With both Josh Gibson and Bill Perkins, the 1935 Pittsburgh Crawfords were blessed in the receiving department. Any other catcher on the roster could not expect a lot of playing time. In April of ’35, Clarence “Spoony” Palm was that additional catcher. An itinerant receiver who had played for eight different clubs since breaking onto the scene in 1927 with the Birmingham Black Barons, Palm had already served in the rotation that relieved Gibson (along with Perkins and Curtis Harris) in the second half of the 1934 campaign. He had made the spring-training trip to Hot Springs, Arkansas, playing in at least one game en route, on April 18, 1935, in New Orleans, where he hit two singles in a 5-4 victory over Memphis.1
In late April, opportunity knocked. Abe and Effa Manley’s Brooklyn Eagles were preparing for their NNL debut season, and they desperately needed experience behind the plate. Palm had proven his worth to the Craws as a reliable catcher with a strong bat and was “expected to furnish the back stop strength needed by the Brooklyn entry.”2 He started 32 games behind the plate for the Eagles’ one season in the Borough and batted a respectable .285 (OPS .764) to help the team to a mediocre fifth-place finish with a record of 32–31.
When Brooklyn’s season wrapped up in early October, Palm headed south and rejoined the Crawfords in Mexico City, where he provided a pinch-hit home run on October 25 in an 11-inning tie with the American All-Stars.3 He may have played in more than this one late-season game with Pittsburgh; “Cum Posey’s Pointed Paragraphs” reported in the December 21 Pittsburgh Courier that “‘Spoony’ Palm of the Brooklyn Eagles, came back, and caught the best ball he has caught since he left the Car Barn Park at St. Louis.”4 Palm’s stint with the Crawfords was limited, but his career was extensive, starting in Birmingham in 1927 and finishing in New York with the Black Yankees in 1946, with seasons spent on the active rosters of at least a dozen franchises over that span. He also played several seasons in the Winter League in Puerto Rico, including the inaugural 1938-1939 campaign, and was among the group who absconded on their contracts in 1937 to play in dictator Rafael Trujillo’s league in the Dominican Republic.5
Clarence Palm was born on October 27, 1907, in Georgetown, Texas, the youngest child of Will and Lula (Bonner) Palm.6 Several well-regarded sources list Palm’s place of birth as Clarendon, Arkansas, in October 1914, but this late birth year would have put him at age 13 when he made his big-league debut in Birmingham. Further research provides evidence that Palm himself listed his date of birth consistently as October 27, 1907, in Georgetown, Texas, when providing information for travel to and from the Caribbean for winter league play throughout the 1930s and ’40s.7
The confusion stems from the fact that Clarence Palm often has been confused with Robert “Bob” Palm, who was indeed born in Arkansas in 1914 and who lived in St. Louis through much of his early life.8 Bob Palm caught in at least one game for the St. Louis Stars in 1936, and then played with the semipro St. Louis Giants before signing a contract with Wilbur Hayes’ Cleveland Buckeyes for the 1944 season.9 By 1946 he was back in St. Louis managing the Giants.10 Bob was the manager and catcher for the Brooklyn Brown Dodgers in Branch Rickey’s United States League in 1946 when, as Giants manager, he insisted that if Brooklyn were to purchase the contract of Giants ace hurler Herbert “Doc” Bracken, “the whole club will have to go with him.”11 Bob Palm’s death notice in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch of July 21, 1976, describes him as a “former catcher with the Cleveland Buckeyes and Brooklyn Brown Dodgers,” and the Negro Leagues Database at seamheads.com lists Bob Palm as a cup of coffee with the Chicago American Giants in 1947.12 Little additional information is available about catcher Bob Palm, and no sources suggest that he and Clarence are related or even knew one another. Clarence Palm’s story is better documented, although it, too, retains its share of mystery.
Clarence is listed as two years old on the 1910 US Census in the household of Will (30) and Lula (28) Palm, and he was the youngest of five children. Besides Clarence, the family included Lenard (13), Lois (10), Eunace (8), and Edith (7). The family lived on Timber Street in Georgetown in an area known as the Ridge, just around the corner from Principal S.C. Marshall’s Georgetown Colored School, which served the African American community through the elementary grades. On December 2, 1910, older brother Lenard died of typhoid fever.13 Palm would have been too young to feel the full brunt of this loss, but certainly the experience marked the mood of the family in his early years. In 1916 his sister Lois became the first African American student to graduate from high school in Georgetown, completing her studies after Principal Marshall advocated for and received permission to teach secondary school courses in the city. The school was later known as Marshall High School in honor of its founder.14 No records appear to have survived to indicate whether Clarence graduated, or even attended, the school as well, but with the circumstances of his family’s proximity to the school and the celebrated achievements of his siblings, the likelihood exists that Clarence was enrolled here at least in his early childhood.
Younger brother William Arnett Palm was born in 1915 and studied sociology at the University of Kansas in the late 1930s before serving in World War II from 1942 to1945.15 In his later years, he recalled how Will and Lula Palm “placed great value on education, having seen first hand what ignorance could do to our people.”16 The pride the family took in Lois’s achievement is evident in the description of her graduation ceremony as a “community celebration,” held at the Wesley Chapel AME Church and attended by the whole community.17 “Professor Marshall and the ministers from all the black churches made speeches, and Lois, as the only graduate, delivered both the valedictorian speech and the closing song.”18 By 1923 the secondary school’s population and support had grown to the extent that a new facility was opened, a limestone building with five classrooms and a home economics room, situated on the corner of Timber and Second Streets. By the time Clarence would have been a student there in the mid-1920s, Marshall High School was well-established, and “students excelled in literary, athletic, and homemaking contests at county, district, and state levels. [Marshall alumna] Myrtle Stiner Tabor notes, ‘[We] won many medals and ribbons at these events, as well as in oratory, spelling, basketball, and football.’”19 An athletic program at Marshall High School would have provided a budding young athlete such as Clarence Palm a perfect setting to hone his skills and attract the attention of scouts for area semipro clubs. But no records can be found to verify that Palm got his start at the school just blocks away from the family’s home, which by then was located at 408 West Street in Georgetown.
Clarence’s father, Will (Willie D.) Palm, was born on June 15, 1879, and worked as a butcher for many decades in the Williamson County, Texas, area. The 1920 and 1930 censuses list Will’s occupation and disclose that he owned the family home on West Street outright. Every indication is that Will provided for his family a relatively comfortable standard of living with consistent employment in his trade. By 1910 at the latest, Will’s father and Clarence’s grandfather, Robert “Bob” Palm, was living with the family and was listed as “divorced” on the census. Bob was born in Mississippi (or possibly Arkansas) and brought to Texas in his youth, quite likely as a slave.20 He found work in hotels and stayed in the area until his death in Georgetown in 1932.21 Clarence’s mother, Lula Bonner Palm, was born on August 28, 1880, in Georgetown to parents Emiline Williams of Texas and Marion Bonner of South Carolina.22 She is listed in three decades of census data as a homemaker for her husband, six children, spouses of her children, and at least two grandchildren who lived with the family at one point or another throughout the 1910s, ’20s, and ’30s.23 She died in Georgetown on July 8, 1946, a little more than a month before her 66th birthday. Her youngest son, Arnett, a resident of Parsons, Kansas, signed her death certificate.24
Little information has survived to document Clarence Palm’s early life. Based on what is discoverable about the life and accomplishments of his parents and siblings, the best that can be offered is speculation. Even less clear is Palm’s initiation into the ranks of local or regional baseball. With the loose, and often nonexistent, record-keeping that marks the era of black baseball, especially for teams and players not in the big leagues, answers to how, when, and where Clarence Palm broke into the baseball profession may never be forthcoming.25 It is possible that Palm played for the Georgetown Black Tigers, an area team described as a chief regional rival for the Austin Black Senators of the Texas Colored League.26 Perhaps Palm made the trip from Georgetown to nearby Austin to play for the Senators themselves, alongside Willie “El Diablo” Wells, the phenomenal shortstop and future Hall of Famer from Austin who was a contemporary of Palm’s and played with him on the St. Louis Stars championship squad in 1928.
The Texas Colored League, which ran from 1919 to 1926, included such teams as the Austin Black Senators, Dallas Black Giants, and Houston Black Buffaloes, and provided a talent pool for teams in the Negro Southern and National Leagues.27 While no direct evidence of Palm’s recruitment from this league to the Black Barons has surfaced, there is indication that a recruiting relationship existed between the leagues, and talent from Texas would often manifest in the big leagues. Will Patterson, a native of Houston and one-time manager of the Black Buffaloes, took the helm in Birmingham in 1925, and newspaper coverage of his ascent to the position as the Black Barons’ manager describes the relationship between the two leagues. As the younger players contested the veterans for positions on the club, the Birmingham News reported on their origins: “A number of these newcomers are from the Texas League and some of them are expected to win berths on the local club.”28 Patterson’s tenure with Birmingham was short-lived and occurred two seasons before Palm’s matriculation to Alabama, but the connection between the two leagues described in 1925 lends credence to the speculation that an up-and-comer like Palm may have been spotted by scouts playing in the Lone Star State and brought up from there, along with many of his contemporaries, for the 1927 season.
Whatever the path that led the youthful catcher to Birmingham in the spring of 1927, one thing is certain: Clarence Palm burst onto the scene for the Black Barons seemingly out of nowhere. In April, as the Black Barons prepared at their spring-training facility in Gadsden, no mention of Palm is found in the press that reported on the progress of the squad and its probable roster.29 Reuben Jones, a native Texan who had played for the Dallas Black Giants in the Texas Colored League and starred in the outfield for Birmingham from 1923 to 1925, had been selected as the new manager of the Black Barons in 1927 with their reentry into the NNL.30 Previews of the preseason games in April list Poindexter Williams as the starting backstop, with William “Bobby” Robinson, typically a third baseman, cited as the alternate behind the plate.31 Palm was not recognized in the papers even as a prospect this early in the season. However, with the lack of options in the receiving department, an opportunity existed for a second catcher to make the roster.
The draw of the Black Barons for Birmingham fans of baseball is evident in the preview writeup for the season opener at Rickwood Field on April 25. The press optimistically anticipated 20,000 fans to attend the inaugural homestand against the Cuban Stars (10,000 actually showed up), and the Birmingham Reporter described how local youth would be given permission to skip school in order to attend the game. Poindexter Williams is listed as the probable starter behind the plate for Birmingham with no other name identified as a potential receiver for ace hurler Sam Streeter.32 The April 26 recap in the Birmingham News describes Clarence Palm’s Negro National League debut. Apparently Williams batted once and left the game early, as Palm is listed with four at-bats. He knocked a triple and scored in the third inning, and he also reached base on a single in the ninth as Birmingham took the game from the Cubans, 5-4 in 10 innings. Palm was also involved in a double play with Roy Parnell from right field to home.33 The effort was an auspicious entrance for the young catcher, but interestingly, Palm is referenced in this initial recap simply by his last name, with no description of his history or how he suddenly arrived on the scene.
By the end of the week, Palm had caught the attention of the beat writers at the Birmingham Reporter and was featured in a spread that covered the club’s season prospects. An image of the 19-year-old ran with the caption “Clarence Palm: One of the star catchers on the Black Barons Club, who played in the opening game Monday [April 25].”34 The youngster contributed somewhat inconsistently as a backstop early on, but he soon began to build a reputation as a power hitter. The following week vs. Cleveland, Palm was credited with a two-RBI double but also dropped a throw at home in the series-opening victory.35 In the doubleheader that wrapped up this early series with Cleveland on May 5, Birmingham swept the day, and Palm’s hitting ignited the scoring in the second game: “Dusky Palm broke up the second game with a home run in the first inning. He came back with a triple in the sixth that gave the Jonesmen their final run. Palm was the only player to bag two hits in the night cap.”36
Palm continued regularly in the catching rotation, along with Poindexter Williams, and established a role for himself as an offensive contributor through May and June.37 By the time Leroy “Satchel” Paige joined the Black Barons in late June, Palm was an integral member of the inconsistent Birmingham squad that was trying to right the ship in the first half of the season. Palm did not work in Paige’s notorious first big outing with the Black Barons in St. Louis against the Stars. In that game at Stars Park on June 27, Satchel took the mound, throwing “hard, fast, and wild,” ultimately tangling up Stars catcher Henry Williams in an errant pitch that forced him from the game. When replacement catcher Mitch Murray came up to bat in Williams’ spot, Paige threw wild again; this time, the result was an injury to Murray’s hand. Incensed at this apparent attack on the Stars’ catchers, Murray advanced on Satchel, who quickly made his way toward the dugout. Murray flung his bat, which hit Paige on the hip. The “whole park was in an uproar,” and the game was called off. The Black Barons were fortunate to take their leave without any additional physical harm.38 In the game the next day, Palm hit two home runs to aid the 10-8 victory that broke up the Stars’ 11-game win streak.39
Palm was mentioned, along with Roy Parnell, as a heavy hitter for Birmingham as the first half of the season came to a close.40 By the end of August, Birmingham was leading the NNL in the second half of the season, boasting a 17-9 record even with a recent string of losses.41 Despite a September slump, the club managed to win the second half, going 29-15, only to lose the pennant series to the Chicago American Giants in a four-game sweep.42 Palm caught the final game, with starting pitcher Streeter getting pulled in favor of Paige after giving up four runs in the first inning. The Paige-Palm battery performed well for the duration, with Paige allowing only two more runs, but the Black Barons could not muster more than two tallies themselves and surrendered the flag to Chicago.43 Notwithstanding the disappointment of this postseason sweep, Palm had a standout rookie season for Birmingham, playing in 57 games and hitting .28244 with an .821 OPS. The young catcher with the powerful swing, just shy of his 20th birthday, was just getting started.
Palm claimed a spot on the roster in St. Louis for the 1928 season and stuck around the Mound City through 1929. Stars manager Candy Jim Taylor must have been eyeing a replacement for his aging and ailing catcher Mitchell Murray, the stalwart backstop who caused a ruckus with Paige in the previous season. Murray had signed with St. Louis in 1923 and had wielded a heavy bat through his first few seasons; he had remained reliable behind the plate, but his offensive contributions had fallen off considerably, and his average dropped from .315 to .259 from the 1926 to 1927 seasons. Perhaps Taylor’s motivation to sign Clarence Palm away from the Black Barons was, in some way, the result of the bad blood that was made apparent on the day of the near-riot when Paige threw wild at the St. Louis receivers. It is also possible that the hand injury Murray received from Paige the previous June contributed to the veteran catcher’s poor shape at the start of the 1928 season. Intentional or not, Taylor’s signing of Palm to replace Murray served as some measure of revenge against a club whose ace pitcher had carelessly injured both of his receivers the previous season. In the 20-year-old Palm, Taylor would find youthful endurance and a heavy hitter who could generate runs alongside such greats as James “Cool Papa” Bell, George “Mule” Suttles, and Willie “El Diablo” Wells. By May, Murray had been deactivated to “coach” and Palm had been signed. Soon after, Murray was released; he ultimately signed with Chicago. Palm shared receiving duties with veteran Henry Williams for the 1928 season, catching in 37 games (including four of the nine championship matches) and pinch-hitting in an additional eight. His offense trended upward, as he hit .319 (OPS .921) with seven home runs in league games in the sixth or seventh spot in support of the big sticks at the top of the order.
Palm and Williams were on the receiving end of some legendary pitching performances for St. Louis in 1928, as the staff included Ted Trent (19-3, 2.21 ERA), Logan “Slap” Hensley (10-4, 3.37), and Roosevelt “Rosey” Davis (8-0, 3.40). The exceptional batteries, along with the superlative batting up and down the order, propelled St. Louis to an easy title as champions of the first half of the season. Chicago, however, took the second-half banner to force a playoff for the pennant. Since the Eastern Colored League had folded earlier in the season, the winner of this championship playoff would be crowned 1928 Negro League champions. The teams split the first four games of the nine-game series, which were played in Chicago, and then headed to St. Louis for the remainder of the series. Palm and his manager, Taylor, hit back-to-back pinch-hit singles in an eighth-inning rally in Game One, with Palm ultimately scoring on Branch Russell’s triple. These heroics were not enough for the win, however. In Game Four, Palm scored two runs in the key 5-3 victory for the Stars. Back in St. Louis, the teams traded victories, extending the series to the full nine games. The finale starred Wells, who dominated defensively and scored four runs off two home runs and a triple. The Stars had brought glory to St. Louis by knocking off the perennial champion Chicago club for their first Negro League title, and Clarence Palm had played a key role in the club’s dominance throughout the season. In this climate of victory, Palm had found a home.
St. Louis began the 1929 season with great optimism, as the championship squad returned intact and added rookie southpaw Leroy Matlock. The Stars played great baseball in 1929, going 56-34-1 in league play. “Unfortunately for the Stars the Kansas City Monarchs played lights-out baseball all season long and fueled by a 34-6 (.850) record for the second half of the season, the Kansas City Monarchs easily won the Negro National League championship with a record of 62-17.”45 Palm had a breakout season in 1929, appearing in 65 games and batting .333 with an OPS of 1.038. He hit 16 home runs in league games, third-highest on the team behind Wells’s 26 and Suttles’ 18, while playing in 30 fewer games than the two future Hall of Famers. In an early-season series against the Black Barons at Rickwood Field, Palm went deep with back-to-back homers in the first game of a doubleheader on May 27, and then followed that feat with two homers in the rubber match the next day.46 On June 6 the St. Louis Post-Dispatch opined that “‘Devil’ Wells, who features at short, ‘Mule’ Suttles at first base, and Palm, the hard-hitting catcher, are the outstanding players in the local aggregation.”47
The Candy Jim Taylor era ended in St. Louis after the 1929 season, but many of the regulars stayed on with the Stars. Palm, however, was not one of them, as he signed with the Detroit Stars, for the 1930 and ’31 seasons; he also returned to the Motor City in 1933. The 1930 census puts Palm back in Georgetown, where he was reportedly employed at the cottonseed oil mill in town. A question on the census asked whether the individual “was at work yesterday,” to which the response “yes” was given for Clarence.48 The census form is dated April 24, 1930. Whether Palm had actually returned to Georgetown during the offseason is unclear, but on April 27 he caught both games of a doubleheader loss in Chicago to the American Giants with Bingo DeMoss’s Detroit Stars, going 1-for-4 at the plate in game one.49 On May 6 he returned to St. Louis and delivered a pinch-hit home run in the ninth to defeat his former club, 7-6.50
Palm played in Detroit for two seasons and in 1930 helped lead the Stars to a second-half championship by way of a 24-game late-season win streak51 that led to a showdown with his former teammates in St. Louis for the league pennant. This was Palm’s third postseason series in his first four seasons. He caught every inning of all seven games for Detroit, committing three errors, with a passed ball, and allowing St. Louis four stolen bases. Batting fifth in the order, Palm contributed mightily, going 10-for-28 (.357) with four RBIs, three runs scored, two walks, one hit by pitch, and a pivotal home run. The shot came in Game Four in St. Louis, with the Star and Times declaring Palm “the hitting hero of the night, sending a homer over the wall” in the eighth inning, which was the difference in the 5-4 Detroit victory.52 When the series moved back to Detroit, the St. Louis team won two of the three games played before heavy rains in the area washed out the remainder of the nine-game series.53 St. Louis was declared the winner of the 1930 championship.
The 1931 season in the Negro National League was one of financial stress. Of the remaining clubs, Detroit finished a dismal fourth in the standings with a 25-33 record. Palm had another outstanding season as the primary catcher and hit .311 (OPS .786), with 50 hits in league games, and was second only to center fielder Turkey Stearnes in RBIs (32) and home runs (3). Despite the coming disarray of the league and the movement of franchises in this season, several exhibition games were played to thousands of fans of all races. In August Detroit faced off against the Regal Giants, a Triple-A outfit made up of former major- and minor-league white baseball stars, at Wigle Park in Windsor, Ontario, and embarrassed them 18-5 in nine innings. Palm hit a first-inning homer in the game, which the Windsor Star described as “one of the most uneven contests” in front of a crowd of 2,000 onlookers. “The Detroit Stars outclassed their opponents in every department of the game, hitting, fielding, and pitching, and might easily have piled up a dozen more runs had they felt inclined.”54
As prolific a hitter as Palm appears to have been, he may have had some trouble with the breaking ball. An apocryphal tale from the early 1930s, reported by Dan Burley decades later in the Chicago Daily Defender, describes a memory from Harry Salmon, a batterymate of Palm’s in Birmingham during his rookie season. Salmon explained that many Negro National League players would head to New Orleans during the winter to continue playing. He recalled a game in which the New Orleans Black Pelicans “had in their lineup, a catcher, one Clarence Palm, who used to backstop for the old Detroit Stars in the days of Hallie Harding and Grady Orange.”55 The team would attract “swarms of white fans” to Pelican Park, who would sit in a section separated from black fans by chicken wire, “so they wouldn’t get black on ’em by rubbing up against Negroes.” Burley relays Salmon’s story:
Well, as Harry used to tell it, Palm … never could hit a curve ball and by the fifth inning, Salmon had fanned him twice. … A big redneck white fellow was a personal fan of Palm and used to sit in the front row of the white folk’s section behind the plate. … Every time Palm got a hit, he’d throw a handful of 2 for $1 Productos [cigars] out to the hefty catcher and hollered encouragement at him on every opportunity. But watching Palm strike out was so disheartening that the white man was completely dejected and sat with bowed head as though in mourning as Palm swung futilely at Salmon’s wicked and snaky curves. … Finally, when the game entered the seventh inning and the Black Pelicans had two men on and none out and Palm was coming to bat, the white fellow suddenly jumped up, climbed over the fence, and marched up to the umpire. “Stop the game!” he ordered and then walked out to Salmon on the mound. Pointing a fat finger under Tall Harry’s nose, he hollered loud enough to be heard on Rampart street, “Look heah! Mah Nigra can’t hit no curve balls an’ by Gawd, don’t you throw him no more of those curve balls, y’all heah me?” … Harry, nervous and apprehensive, nodded as he got his instructions. … Before the game ended, Palm had two home runs to his credit and a hatful of El Productos!56
The chaos of the 1932 season in Negro League baseball was the start of Palm’s true journeyman status. Homestead Grays owner Cumberland “Cum” Posey brought Spoony Palm on board as a replacement for Josh Gibson, who joined Gus Greenlee’s Crawfords for a higher salary.57 With the NNL disbanded, Posey’s Homestead entry in his new East-West League initially included Palm leading the staff that caught for Smokey Joe Williams, George “Chippy” Britt, Leroy Matlock, and Columbus Vance.58 The planned batteries with Palm as the lead receiver never really took shape, with Spoony catching 10 innings in two games, one of those a 5-4 preseason loss in late April to the Detroit Wolves (also owned by Posey).59 By mid-May, Palm had parted ways with Posey and the fledgling (and soon-to-be defunct) East-West League and made his way to Chicago for a brief stint with Cole’s American Giants.60
Spoony’s stop in the Windy City was brief. The Negro Leagues Database at seamheads.com lists him catching in two games for Cole’s squad and going a lackluster 1-for-9 at the plate. Within the first two weeks of his arrival, Clarence joined American Giants pitcher Luther “Vet” McDonald to journey north, signing a contract with the Crookston (Minnesota) Red Sox, an independent club that played in northern Minnesota and Canada. The Crookston club was made up mostly of white players, and the team’s schedule included amateur teams from the area as far north as Winnipeg, but also tougher rivals in the likes of legendary hurler John Donaldson’s All Stars as well as the Kansas City Monarchs.61 Pitcher Chet Brewer, who had played the full 1931 schedule for Crookston, recalled his time there as “one of the most pleasurable experiences of his lifetime.”62 Brewer excelled on the team with a 10-1-1 record for the season and was lauded by the locals and received a key to the city in commendation of his heroic exploits on behalf of the town. The Crookston community was a welcoming one for black players, and Palm and McDonald must have found similar satisfaction as their performance on the field would indicate.
On May 23, 1932, Spoony and Vet McDonald starred in an evening-game victory for the Red Sox in Canada, with Palm going 4-for-5 at the plate with two triples in his first appearance.63 On June 4 the Chicago Defender reported that the battery of McDonald and Palm, along with Spoony’s offense, defeated Donaldson’s stars, 10-2, in Crookston’s home opener.64 As early as mid-June, word of Palm’s performance up north was spreading among his peers. The Defender reported the following in the National Edition on June 18:
“Clarence Palm, formerly of Detroit in the Negro National league and now catcher for the Crookston Red Sox, semipro baseball champions of the Northwest, is heading the Red Sox in batting.
Palm has been at bat 52 times this season with 27 safe hits credited to him. Four of them were three-base clouts. His batting average is .519.
Palm, who came to the club from Chicago for a tryout, was immediately proffered a contract. He has made a hit with the fans for his base stealing, his hook slide and his fleetness in covering the bags.
The Crookston team, with Palm behind the rubber triangle, has trounced Winnipeg twice, defeated John Donaldson’s Colored All-Stars two games, defeated Gilkerson’s Union Giants, tied the House of David, 0-0, in nine innings, conquered Fargo, Grafton and Neche N.D.”65
Even Palm’s baserunning was a standout for Crookston, but his offensive output solidified him as the star of the northern Minnesota outfit in 1932. He sustained his acumen with the timber through the season and newspapers continued to report on his hitting prowess through August.66
After Palm’s season in Minnesota, his career took an even more nomadic turn, as he appeared on the rosters of eight distinct big-league clubs from 1933 to 1936. Palm returned to Hamtramck Stadium as a Detroit Star in May 1933, but this time, instead of Bingo DeMoss as his manager, he was reunited with Candy Jim Taylor, who was fresh in the Motor City by way of Indianapolis. As Gus Greenlee’s new Negro National League took shape, Taylor’s Indy entry showed signs in early May that it could not survive. As a result, the entire team was absorbed by Detroit, and Taylor resumed team leadership under the Stars’ banner.67 Immediately upon arrival, Taylor worked out a deal to sign Palm to anchor the receiving department for his otherwise youthful roster. The Pittsburgh Courier declared that “the addition of Palms [sic] has meant considerable hitting strength and confidence to the [Detroit] outfit.”68 Candy Jim’s instincts about Palm were correct, as the 24-year-old catcher, still in his prime, was hitting .371 (13-for-35), with two doubles and two triples, by late June.69 Despite Palm’s numbers, Detroit had a dismal 13-20 record midway through the season and Taylor decided to walk away, taking the helm in Nashville for the second half. After Taylor’s exit, Palm decided to abandon ship as well, and he joined Posey’s Akron Grays, managed by Bingo DeMoss, for the remainder of 1933.70 Palm hit well for Akron as the primary catcher in their short existence as a franchise, batting .267 (OPS .846) with a double, two triples, and a home run in nine games. In August, the Columbus Blue Birds merged with the Akron squad to form the Cleveland Giants, and Palm finished the season with this trimmed roster that represented the best of both former clubs. In at least one series with the Crawfords, in August, Palm may have played center field for Cleveland, a rare appearance up to this point in his career in a position other than behind the plate.71
In April 1934, Clarence was the barnstorming catcher with Juan Padrone’s Cuban Giants, joining fellow receiver Mitch Murray, pitcher Logan “Slap” Hensley, and others in a nationwide tour, inviting all comers.72 By June Palm had joined Posey’s Homestead Grays to back up regular catcher Tex Burnett, and he also played a couple of games in right field to keep his bat active. Spoony’s contribution to the club’s success was minimal, as he achieved only three hits (one double) in 17 at-bats for a disappointing .176 average in seven games. On July 4 Homestead squared off in a doubleheader with Pittsburgh at Greenlee Field, with Satchel’s shutout silencing the Grays’ bats in the first game for a 4-0 Craws’ victory before Homestead achieved the split with a 4-3 win in the second game.73 Palm hit a single and double and scored a run in the Grays’ win.74 On July 14 the Pittsburgh Courier ran an image of Palm tagging Oscar Charleston out at home on a play in the first game, in which Charleston badly twisted his ankle.75 On Sunday, July 15, Palm went hitless for the Grays vs. Baltimore in a game played in Columbus, Ohio.76 By Saturday, July 21, Spoony was wearing a Crawfords uniform, and he smashed a triple in the first game and caught the second contest in a doubleheader sweep of the Bacharach Giants.77 Palm fared better in the second half of the season with Pittsburgh and hit a respectable .250 (OPS .812) with a double, two triples, and a home run in just 11 games. He proved to be a dependable alternate to spell Gibson as the 1934 season wound down.
After Palm had been assigned by the Crawfords to the Brooklyn Eagles in April 1935, he played well for the Manleys immediately. On May 5 Palm caught for Leon Day and went 4-for-5 in the first game of a doubleheader sweep of the Newark Dodgers; he shared the offensive laurels with Clarence “Fats” Jenkins, a two-sport star from Harlem who also played for the Renaissance basketball team.78 Even as Palm was beginning his ninth season of big-league play, he was considered the youth of the catching department in comparison to his rotation mate Tex Burnett, who at age 35 was nine years older. Palm’s youthful experience was put to full use, as indicated by a road trip to Chicago in July. Burnett, who also played the hot corner on occasion, had injured his hand in June and was out. Twenty-three-year-old Leon Ruffin was scheduled to split catching duties with Palm on the road trip but presented with a split finger of his own, so Palm was required to catch four full games that included a Sunday doubleheader.79 Despite the drama of manager Ben Taylor’s summary dismissal by Abe Manley early in the season and the mediocre league finish, Palm played through the season for Brooklyn before rejoining the Crawfords for their late-season jaunt south of the border. The Manleys assembled a squad to play in Puerto Rico during the winter of 1936, where they faced off against the Cincinnati Reds and also won the winter league championship, taking home a trophy sponsored by the Bacardi rum company.80 Palm does not appear in any news coverage for the Eagles in Puerto Rico that winter, which supports the assertion that he instead played in the Mexico City series with the Craws against a team of American all-stars. Oscar Charleston’s anecdote featuring Palm and major-league pitcher George Pipgras, which he shared with Lewis Dial of the New York Age in September 1936, likely represents an encounter that took place during the 1935 postseason tour in Mexico.81
The draw of New York City was apparently enough to bring Spoony Palm back for the 1936 season. Fats Jenkins, who played for the Black Yankees for three seasons before his stint with the Eagles, rejoined the club for its first foray into the formal league structure, and Palm had come along as well, signing on to share catching duties with Yanks manager Bob Clarke.82 Palm contributed offensively for owner Jim “Soldier Boy” Semler’s Harlem outfit. In the Black Yankees’ mostly cellar-dwelling existence in the NNL standings, 1936 proved to be one of their better seasons. Palm aided in this success, batting .351 (OPS .851), with a home run and six stolen bases. On Christmas Eve of that year, Palm took his maiden voyage to the Caribbean for winter ball, joining his fellow Black Yankees to follow the Manleys’ lead with the Eagles, who had returned to the island to dominate the winter games. The press covered the Harlem team’s departure widely, with some papers erroneously reporting their destination as Havana, while others correctly placed their port of call as San Juan.83 This was the first of several excursions Palm took, over at least the next 13 years, to San Juan both to play as well as to manage in the island’s fertile baseball community.
On February 11, 1937, Palm left San Juan for New York, along with Leroy Matlock, Henry McHenry, and other Negro League star pitchers and catchers to report for spring training.84 In March, Palm is described as Clarke’s alternate to catch Rosey Davis, Roy Williams, Bill Holland, and Barney Brown, as the rest of the Black Yankees returned from San Juan to prepare for Opening Day.85 On April 24 the Brooklyn Citizen reported that Palm was expected to back up manager Clarke in catching recently signed pitcher John “Neck” Stanley in a preseason tilt with the semipro Brooklyn Bushwicks at Dexter Park in Queens the next day.86
What the sportswriters at the Citizen didn’t know was that Palm had left town two days earlier, on April 22, to travel to Trujillo City in the Dominican Republic via San Juan. He sailed on the S.S. Coamo along with New York Cubans players Dave “Showboat” Thomas and Clyde Spearman.87 This trio had followed the money of the Dominican dictator to bolster the talent in the country’s league as he offered handsome salaries to Negro League players who were willing to make the jump to the island. Palm, Thomas, and Spearman did not play with Paige, Gibson, Matlock, and Bell on the Ciudad Trujillo Dragones outfit designed to achieve glory for the sociopathic leader; instead, they joined the roster of the rival Aquilas Cibaenas that ultimately included such legends as Chet Brewer, Martin Dihigo, Red Parnell, and Luis Tiant Sr.88 In the Dominican tournament that season, the Cibaenas Aquilas (Eagles) made a run in the finals against Paige and the Dragones squad, who were essentially given the ultimatum “win or else” in order to make a good showing for Trujillo. The Cibaenas club took the final game of the championship down to the wire with the Dragones, and Palm grounded out to short for the game’s final out, as Paige and company dodged a bullet by eking out a victory for the dictator’s chosen representatives on the diamond.89 When the contract jumpers returned to the States at the conclusion of the Dominican tournament, they remained suspended by the NNL for the remainder of the season. The group, led by Paige and Martin Dihigo, formed a barnstorming troop that traveled the country under a variety of monikers, ultimately winning the renowned Denver Post Tournament for a nice payday.90 Palm reportedly caught Satchel Paige on this all-star aggregation and presumably was also behind the plate for Matlock and Chet Brewer.91
Palm returned to the Black Yankees for the 1938 season and remained with the club until July of the following year, when he made the jump to the Philadelphia Stars. He remained with Philly through the 1942 season, save for a short stint late in 1941 with the Grays as an attempted replacement for Josh Gibson.92 In 1943 Palm returned to Harlem as Tex Burnett tried to bolster a flagging Black Yankees roster that was suffering from depletion during the war years.93 Continuing to shuttle back and forth between New York and Philadelphia, Palm signed again with the Stars for the 1944 campaign, anchoring Ed Bolden’s catching department for the middling Pennsylvania entry.94 He stayed in the City of Brotherly Love through June of 1945, when he again accepted an offer to return to the comforts of Harlem, where he finished out his career during the 1946 season with Semler’s lowly squad. Over this latter period of Palm’s career, he appeared in fewer games as the years rolled on, with only a smattering of extra-base hits, but still showed occasional flashes of brilliance at the bat. In June 1938 Palm was lauded as the home-run king of the Black Yankees and the talk of the winter league.95 In 1940, for Philadelphia, Palm hit .321 but with no extra-base hits.
More noteworthy than his service for clubs in the NNL in the latter half of his career is Palm’s success in Puerto Rico during the winter league’s formative years. He was among the first imports from the Negro Leagues in the inaugural Puerto Rico Semi-Pro League of 1938-1939, along with Grays ace Raymond Brown, Jimmie Crutchfield, and Bill Perkins.96 On October 29, 1938, Palm sailed from New York for San Juan.97 On board with Clarence was Newark second baseman Dick Seay, who is not listed on a winter-league roster in this first season but had played several previous winters on the island. Palm signed on with the San Juan Senadores to form a battery with Brown.98 Over the first two league seasons (1938-39 and 1939-40) the Brown-Palm battery racked up a 14-0 record.99 For the 1940-41 season, both Brown and Palm signed with the Cangrejeros de Santurce (Santurce Crabbers), with Palm catching in place of Josh Gibson and Brown taking on pitching duties in lieu of Bill Byrd, who had contracted his services with the Caguas Criollos instead.100 Palm had a record season for the Crabbers at the plate, joining the .400 hitters club as he went 65-for-159 for a .409 average.101
Palm’s contract with Santurce, which is dated November 6, 1941, shows a weekly salary of $50 and a round-trip ticket to and from the island.102 When Gibson returned to Puerto Rico from Mexico in late October, Palm was deactivated and took on the status of coach to make way for what would become Gibson’s signature season on the island, when he batted .480 (59-for-123) to set the all-time league record.103
Soon after Gibson’s return, Palm took over coaching duties for the Humacao team (recently moved to Arecibo because of financial problems). His new team posted a lackluster 5-9 record over the final 14 games of the season.104 No travel records or teams statistics exist that put Palm in Puerto Rico in any capacity from 1943 through 1945. In the 1946-47 season, he came back to Santurce and managed the club to a fourth-place finish. He oversaw a Santurce squad that included Dick Seay as a coach as well as the Crabbers’ debut of Monarchs slugger Willard “Sonny” Brown.105 No sources list Palm as having any role in Puerto Rican baseball after this one managerial season, though passenger manifests for Pan Am flights show that he visited the island for three weeks in September 1949. Dick Seay made the flight from New York to San Juan with Palm on September 8, but he did not fly back with him on September 29.106 Perhaps Palm was brought down for a consultation, or possibly another managerial position was in the works that did not pan out. Details of this apparently final excursion to Puerto Rico, as with much of his life, remain obscured.
For someone with a fairly well-documented playing career that lasted 19 years, remarkably little is known about Clarence Palm’s personal life. He appears never to have registered for Social Security, he does not appear in any school records, and no records have surfaced to show that he fathered any children. No records can be located to describe how Clarence got the nickname Spoony.
Sometime between October 1938 and September 1939, Palm got married. On the passenger manifest for the trip to San Juan in his debut season for the Senators, he lists himself as single. When he returned for the following season in September 1939, Palm declared the status “married” in the travel paperwork. Neither a marriage certificate nor the name of the bride has materialized. Clarence Palm and “Wife Palm” appear in the 1940 census living in San Juan.107 The first name of his wife is scrawled and illegible. Clarence’s occupation is listed as “pelotero” (baseball player) for the San Juan club, and both he and his wife are misidentified as “blanco” (white) in the race column. His wife has no listed occupation. Palm continued to identify himself as married on all subsequent travel documents through the 1940s.
The few anecdotes of Palm that exist paint a picture of an affable man who seems to have taken things in stride. Outfielder Gene Benson, who played with him in Philadelphia and was with him in San Juan beginning in 1939, recalled his friend and teammate fondly: “Clarence Palm was one of the most comical men around.… He and I were great buddies. We would walk into [San Juan] together, check what was playing at the different movies. He would look up and see Hoy, so he said to me, ‘Ben, you know, Hoy must be a heck of a picture. It’s playing all over town.’ But it was the coming attractions of today, it meant ‘today.’”108
In an interview toward the end of his life, Newark Eagles’ pitcher Max Manning reminisced about Palm’s reluctance to deal with foul popups: “There was a catcher, ‘Spoony’ Palm, whose given name was Clarence. Spoony was funny. He didn’t like foul pops. With the ball in the air, we’d yell, ‘Better keep your mask on, Spoony!’ He’d say, ‘It’s a tall one; someone better come get it.’”109 By every account, Palm appears to have been the type of personality who liked to have fun and make his friends and colleagues chuckle. Perhaps this outlook on life was the origin of the nickname, since “spoony” can mean “silly” as well as “sentimental.”
Whether out of professional convenience or a true affinity for the city, Palm continued to live in west Harlem from the time he settled there in the early 1940s until his death more than 30 years later. Palm’s 1941 Puerto Rico Winter League contract lists his address on W. 131st Street in Manhattan, and in 1942 he lived on Madison Avenue. Palm eventually resided at different addresses on 145th Street in Harlem, which is on the boundary between the Sugar Hill and Hamilton Heights neighborhoods. He is listed as living on 145th Street in city telephone directories throughout the 1950s, while otherwise he had managed to keep his name out of the press and public records.
Clarence “Spoony” Palm died on April 21, 1969, at his residence at 508 West 145th Street in Manhattan. Harlem’s Benta Funeral Home handled his arrangements, but no information is available detailing cause of death or next of kin. Palm was interred in the Rosehill Cemetery in Linden, New Jersey, on April 25, 1969, 42 years to the day after his Negro National League debut with the Birmingham Black Barons.
The author expresses thanks to Katherine Hooker, research and instruction librarian at the A. Frank Smith Jr. Library Center at Southwestern University, Georgetown, Texas, for her assistance in identifying sources for information on Palm’s family. Gratitude is owed as well to Ruth Clusman, manager of the Rosehill and Rosedale Cemetery Association in Linden, New Jersey, for providing specifics to identify Clarence Palm’s location of death, funeral location, and final resting place.
All player statistics and team records, unless otherwise noted, are from the Negro Leagues database at seamheads.com.
1 “Craws Win Two, Point for 4-Club Twin Bill,” Pittsburgh Courier, April 20, 1935: A5.
2 “Pick-Ups from the Diamond.” Afro-American, April 27, 1935: 21.
3 J.M. Campos, “Hornsby’s Playing Astounds Mexicans,” The Sporting News, October 31, 1935: 5.
4 “Cum Posey’s Pointed Paragraphs,” Pittsburgh Courier, December 21, 1935: 13.
5 Thomas Van Hyning, Puerto Rico’s Winter League (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 1995), 7.; “Raid National Assoc.,” Philadelphia Tribune, April 29, 1937: 12.
6 Palm, “Williamson County Texas Births and Christenings, 1840-1981.” Accessed October 23, 2019, ancestry.com. An official birth certificate remains elusive for Palm, but a registry of live births in Williamson County lists an entry recorded on October 28, 1907, for Will and Lula Palm giving birth to a son, no first name yet identified. On passenger manifests for trips to the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico in the 1930s and ’40s, Palm lists his birth date as October 27, so it’s likely that the entry in the registry was recorded a day after his birth.
7 Passenger Manifest for S.S. American Ponce sailing from New York, New York, October 28, 1938, arriving at the port of San Juan November 3, 1938. Accessed November 1, 2019, ancestry.com.
8 US Census Bureau, Robert Palm in the 1930 Census, St. Louis, Missouri. Accessed October 17, 2019, ancestry.com.
9 “St. Louis Stars Split with Zulu Cannibals,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, July 5, 1936: 15. Only this one reference for Bob Palm playing with the Stars has surfaced. During or after the 1936 season, Bob played with the St. Louis Giants until he was signed, along with Doc Bracken, by Hayes for Cleveland’s 1944 entry. The Cleveland paper published an image of Palm, Bracken, and Hayes taken as the contracts were executed. The Palm in the picture is decidedly not Clarence. See Morris Mills, “Wilbur Hayes Signs Crack Battery for New Buckeyes,” Cleveland Call and Post, October 23, 1943: 10A.
10 “Monarchs Defeated 7 to 4 by Giants,” Chicago Defender, June 8, 1946: 21B.
11 “Entire Club Purchased to Obtain Ace Pitcher,” Indianapolis Star, June 4, 1946, 17. The conflation of Bob and Clarence Palm is understandable, as both were catchers who had spent time in St. Louis and later made appearances for New York teams. Larry Lester, in Black Baseball in New York City (Jefferson, North Carolina: MacFarland & Company, 2017), 134 and 136, mistakenly describes Clarence as a member, along with Bracken, of the Brooklyn Brown Dodgers in 1946, listing his place of birth as Clarendon, Arkansas, and attributing Bob’s demand that the entire Giants’ roster move to Brooklyn to Clarence. Dick Clark and Larry Lester, eds., Negro Leagues Book (Cleveland: Society for American Baseball Research, 1994), 118 and 134, lists Clarence on the roster both for the St. Louis Stars and the New York Black Yankees in 1936 and does not list Bob as a member of the 1944 Cleveland Buckeyes. However, reporting during the 1936 season shows Clarence consistently with the Black Yankees in 1936 as well as in 1946 when Bob was playing for St. Louis and Brooklyn respectively. See “1st Half Goes to Elites as Stars Get Off to Bad Start,” Philadelphia Tribune, July 16, 1936: 13; Cleveland Call and Post, July 23, 1936: 2; “Black Yankees Battle Lloyd Here Tonight,” Chester (Pennsylvania) Times, May 17, 1946: 16; “Brown Dodgers in 2 with Boston Blues,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, June 9, 1946: 25; “Top-Flight Negro Baseball Teams to Play Here June 17,” Daily Item (Sunbury, Pennsylvania), June 12, 1946: 13; “Kaysee Monarchs Face Stars Mon.,” Philadelphia Tribune, July 6, 1946: 10.
12 “Funeral Is Friday for Bob Palm,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 21, 1976: 10.
13 Lenard Palm, Texas, Death Certificates, 1903-1982. Accessed May 30, 2019, ancestry.com.
14 Brad Stratton, Histories of Pride: Thirteen Pioneers Who Shaped Georgetown’s African American Community (Georgetown, Texas: City of Georgetown, 1998), 19.
15 US WWII Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947; US School Yearbooks, 1900-1999; US Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010. Accessed December 7, 2019, ancestry.com.
16 Stratton, Histories of Pride, 19.
17 Stratton, 20.
18 Stratton, 20.
19 Stratton, 20.
20 Robert Palm, Texas, Death Certificates, 1903-1982. Accessed December 6, 2019, ancestry.com. Grandfather Robert Palm’s age on the certificate of death is listed as “Bought [about?] 85,” indicating he was likely born into slavery in Mississippi in the late 1840s.
21 Robert Palm, Texas, Death Certificates.
22 Lula Palm, Texas Deaths, 1890-1976 Accessed December 5, 2019, familysearch.org.
23 US Census Bureau, Lula Palm in the 1910, 1920, and 1930 Censuses, Georgetown, Texas. Accessed December 5, 2019, ancestry.com.
24 Lula Palm, Texas Deaths, 1890-1976. Accessed December 5, 2019, familysearch.org.
25 Michael Chamy, “El Diablo – Willie Wells and the Lost History of Black Baseball in Austin,” Austin Chronicle, July 4, 2003, https://austinchronicle.com/sports/2003-07-04/166641/.
26 “Austin Black Senators Play Georgetown Tigers Sunday at Lake Park,” Austin American-Statesman, July 1, 1923: 5.
27 “Texas Colored League 1919-1926,” Center for Negro Leagues Baseball Research. Retrieved October 23, 2019. https://cnlbr.org/Portals/0/Standings/Texas%20Colored%20League%20(1919-1926).pdf.
28 “Patterson Arrives to Direct Rushmen,” Birmingham News, March 15, 1925: 28.
29 “Black Barons Lose to Chicago Giants,” Birmingham News, April 16, 1927: 9; Oscar W. Adams, “What Negroes Are Doing,” Birmingham News, April 17, 1927: 90; “Royal Giants to Play Here Monday,” Birmingham News, April 17, 1927: 22.
32 “Baseball Monday, Black Barons to Face Cuban Stars, 20,000 to Attend,” Birmingham Reporter, April 23, 1927: 1.
33 “Black Barons Win in Tenth from Cubans,” Birmingham News, April 26, 1927: 18.
34 “Black Barons Defeat Cubans in Extra Inning Game,” Birmingham Reporter, April 30. 1927: 3.
35 “Black Barons Defeat Hornets in First, 7-2,” Birmingham News, May 3, 1927: 18.
36 “Black Barons Win Two from Dusky Hornets,” Birmingham News, May 6, 1927: 26.
37 “Black Barons Win Again from Red Sox,” Birmingham News, May 10, 1927: 16; “Black Barons Win and Lose,” Birmingham Reporter May 14, 1927: 3; “Black Barons Drop Another from Giants,” Birmingham News, May 17, 1927: 19; “Black Barons Drop First to Monarchs,” Birmingham News, May 22, 1927: 22; “Black Barons Take Third from Monarchs,” Birmingham News, May 24, 1927: 18; “Black Barons Lose Second to St. Louis Team,” Birmingham News, June 10, 1927: 29; “Black Barons Take First on Road to Make 6 Straights,” Birmingham News, June 12, 1927: 22.
38 “The Black Barons Must Wake Up,” Birmingham Reporter, July 2, 1927: 3.
39 “Birmingham Team Beats Stars, 10 to 8,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 29, 1927: 21; “St. Louis Stars Blank Birmingham Black Barons 4–0, for 11th Victory in Row,” St. Louis Globe Democrat, June 27, 1927: 16.
40 “Black Barons at Home Monday,” Birmingham Reporter, July 9, 1927: 4.
41 “Black Barons,” Birmingham Reporter, August 27, 1927: 7.
42 Clark and Lester, 160; “1927 in the Negro Leagues,” Baseball-Reference. Accessed October 14, 2019. baseball-reference.com.
43 “Black Barons Lose Series,” Birmingham Reporter, October 1, 1927: 7.
44 James A. Riley, Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues (New York: Carroll & Graf, 1994), 600, reports that Palm’s rookie batting average was .299.
45 Layton Revel and Luis Munoz, “Forgotten Heroes: James Allen ‘Candy Jim’ Taylor,” (Center for Negro Leagues Baseball Research, 2013), 21. Retrieved May 30, 2019. https://cnlbr.org/Portals/0/Hero/Candy-Jim-Taylor.pdf.
46 “St. Louis Stars Split Double-Header with Birmingham, 17–7, 7–9,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, May 28, 1929: 22; “St. Louis Stars Win Over Birmingham Black Barons, 10–8,” St, Louis Globe-Democrat, May 29, 1929: 13.
47 “St. Louis Stars to Open 5-Game Series in Chicago Saturday,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 6, 1929: 21.
48 US Census Bureau, Clarence Palm in the 1930 Census, Georgetown, Texas. Accessed October 30, 2019, ancestry.com.
49 “American Giants Win,” Chicago Tribune, April 28, 1930: 23.
50 “Home Run in Ninth Gives Detroit Stars Victory Over St. Louis,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 7, 1930: 22.
51 “Cuban Stars Beat Detroit Nine Again,” Detroit Free Press, August 19, 1930: 17.
52 “Detroit’s Victory Over Stars Evens Series for Title,” St. Louis Star and Times, September 18, 1930: 22.
53 “‘Play-Off Championship’ Series Summaries,” Center for Negro Leagues Baseball Research. Retrieved October 11, 2019. https://cnlbr.org/Portals/0/RL/Negro%20League%20Play-Off%20Series%20(1930-1939).pdf.
54 “Winners Toy with Losers,” Windsor Star, August 4, 1931: 15.
55 Dan Burley, “Down Yonder in New Orleans,” Chicago Daily Defender, August 19, 1959: 22. Clarence Palm did share the field in Detroit with infielder Grady Orange in 1930 and possibly ’31. Utilityman Hallie Harding, however, left the Stars for Kansas City in 1928.
56 Burley, “Down Yonder in New Orleans.”
57 The 1932 season was the first of two times Posey turned to Palm as a replacement for Josh Gibson. In 1941 Palm would once again be called into service for the Grays when Gibson remained in Mexico. In both seasons, nine years apart, Spoony worked alongside longtime second-stringer Robert Gaston.
58 Chester L. Washington, “Sportively Speaking,” Pittsburgh Courier, April 9, 1932: A5; “The Race Begins,” Pittsburgh Courier, May 7, 1932: 14. Palm was listed in early April as having reported to Grays’ spring training in West Virginia, and the Courier still saw him as the “lead catcher” for Homestead in early May. By mid-May, Palm had left Pittsburgh, likely en route to Chicago for a brief stint with Cole’s American Giants.
59 Chester L. Washington, “Harris’ Single Decides Opener,” Pittsburgh Courier, April 23, 1932: 16.
60 Clark and Lester, 108; Phil Dixon with Patrick J. Hannigan, The Negro Baseball Leagues: A Photographic History (Mattituck, New York: Amereon House, 1992), 167. Clark and Lester show Palm on the CAG roster in 1932, while Dixon and Hannigan’s book includes a team photo of the Chicago club dated 1931; cross-referencing the Negro Leagues Book with the players in the photo, including Palm and McDonald, it appears that this image is of the 1932 team. The Negro Leagues Database at seamheads.com lists Palm appearing in three games for Homestead and two for the American Giants in 1932. Riley’s Biographical Encyclopedia places him on both rosters as well (600).
62 Revel and Munoz, “Chet Brewer.”
63 “Norwood and Tigers Turn Back Visitors,” Winnipeg Tribune, May 25, 1932: 14.
64 “Ex-Giants Pitcher Beats Donaldsons,” Chicago Defender, June 4, 1932: 9.
65 “Palm’s Stick Work Is Talk of Pro Lots,” Chicago Defender, June 17, 1932: 8.
66 “Local Baseball Team Trounced,” Winnipeg Tribune, July 4, 1932: 14; “Crookston Reds Play on Monday,” Winnipeg Tribune, July 29, 1932: 12; “Crookston Sweeps Ball Series from All-Stars,” Winnipeg Tribune, August 2, 1932: 13; “Crookston Beats Canucks,” Minneapolis Star, August 2, 1932: 9; “Boosters Receive Their First Defeat on Northern Trip,” Daily Plainsman (Huron, South Dakota), August 11, 1932: 9.
67 Revel and Munoz, “Candy Jim Taylor,” 23.
68 John L. Clark, “Notes of the Negro National Association,” Pittsburgh Courier, June 3, 1933: 15.
69 “‘Texas’ Burnett Leads Hitters, Summary Shows,” Pittsburgh Courier, June 24, 1933: 14.
70 “Akron, Craws Clash Saturday,” Pittsburgh Courier, July 29, 1933: A4.
71 “Craws, Cleveland Here Saturday,” Pittsburgh Courier, August 19, 1933: A5.
72 “Cubans Touring U.S.,” Philadelphia Tribune, April 19, 1934: 10.
73 Chester L. Washington, “Grays Win Second Holiday Tilt, 4-3,” Pittsburgh Courier, July 7, 1934: 1.
74 “Grays, Crawfords Split Dual Bill,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 5, 1934: 17.
75 “Part of Crowd; Oscar Out; No-Hit Hero; Gus Smile at Classic,” Pittsburgh Courier, July 14, 1934: A5.
76 Dizzy Dismukes, “5 Homers Feature Grays-Sox Battle,” Pittsburgh Courier, July 21, 1934: 15.
77 “Crawfords Beat Bacharach Twice,” Pittsburgh Press, July 22, 1934: 14.
78 “Eagles Wallop Ball Hard, Beat Dodgers Twice,” Afro-American, May 11, 1935: 21.
79 “Eagles Play at Home on Sunday,” New York Amsterdam News, July 6, 1935: 15.
80 “Reds and Eagles Split Twin Bill,” Philadelphia Tribune, March 5, 1936: 13; “Brooklyn Eagles Bacardi Trophy, 1936,” National Baseball Hall of Fame. Accessed December 14, 2019. https://collection.baseballhall.org/PASTIME/brooklyn-eagles-bacardi-trophy-1936-0.
81 Lewis E. Dial, “The Sport Dial,” New York Age, September 12, 1936: 9. Jeremy Beer, in his biography Oscar Charleston: The Life and Legend of Baseball’s Greatest Forgotten Player (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2019), 263-264, highlights the story Oscar told on Palm, in which Clarence threatens the pitcher George Pipgras while in Mexico for throwing wild at him but defers to the white hurler once back in Texas. Pipgras, who had just finished his major-league career in ’35, playing his final two seasons with the Boston Red Sox, had done so in lackluster fashion and would not have qualified as any type of “all-star” at this terminal stage of his career. However, there’s a strong possibility that he had joined this barnstorming campaign along with Rogers Hornsby and the rest as a swan song for what had been a remarkable 12-year career.
82 “Satchel Will Start Sunday with Yankees,” New York Amsterdam News, April 25, 1936: 15.
83 “Black Yanks Invade Puerto Rican League,” New York Amsterdam News, December 26, 1936: 14; “Black Yankees Journey to Warmer Climate,” New York Amsterdam News, January 2, 1937: 15; “New York Black Yanks Sail for Havana, Cuba,” Baltimore Afro-American, January 2, 1937: 22; “Black Yanks Embark for Havana,” Pittsburgh Courier, January 9, 1937: 16; “Black Yanks Head for Puerto Rico,” Philadelphia Tribune, December 31, 1936: 9.
84 Passenger Manifest for S.S. San Jacinto sailing from San Juan, P.R., February 11, 1937, arriving at the port of New York, February 18, 1937. Accessed October 20, 2019, ancestry.com.
85 “New York Black Yanks to Start with Youths,” Chicago Defender, March 13, 1937: 15.
86 “Bushwicks Officially Open Season Playing Black Yanks for Two Games,” Brooklyn Citizen, April 24, 1937: 6.
87 Passenger Manifest for SS Coamo, sailing from New York, April 22, 1937, to Trujillo City, D.R., via San Juan, P.R.; “Raid National Assoc.,” Philadelphia Tribune, April 29, 1937: 12.
88 Revel and Munoz, “Forgotten Heroes: George ‘Tubby’ Scales,” Center for Negro Leagues Baseball Research, 2015, 18. Retrieved December 3, 2019. https://cnlbr.org/Portals/0/Hero/309540%20Forgotten%20Heroes%20George%20Tubby%20Scales%20Single%20Pages.pdf.
89 Jonathan Blitzer, “Satchel Paige and the Championship for the Reelection of the General,” Atavist Magazine, February 2016, https://magazine.atavist.com/satchel-paige-and-the-championship-for-the-reelection-of-the-general
90 Revel and Munoz, “George ‘Tubby’ Scales,” 12.
91 Larry Lester, Black Baseball in New York City (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2017), 136.
92 “Battle for League at Yankee Stadium,” New York Age, September 20, 1941: 11. Palm signed with Homestead in midseason of 1941 and worked for them through the championship run in September. When Gibson returned at the end of the month, Palm was let go.
93 Dan Burley, “Confidentially Yours,” New York Amsterdam News, July 24, 1943: 14.
94 Dan Burley, “Confidentially Yours,” New York Amsterdam News, July 22, 1944: B6.
95 “Negro National Leaguers Will Play Here Today,” Paterson (New Jersey) Morning Call, June 25, 1938: 22.
96 Van Hyning, Puerto Rico’s Winter League, 7.
97 Passenger Manifest for S.S. American “Ponce” sailing from New York, October 29, 1938, arriving at the port of San Juan, P.R., November 3, 1938. Accessed October 20, 2019, ancestry.com.
98 Van Hyning, Puerto Rico’s Winter League, 83.
99 Thomas E. Van Hyning, The Santurce Crabbers: Sixty Seasons of Puerto Rican Winter League Baseball (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland and Company, 1999), 12.
100 Van Hyning, The Santurce Crabbers, 12.
101 Van Hyning, Puerto Rico’s Winter League, 248.
102 “1941 Clarence Palm Negro League Contract (.400 hitter),” Lelands Sports Memorabilia and Card Auctions. Accessed December 11, 2019. https://lelands.com/bids/1941-clarence-palm-negro-league-contract–.400-hitter.
103 Van Hyning, Puerto Rico’s Winter League, 247.
104 Ramon Luis Vazquez Collazo, “Historia de los Equipos de la Puerto Rico ‘Baseball League.’” Noticias Illescanos (blog), November 13, 2008, https://illescanos.blogspot.com/2008/11/historia-de-los-equipos-de-la-puerto.html.
105 Van Hyning, The Santurce Crabbers, 26.
106 Passenger Manifests for Pan American Airways flights departing La Guardia Field, New York, September 8, 1949, arriving at San Juan P.R.; departing San Juan, P.R., September 29, 1949, arriving La Guardia Field. Accessed November 9, 2019, ancestry.com.
107 US Census Bureau, Clarence Palm in the 1940 Census, San Juan, P.R. Accessed November 8, 2019, familysearch.org.
108 Van Hyning, Puerto Rico’s Winter League, 88.
109 “Manning: Memories Etched on Diamonds,” Philadelphia Inquirer, July 17, 1994: 37.