See also “Stars, Crescents Split Double Bill,” San Francisco Examiner, October 28, 1946: 18.

92 Peterson and Tomashek, 277.

93 George Lyle Jr., “League Moguls Lift Ban on 2 Players,” Afro-American, June 17, 1947: 19. His name appeared in this article as “Preed McGinnis.” See also Doron Goldman, “1933-1962: The Business Meetings of Negro League Baseball,” at

94 “Chicago Giants Defeat Kansas City Nine, 2 to 1,” Chicago Tribune, July 25, 1947: 25. An example of his being mentioned shortly thereafter is “McKinnies [sic] to Hurl for Chicago Giants,” Chicago Sun, July 31, 1947: 15. However, he was not listed in the battery in the next day’s Tribune. Similarly, see “Black Yanks, Giants Play 2 Games Today,” Chicago Tribune, August 3, 1947: 37.

95 “Rochester Beats Wells, 3 to 0; McKinnis Hurls One-Hit Ball,” Albert Lea Evening Tribune, September 8, 1947: 7. The lone single was a bunt.

96 “Hurling Is Key at State Meet,” St. Cloud (Minnesota) Daily Times, September 16, 1947: 12. “Governor’s Cup Goes to McKinnis, Rochester Ace,” Winona Republican-Herald, September 24, 1947: 16. White (see Note 98), 102.

97 Ted Peterson, “Rochester, Chaska Win, March to State Baseball Meet Finals,” Minneapolis Sunday Tribune, September 21, 1947: 33. Ted Peterson, “Record 7,715 Fans See Albert Lea, Chaska Win,” Minneapolis Morning Tribune, September 22, 1947: 18. On the latter page, see also “McKinnis Is Most Valuable; Manderfeld Leading Hitter.” His homer on September 20 was off a Stan Stevenson, quite possibly the Minnesota native by that name who had two minor-league games in 1941 with La Crosse in the Wisconsin State League.

98 Peterson and Tomashek, 277.

99 Joe Hendrickson, “Amateur, You Say?” Minneapolis Morning Tribune, February 13, 1948: 20. “Sports Scraps,” Albert Lea Evening Tribune, February 14, 1948: 8. In the first article, Ben Sternberg’s brother Mike said other towns tempted McKinnis with incredible amounts, an indication they were more semipro than amateur.

100 Joel W. Smith, “Black Crax Win Over All Stars, 7-5,” Atlanta Daily World, April 13, 1948: 5.

101 “Errors Help Rollingstone Tip Merchants,” Winona Republican-Herald, June 7, 1948: 12.

102 “Indians Play Colored Nine 4:30 Thursday,” Ironwood (Michigan) Daily Globe, June 9, 1948: 6.

103 “South Bend in Sunday Clash,” Lafayette (Indiana) Journal and Courier, June 25, 1948: 12. “Studebaker Locals Gunning for Ninth Exhibition Win,” South Bend Tribune, July 15, 1948: Section 2, 3. “Red Sox Drop Two Contests; Lafayette, South Bend Cop,” Kenosha (Wisconsin) Evening News, August 9, 1948: 22. Bob Towner, “Saints Bow to Automen by 11-2 Score,” South Bend Tribune, August 27, 1948: Section 3, 1. McKinnis’s desire to moonlight was understandable. He didn’t pitch in Rochester’s game on July 11, and a week later the team had played only its sixth Bi-State game.

104 Peterson and Tomashek, 277. “Merchants Beaten by Rochester Queens, 9 to 3,” Winona Republican-Herald, September 3, 1948: 14. “Rochester and Belle Plaine Win Crowns,” Albert Lea Evening Tribune, September 9, 1948: 10. Winona played the first game under protest because it believed Rochester had four outside players, two more than rules allowed. Reports of the second game credited him with 20 K’s, not 19, but about a year later a sportswriter noted that among the 20 was a foul bunt after two strikes. AL rules credited that to the pitcher as a strikeout but NL rules didn’t, and the state tourney used the latter. See Augie Karcher, “Behind the Eight Ball,” Winona Republican-Herald, August 17, 1949: 13.

105 Joe Soucheray, untitled column, Minneapolis Tribune, June 19, 1977: 2C.

106 “Rain Halts Memphis Opener with Chicago,” Chicago Defender, May 7, 1949: 14.

107 “Steele Top NAL Batter With .402,” Chicago Defender, June 11, 1949: 16. For additional NAL stats of his, see “Carl Mays Regains NAL Batting Lead With .413,” Chicago Defender, June 18, 1949: 16, and “Hot Off Baseball Griddle,” Plain Dealer (Kansas City, Kansas), June 24, 1949: 4.

108 “Hot Off Baseball Griddle,” Plain Dealer (Kansas City, Kansas), July 15, 1949: 4. “Monarchs Take Lead in Hitting,” Chicago Defender, July 30, 1949: 16. “Three Giants Named to West All-Star Squad,” St. Petersburg (Florida) Times, July 21, 1949: 4.

109 Edward Prell, “Eastern Negro Stars Defeat West Team, 4-0,” Chicago Tribune, August 15, 1949: Part 3, 1, 4. Wendell Smith, “Chandler Sees East Cop Negro All-Star Game,” The Sporting News, August 24, 1949: 21. The latter had the lower attendance estimate.

110 “Chicago Giants Edge Cleveland in 11 Innings,” Post-Bulletin (Rochester, Minnesota), September 1, 1949: 20.

111 “Lenny Pigg Officially Designated as Champion Batter In the NAL,” Chicago Defender, December 24, 1949: 14. By contrast, during the first week of September his record was 14-5, according to “Ware Is Pacing Buckeyes At Bat With .329 Mark,” Dayton Daily News, September 8, 1949: 19.

112 Art Carter, “Old Satch Plagued by Stomach Trouble,” Afro-American, October 1, 1949: 25. See also “N.Y. Stars Ahead in Latin Series,” Afro-American, October 15, 1949: 29. The latter article reported partial won-lost records: Stars 5-2, Puerto Rico 4-2, Cuba 5-3, and Venezuela 0-6 (which add up to 14-13, so it was off by one). For the full roster of the New York Stars, see the Center for Negro Leagues Baseball Research, “Rosters of Barnstorming and Independent Black Baseball Teams (1946-1988),” page 22, at According to one of the manifests, McKinnis’s passport was issued on August 8, 1949.

113 Augie Karcher, “Behind the Eight Ball,” Winona Republican-Herald, March 2, 1950: 20.

114 Bud Burns, “Touchin’ ’em All,” Albert Lea Evening Tribune, April 6, 1950: 12. For more information about Smith, see Frederick C. Bush’s biography of Mathis, at, includes a paragraph about Rochester and McKinnis.

115 “Chiefs Open S-M Play Sunday Against Waseca,” Winona Republican-Herald, May 12, 1950: 18. “Rain Washes Out Packer-Faribault Game in Second Inning,” Albert Lea Evening Tribune, June 9, 1950: 7. Due to Smith’s extended sore arm, the four African-American pitchers weren’t necessarily all active simultaneously; see Augie Karcher, “Behind the Eight Ball,” Winona Republican-Herald, July 1, 1950: 10.

116 “McKinnis Injured,” Winona Republican-Herald, July 6, 1950: 15.

117 Bud Burns, “Touchin’ ’em All,” Albert Lea Evening Tribune, July 10, 1950: 10. “Bartkowski Leads Austin to Victory,” Albert Lea Evening Tribune, July 26, 1950: 9. “Lindgren Cops S-M Bat Title with .392 Mark,” Winona Republican-Herald, August 29, 1950: 23.

118 “Black Barons Impressive in Chicago Split,” Birmingham News, April 23, 1951: 25. He was presumably the “McGinnis” in the battery listed beneath one of the doubleheader’s line scores. It was clear by the end of March that McKinnis wouldn’t continue with Rochester, according to “Player Changes Numerous as S-M Campaign Nears,” Austin (Minnesota) Daily Herald, March 31, 1951: 5.

119 “New Orleans Eagles Earn Even Break Against Giants,” Times-Picayune, May 15, 1951: 21. “Black Barons Trip Giants,” Chattanooga Daily Times, May 24, 1951: 18. In the former he was “Gerald” McKinnis, and in the latter he was presumably the Giants’ third pitcher in the box score, “McGnnis.”

120 The primary source for this information is, part of a website created by Jay-Dell Mah, a SABR member who is in the Saskatchewan Baseball Hall of Fame. See also “Buffs and Carman Score Mandak Wins,” Leader-Post (Regina, Saskatchewan), July 19, 1951: 19.

121 See and the statistics provided at

122 “Dominican Season Opens,” The Sporting News, May 7, 1952: 39. The regular season began on April 26.

123 Bienvenido Rojas, “1952, Refuerzos Ganaron los Lideratos Ofensivos,” Diario Libre (Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic), September 1, 2015: 35.

124 “Brandon Hires New Ball Boss,” Regina Leader-Post, July 2, 1952: 19. As of this writing, he isn’t mentioned among the plentiful ManDak game reports provided at However, there are a few games for which the pitchers remain unknown. His Intercounty League game is mentioned at

125 “Smokers Return to Plant Field to Meet Saints Tonight,” Tampa Daily Times, August 1, 1952: 13. “Smokers Drop Murphy, Hire Quebec Lefty,” Palm Beach Post, August 2, 1952: 7. His index card maintained by The Sporting News identified August 1 as his first day with Tampa. The club was not in any major-league team’s farm system

126 Byron Hollingsworth, “Saints Lick Smokers by 9-2 Score,” Tampa Morning Tribune, August 2, 1952: 11, 13.

127 Bob Hudson, “McKinnis Tops Pilots on One Hit,” Tampa Sunday Tribune, August 10, 1952: Section B, 1.

128 “FIL Roundup,” Palm Beach Post, August 14, 1952: 12. “Pilots Beat Smokers by 3-2 Score,” Tampa Morning Tribune, August 18, 1952: 13, 15. “Smokers Win Second Straight from Key West, 7 to 2,” Tampa Morning Tribune, August 22, 1952: 2-B.

129 His ERA is from As of this writing, that site’s web page for McKinnis shows him having given up 70 hits and 40 walks in 73 innings, and no figure is shown in the strikeouts column. By contrast, he pitched 77⅔ innings, had 41 walks, and 36 strikeouts, according to “Smoker Data,” Tampa Daily Times, September 8, 1952: 10. Conversely, his total innings were 73, as shown by, but with 35 strikeouts and just 37 hits, according to “Pitching Records,” Tampa Morning Tribune, September 14, 1952: 35.

130 “Pitt Crawford Opener with House of David,” Philadelphia Tribune, March 31, 1953: 10. The concluding sentence: “The Crawfords have lost the services of Lefty McKinnis to the Tampa Smokers, a class A club, and have signed Ray Moore who was with the Indianapolis Clowns to replace him.” This Pittsburgh Crawfords team was a revival of the name under player-manager Sy Morton, with no apparent involvement of Greenlee or connection to his second Crawfords franchise of 1944-1946. 

131 “17 Players Report to Smokers,” Tampa Morning Tribune, March 24, 1953: 15.

132 Bobby Hicks, “Smokers Post 6-3 Win Over Senators,” Tampa Morning Tribune, April 8, 1953: 19.

133 Bobby Hicks, “Smokers Win No. 2 from Saints, 3-1,” Tampa Morning Tribune, April 18, 1953: 13.

134 “Saints Top Smokers by 2-0 Margin,” Tampa Sunday Tribune, May 17, 1953: B-1, 6-B.

135 Among many other places, the Robinson incident is covered at length in Bill Nowlin’s SABR biography of Chapman, at It’s possible no journalist even hinted at McKinnis’s reason for leaving around that time, but see Bill Beck, “Saints Bow 7-6 as Rally Fails; Drop 3 Players,” St. Petersburg Times, April 23, 1955: 12.

136 “McKinnis Fined $25,” Tampa Morning Tribune, May 18, 1953: 15.

137 Wilbur Kinley, “Sport-Rays,” Tampa Daily Times, May 20, 1953: 13.

138 “Smoker Data,” Tampa Daily Times, May 22, 1953: 13. The Times tended to print stats with a bit more detail than the Tribune.  As of this writing, his baseball-reference entry with Tampa for 1953 only has his record of 1-4, and 13 games played, not 12. Official league stats published in December supposedly included all pitchers with at least 45 innings yet McKinnis was omitted. For example, see “Official FIL Averages Bring Few Surprises,” St. Petersburg Times, December 13, 1953: 4-C.

139 “Greys Take over Top Place in Mandak League,” Brandon (Manitoba) Daily Sun, May 22, 1953: 6. “Greys Continue Romp with Win over Carman,” Brandon Daily Sun, May 25, 1953: 6. “Greys Win on Mitchell’s Pinch-Hit Single,” Brandon Daily Sun, May 27, 1953: 6. In fact, shortly before the start of the ManDak season, McKinnis was expected to pitch for the Greys, according to Jim Reid, “Sport Scripts,” Brandon Daily Sun, May 7, 1953: 6.

140 “McKinnes [sic] Celebrates Birthday with Victory,” Brandon Daily Sun, August 12, 1953: 6.

141 See the website of Jay-Dell Mah, at

142 “Finals Delayed as Cards-Royals Deadlocked,” Brandon Daily Sun, August 31, 1953: 6.

143 “Greys Oust Cardinals from Mandak Playoffs,” Brandon Daily Sun, September 8, 1953: 6.

144 “Brandon Forces Deciding Game in Series,” Brandon Daily Sun, September 16, 1953: 6. “Minot Crowned Champs,” Winnipeg Free Press, September 17, 1953: 26.

145 “Marriage Licenses,” St. Petersburg Times, October 14, 1953: 27. “Local Student to Attend NHA Annual Convention,” St. Petersburg Times, June 11, 1950: 39. “Young Matrons Add 2 Members,” St. Petersburg Times, February 10, 1954: 29. “Special Services on Mother’s Day to Honor Nine Local Churchwomen,” St. Petersburg Times, May 7, 1954: 29. In the first of these two 1954 articles her surname was “McKenzie” but the article three months later is strong evidence that the February one referred to the same woman.

146 “Smokers to Open Practice,” Tampa Morning Tribune, March 15, 1954: 15. “Smokers Swing into Full Work at Cuscaden Park,” Tampa Daily Times, March 23, 1954: 9.

147 “Tigers Sweep Doubleheader with Pirates,” St. Petersburg Times, April 5, 1954: 32. “Lefty McKinnis to Get Trial at Rochester,” Austin (Minnesota) Daily Herald, April 29, 1954: 10.

148 “Austin at Rochester Tonight; Lawler and DeRose to Pitch,” Austin Daily Herald, May 11, 1954: 10. Tom Koeck, “Packers Edge Rochester 2-1,” Austin Daily Herald, May 12, 1954: 12. Just a few days later, the Royals signed former major leaguer Dale Matthewson, a pitcher with the Phillies in 1943 and 1944 who was a very successful teammate of McKinnis’s at Tampa in 1952 and 1953. It’s likely McKinnis was instrumental in that acquisition. Matthewson had a good year for Rochester.

149 Ralph Reeve, “Chiefs Split with Rochester in Exhibitions,” Winona Republican-Herald, May 17, 1954: 16. “Thompson Named Laker Manager,” Albert Lea Sunday Tribune, June 27, 1954: 10.

150 “Tigers Seek Double Win over 9 Devils,” St. Petersburg Times, July 25, 1954: 13. Carl Wright, “St. Pete Drops Devils Twice,” Bradenton (Florida) Herald, July 26, 1954: 6. “West Coast League Holds Edge in All-Star Contest,” St. Petersburg Times, August 14, 1954: 12. The first of these articles called him “Red McGinnis” but specified he was a former Tampa Smoker who had most recently played for a club in Minnesota. His surname was also McGinnis in the other two articles.

151 McKinnis wasn’t on their Opening Day roster nine days earlier, nor when spring training started on April 3. See Lonnie Burt, “Saints Open Spring Drills,” St. Petersburg Times, April 4, 1955: 18, and “Saints Meet Lakeland in FSL Opener Tonight,” St. Petersburg Times, April 13, 1955: 18. For details about some of his teammates, see “Saints Spring Roster,” St. Petersburg Times, April 3, 1955: 1-C.

152 Bill Beck, “Saints Bow 7-6 as Rally Fails; Drop 3 Players,” St. Petersburg Times, April 23, 1955: 12. Bill Beck, “$40,000 Lesson Costly if You Don’t Learn It,” St. Petersburg Times, April 20, 1955: 12. In his article on April 23, Beck noted that besides McKinnis, two infielders were also expected to join the Saints “and they are likely to be Negroes.”

153 “Saints Blow 3-Run Lead, Lose 7-6 to G-Men in 9th,” St. Petersburg Times, April 24, 1955: 2-C.

154 “McKinnis Pitches, Slugs Saints 7-4 Over Pilots; 3-Run Rally in 7th Wins,” St. Petersburg Times, April 28, 1955: 20. “Saints Beat Pilots 10-8, Climb Into 3-Way Tie for 6th Place,” St. Petersburg Times, April 29, 1955: 14. The latter article was accompanied by team stats showing McKinnis with five hits in nine at-bats and five runs batted in.

155 “McKinnis Hurls Four-Hit Game but Loses 2-0,” St. Petersburg Times, May 2, 1955: 20.

156 Lonnie Burt, “Saints Get Off Floor to Slug Daytona 13 to 7,” St. Petersburg Times, May 17, 1955: 23. “Saints Sweep Series With 5-2 Defeat of WPB,” St. Petersburg Times, May 21, 1955: 9.

157 Lonnie Burt, “Saints Count Pair in 9th To Shade Gainesville 7-6,” St. Petersburg Times, June 7, 1955: 10. “Saints, 8; G-Men, 4,” Tampa Morning Tribune, June 8, 1955: 18.

158 “3-in-a-Row Jinx Frustrates Saints Again; It’s Cards 5-3,” St. Petersburg Times, June 25, 1955: 7. “Snyder’s Homer Beats St. Pete,” Daytona Beach (Florida) Morning Journal, June 25, 1955: 8.

159 “Renfroe Gives Orlando Two Hits but Loses 1-0,” St. Petersburg Times, July 2, 1955: 9. McKinnis’s index card maintained by The Sporting News shows the date of his release as July 5. As of this writing, a few of his stats differ somewhat from those shown by the St. Petersburg Times on July 11 (page 12) and the Palm Beach Post on July 17 (page 32).

160 “Waitman Fund Game Slated Here Today,” St. Petersburg Times, October 9, 1955: 10. St. Pete’s team in the West Coast Negro League was no longer called the Tigers. This article called them the Giants, but articles in August called them the Braves.

161 “What’s Doing Around Town,” St. Petersburg Times, February 1, 1956: 32. “The Social Whirl,” St. Petersburg Times, April 15, 1956: 6-C. “Ball Chairman,” St. Petersburg Times, May 9, 1956: 37. “The Social Whirl,” St. Petersburg Times, June 21, 1956: 30. Because of her leadership roles, Naomi was mentioned frequently in the St. Petersburg Times in 1956 and 1957, and her photo appeared more than once.

162 “Cread McKinnes [sic] Signs with Minot Mallards,” Bismarck (North Dakota) Tribune, May 3, 1956: 21. “Barons Rout Minot 17-7 to Open Man-Dak Season,” Bismarck Tribune, May 26, 1956: 8. “Elkins Cops Third Win for Oilers,” Bismarck Tribune, June 2, 1956: 10.

163 “Florida-Georgia Diamond Battle Slated Saturday,” St. Petersburg Times, March 29, 1957: 12-B. “Macon Tops Braves, 5-4, in Thriller,” St. Petersburg Times, April 2, 1957: 24. “Braves Down Clearwater in Opener,” St. Petersburg Times, April 16, 1957: 23. Ralph H. Middleton, “Devils Blank St. Pete, 2-0,” St. Petersburg Times, April 22, 1957: 10. From the last week of April onward, the team was more likely to be mentioned in the Bradenton Herald.

164 “The Social Whirl,” St. Petersburg Times, October 6, 1957: 8-C.

165 Their grandson Gread McKinnis III was quoted by Jodi S. Cohen in “2 Finalists for CSU President Denounced,” Chicago Tribune, April 2, 2009: 8. Their granddaughters Elisabeth and Naomi Walley were quoted by Jane Gordon Julien in “How Did They Know? (The Signs Showed the Way),” New York Times, December 30, 2018: ST.11.

166 Sheryl Fitzgerald, “27 Hit Black Tax in Home Sales Lawsuit,” Chicago Defender, January 21, 1969: 1. Toni Anthony, “Jail 16 in Cop, CBL Row,” Chicago Defender, April 23, 1970: 1. Ronald Koziol and Arthur Siddon, “20 Arrested as Crowd Hurls Rocks, Bottles During Evictions,” Chicago Tribune, April 23, 1970: 18. “U.S. Begins Rights Probe in C.B.L. Member Evictions,” Chicago Tribune, May 3, 1970: 22.

167 Barbara Brotman, “Black Homebuyers’ Battle for Justice,” Chicago Tribune, July 26, 2015: 7.

168 For information about his Foundation and its scholarship, see

169 “Illinois Department on Aging Recognizes Workers and Employers in Observance of National Employ the Older Worker Week,” September 25, 2009, news release available at

Full Name

Gread McKinnis


August 11, 1913 at Union, AL (USA)


March 4, 1991 at Chicago, IL (USA)

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