SABR Century: 1921 Negro Leagues

In 2020 Major League Baseball made an announcement that coincided with the centennial of the founding of the Negro National League (NNL) in 1920. The announcement brought new attention to an important story in baseball history since seven Negro Leagues from 1920 to 1948 were declared to be major leagues. This official statement opened the door for the statistics of the Negro Leagues to be included with other major league statistics, opening new discussions about the players, owners, and other personnel who have been ignored by so many for so long.

Rube Foster (NATIONAL BASEBALL HALL OF FAME LIBRARY)The second full season of the NNL in 1921 opened at the end of April when the Chicago Giants defeated the Columbus Buckeyes, 5-3. The league included eight teams led by Rube Foster’s 1920 champions, the Chicago American Giants. At the bottom of the league stood the other Chicago club, known as the Giants. Other cities with Negro National League teams that now enjoy major league status include Kansas City, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Detroit, and Columbus.

Oscar Charleston led the entire league in batting, home runs and RBIs, a Triple Crown winner in the league’s second season. Matching the hitting prowess of Charleston were pitchers Dave Brown of the Chicago American Giants, who racked up 17 wins against only two losses, Cincinnati’s Jose Leblanc with a WAR of 6.2 and Big Bill Holland of the Detroit Stars with 140 strikeouts.

Many of these great exploits took place in a variety of White-owned ballparks, such as Schorling Park in Chicago and Washington Park in Indianapolis. Having a home stadium was important to the stability of many ball clubs and often Negro League clubs folded when they did not have access to a regular ballpark. Media coverage was another measure of success for Negro League clubs. Having a Black newspaper such as the Chicago Defender with the dean of Black sportswriters, Fay Young, reporting on their games gave these Negro League clubs a solid fan base as well as an advocate for the greatness of their players.

The exploits and stories of the 1921 Negro National League season are brought to life in these pages. Come and learn more about the importance of these major league teams.

— Leslie Heaphy

“It has been a long, and sometimes forgotten journey to get these men and women accepted into baseball lore. Folklore and embellished truths have long been a staple of the Negro Leagues narrative. Those storylines will always be entertaining, but now our dialogues can be quantified and qualified to support the authentic greatness of these players, owners and managers. As baseball reinvents itself, 100 years later, every fan should welcome this bittersweet moment of statistical restitution towards social reparation for these leagues of color.”

— Larry Lester, award-winning author, historian, and chair of SABR’s Negro Leagues Research Committee

Oscar Charleston won the Triple Crown in the Negro National League in 1921 (NATIONAL BASEBALL HALL OF FAME LIBRARY)

The Players

Oscar Charleston was known as “the Black Ty Cobb.” Both men sprayed line drives to all fields and played a savage running game on the bases. But Charleston hit with power, which Cobb did not, and on the field he ran circles around the more famous Georgian. He was considered in a class with Tris Speaker in center field.

By common agreement among Black old-timers, Charleston was the greatest all-around player in the annals of the Negro Leagues. His more modern counterpart would be Willie Mays, who played with a similar panache.

In 1921, Charleston had a year that not even Cobb, the Georgia Peach, could match. Oscar hit .433 in 77 games against the top Black teams and led the Negro National League (NNL) in batting, home runs, and RBIs to win the Triple Crown.

Find SABR biographies of other notable players from the 1921 Negro National League:

 

Oscar Charleston (NATIONAL BASEBALL HALL OF FAME LIBRARY)

1921 Negro National League

Batting Leaders

  • WAR: Oscar Charleston, 6.1
  • BA: Oscar Charleston, .433
  • OBP: Oscar Charleston, .512
  • SLG: Oscar Charleston, .736
  • OPS+: Oscar Charleston, 250
  • HR: Oscar Charleston, 15
  • RBI: Oscar Charleston, 91
  • Runs: Oscar Charleston, 104
  • 2B: Ben Taylor, 25
  • 3B: Clint Thomas, 18
  • TB: Ben Taylor, 212
  • SB: Joe Hewitt, 33

Find more batting leaders for the 1921 Negro National League at Baseball-Reference.com

1921 Negro National League

Bullet Rogan (TRADING CARD DB)Pitching Leaders

  • WAR: José Leblanc, 6.2
  • W-L: Dave Brown, 17-2 (.895)
  • ERA: Bullet Rogan, 1.72
  • ERA+: Bullet Rogan, 223
  • K: Bill Holland, 140
  • K/9: Dave Brown, 6.288
  • WHIP: Dave Brown, 1.004
  • Games: Jim Jeffries, 42
  • IP: Jim Jeffries, 261
  • CG: Roy Roberts, 23
  • SHO: D. Brown/J. Jeffries, 5

Find more pitching leaders for the 1921 Negro National League at Baseball-Reference.com

1921 Detroit Stars of the Negro National League (SABR-RUCKER ARCHIVE)The 1921 Detroit Stars were led by 38-year-old player-manager Pete Hill, a future Baseball Hall of Fame inductee. (SABR-RUCKER ARCHIVE)

Team Summaries

The 1921 Chicago American Giants

By Ken Carrano

Prior to the success of the initial Negro National League season, Black baseball teams were independent, essentially barnstorming for the entirety of their seasons. While barnstorming continued to be an important part of their makeup, the stability afforded by the structure of the NNL gave teams a true championship to play for. League founder Andrew “Rube” Foster knew that the success of a second season was not guaranteed. “The coming season will either permanently secure baseball among us or destroy the good that has been accomplished,” he said. “To be successful, all owners will have to do team work: they will have to pull together. Just the same as all leading clubs of players work together, their inside stuff is what will get them and baseball somewhere.”1

The league’s stability was challenged soon enough, as Foster’s Chicago American Giants were invited to join a new integrated league, the Continental Baseball League, being established by Andrew Lawson for the 1921 season to compete with the American and National Leagues similar to the Federal League in the mid 1910s.2 The Missoula (Montana) Missoulian stated that it was possible that banned major-league players like the ousted Black Sox could play in the league, and that several of the black teams being considered, including the American Giants, “all would finish somewheres [sic] above the Philadelphia nines in the National and American Leagues.”3 John Schorling, Foster’s partner in the American Giants and the owner of their home field, later declared that the team would not join the league.4 The NNL itself had remained stable, with only the Dayton Marcos not participating in 1921, replaced by the Columbus Buckeyes.

1921 Chicago American Giants team with manager Rube Foster in the center. (SABR-RUCKER ARCHIVE)

1921 Chicago American Giants team, with manager Rube Foster in the top row in street clothes. (SABR-RUCKER ARCHIVE)

The 1921 American Giants resembled the defending champions of 1920. The infield was unchanged: Dave Malarcher was the third baseman, Bobby Williams manned short, Bingo DeMoss held down second base, and Leroy Grant was at first. George Dixon and Jim Brown split the catching duties. In the outfield, Jimmie Lyons had replaced Judy Gans in left, but future Hall of Famer Cristobal Torriente patrolled center field, and Jelly Gardner was in right. Dave Brown, Tom Williams, Tom Johnson, and Jack Marshall returned as the starting pitching staff, with Otis Starks and Torriente also making appearances.

The team had played for several years at the Royal Poinciana Hotel, and it was from here that the American Giants began their spring-training trip back to Chicago, with stops to play in Atlanta; Memphis; Montgomery, Alabama; and Hot Springs, Arkansas. Foster’s men opened the NNL season at home on May 7 against the Kansas City Monarchs, beating them 2-0 behind Brown, who struck out nine and allowed only one hit. The American Giants won two of three in the opening series against the Monarchs and squeezed in a home game against the Bacharach Giants and a trip to Kenosha, Wisconsin to play the Nash Motors team before a five-game series in St. Louis against the St. Louis Giants. Perhaps the team’s pitchers missed the train to St. Louis, as the Giants allowed 40 runs in the five games, still winning two of the set. Back in Chicago to end the month of May, the American Giants and the Cincinnati Cuban Stars split a four-game series, leaving the American Giants with a .500 league mark as the calendar turned to June.

The American Giants started their charge to repeat as NNL champions in June. Beginning with the final two games of their series with the Cuban Stars, they won 12 of their first 13 league games in the month, sweeping the Buckeyes in four straight, the Indianapolis ABCs also in four, and the Chicago Giants in a short two-game series. The winning streak ended in Indianapolis. After they won the first game of a Sunday doubleheader on June 26 (the Indianapolis Star wrote that the American Giants bunted the ABCs into submission), the second game was called after seven innings for darkness with the teams tied, 1-1. The unbeaten streak ended the next day with a 6-4 loss to the ABCs.

What followed was one of the most remarkable comebacks by any baseball team in any league.

The American Giants spotted the ABCs a 10-run lead by allowing six runs in the first inning and four in the third. The game remained 10-0 in favor of the ABCs until the top of the eighth, when the American Giants put up nine runs to cut the lead to one. The fans of the ABCs must have been relieved when the home team scored eight runs in the bottom of the inning to take an 18-9 lead, only to see the American Giants score nine runs in the ninth inning to tie the game, which ended after the ABCs were held scoreless in the bottom of the frame. The American Giants’ rallies included six successive squeeze plays, as well as grand slams by Torriente and Dixon.5

June ended for the American Giants with a two-game sweep in Cleveland of the Tate Stars in nonleague action. League play was their focus for the next two weeks. The Monarchs were back in Chicago, this time for a six-game series beginning on July 3. The American Giants took four of the contests, including shutouts by Williams (a one-hit effort) and Johnson. After that series, the St. Louis Giants played six straight with the American Giants, the first in Gary, Indiana, won by the American Giants 16-4, a doubleheader back at Schorling Field that the American Giants swept, and the final three in St. Louis, all won by the home team. Oscar Charleston hit three home runs in the games in St. Louis to lead the team.

Before a trip to Cincinnati, the American Giants played a three-game series in Decatur, Illinois, against the Staley Starch Workers. A.E. Staley Manufacturing packaged starch and other corn products, and its founder, Gene Staley, had built a baseball ground named Staley Park in 1917. Staley hired future Hall of Fame pitcher and local hero Joe “Iron Man” McGinnity to manage the team, and McGinnity brought in a Chicagoan who had played briefly with the New York Yankees in 1919 to play on the Staley baseball team and coach its football team, George Halas.6 The American Giants won the first game, 4-1, with Halas’s home run accounting for the only Starch Workers score. Johnson gave up seven hits for the American Giants, but only three men made it past first base.7 Howard V. Millard of the Decatur Review wrote that the team “would rank well with any major league club.”8 The Starch Workers won the second contest, 6-4, setting up the final game on Sunday, July 16, with McGinnity taking the mound. The Iron Man lasted only four innings as the American Giants scored in each of the first six innings on their way to a 14-5 rout, with Torriente’s three-run homer in the second inning the highlight.9

Continuing their time away from Chicago, the American Giants took three of a five-game series at Cincinnati’s Crosley Field from the Cuban Stars. Standings published in the California Eagle on July 30 had the American Giants in first place in the NNL, trailed closely by the Monarchs and Detroit Stars. On the same day, the team started a stretch of six straight home games, winning all by sweeping three from the Buckeyes, taking a single win against the Cuban Stars, and winning two from the St. Louis Giants. On August 10 the American Giants defeated the Sheboygan (Wisconsin) Chairmakers, 6-2.

Foster’s men split a series with the Stars before a doubleheader with the Monarchs on August 28. A crowd of 10,000 saw the twin bill. After a trip to St. Louis, the American Giants traveled to Kansas City over Labor Day weekend for six games with the Monarchs that were likely to decide the NNL flag. According to standings published in the Kansas City Kansan, the Monarchs were just percentage points behind the American Giants. The Monarchs won the first two games of the series to briefly take over first place. Torriente’s bases-loaded double helped put the American Giants back in front on September 5 with an 8-2 victory and they won the next three games as well, helped by the Monarchs’ six errors in two of the games to effectively win the pennant. League play concluded for the American Giants with Sunday doubleheaders against the Stars (a sweep) and the Cuban Stars (split).

With league play finished, the team headed east to play the Pittsburgh Keystones, Bacharach Giants, Tesreau’s Bears, and Hilldale. The Chicago Tribune reported that the American Giants won the “eastern colored baseball championship” by winning the first game of the doubleheader with the Bacharach Giants at Ebbets Field on October 23, and then were to head to New Orleans to play nine games against the New Orleans Crescents.10 The California Eagle wrote that the ballpark in New Orleans cost $50,000 to complete and was “the finest race owned structure in the country.”11 Line scores of four games in the Tribune show that the American Giants won three of them.

Torriente was the hitting star of the season for the American Giants, batting .352 with 12 home runs, 74 RBIs, and 19 stolen bases. Only Charleston (15) and George Carr of the Monarchs (14) hit more home runs. Brown was stellar on the mound, posting a 17-2 record and a 2.50 ERA with five shutouts in his 26 games.12 Foster’s successful season ended on a sour note, as he was arrested in Atlanta on charges of cheating and swindling players. The charges were brought by former player Ben Harris, who claimed that when Foster recruited players in 1920, they were promised $125 a month and a share of gate receipts. Harris alleged that some players were not paid either their salaries or share of the gate. Foster denied the charges, paid his bail, and proceeded to Cuba.13 The issue was resolved, and Foster was elected to lead the NNL again in 1922.

Sources

This article would not have been possible except for the work of the Seamheads.com website (seamheads.com), especially Kevin Johnson, who provided game results for all NNL games. In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted Baseball-Reference.com, The Sporting News via Paper of Record, and numerous news clippings from newspapers.com.

Notes

1 Larry Lester; Rube Foster in His Time: On the Field and in the Papers with Black Baseball’s Greatest Visionary (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland 2012), Kindle location 3175.

2 “Want Chicago in New League,” Kansas City Star, January 25, 1921: 12.

3 “League Promises Renewal of War,” Missoulian (Missoula, Montana), January 16, 1921: 11.

4 “American Giants Shy at Joining New Baseball League,” Courier (Waterloo, Iowa), February 12, 1921: 14.

5 “American Giants in Tie,” Chicago Tribune, June 29, 1921: 19.

6 Stephen V. Rice, “Cristobal Torriente, Chicago American Giants Knock the Starch Out of ‘Iron Man’ McGinnity,” SABR Games Project, https://sabr.org/gamesproj/game/july-16-1921-crist-bal-torriente-chicago-american-giants-knock-starch-out-iron-man/.

7 “American Giants Beat Starch Workers in Fast Game,” Herald & Review (Decatur, Illinois), July 15, 1921: 4.

8 Lester, Kindle location 3128.

9 Rice.

10 Seamheads.com’s database agrees with the Tribune, but three different Brooklyn newspapers state that the Bacharach Giants won the first game 5-3 – this being the score recorded by the Tribune as the second game, and that the second game was halted after three innings tied 1-1.

11 “Rube Foster Playing in New Orleans in $50,000 Ball Park, Race Property,” California Eagle (Los Angeles), November 12, 1921: 6.

12 Seamheads.com data

13 Lester, Kindle location 3271.

The 1921 St. Louis Giants

By Kevin Johnson

The 1921 season started for the St. Louis Giants with the excitement of having the Negro Leagues’ consensus best player on the roster and ended with the team dissolving in bankruptcy. But the Negro National League franchise passed to new owners who would eventually build one of the all-time best Negro League teams.

Charles Alexander “Charlie” Mills, a Black bank messenger, took over running the St. Louis Giants, a local, all-Black amateur baseball club, in 1909. Since around 1906, the club had played mostly against all-White city teams in a vibrant St. Louis semipro baseball community. Conrad Kuebler, who owned a ballpark at Prescott and Pope Avenues, was the team owner. Sometime in the 1909 season, Mills, the club’s business manager, formed a “stock company” of 16 businessmen to increase their capital base and be able to offer higher player pay. Mills became one of the minority owners. It appears Kuebler may have sold out his share of the team before the 1911 season. Starting in 1911 and for most of the seasons through 1921, Dick Wallace managed the team. Wallace had played for the Chicago Leland Giants, and apparently through his former teammate contacts, the team was able to begin replacing the local players with better, national talent. In 1911 the Giants moved up to the “big time” in Black baseball, playing over 40 games against nationally recognized powers such as the Brooklyn Royal Giants, the Philadelphia Giants, the New York Lincoln Giants, and the Indianapolis ABCs. By 1912 and 1913 they were “city champions” of St. Louis – too strong for most of the local teams.1

Up until this point, they had been playing their home team games at two places: first at Kuebler’s Park (sometimes called Giants Park) and, by 1911, mostly at the corner of Garrison Avenue and North Market Street at Timothy Kavanaugh’s Athletic Park, which was also used for soccer games. After the 1913 season, the stock company dissolved, costing the team access to Athletic Park. Without the stock company backing, the team lost many of its best players and played a limited, much less national schedule in 1914.2

Before the 1915 season, Mills partnered a second time with Kuebler, with Kuebler providing upgrades to his park so it could become the team’s home park once again. Many of the former players returned to the team, and Mills once more began scheduling games against the top Black teams in the country. After this brief renaissance, more ownership and capital issues, ballpark issues, the East St. Louis race riots, and World War I all conspired to provide several rough years for the franchise. There is little evidence that the team even played in 1918.3

However, Mills reformed the St. Louis Giants in 1919, with new financial backing. The team moved into a new ballpark, called Giants Park (different from the previous Kuebler’s/Giants Park), at the corner of Pope and Prescott Avenues, just a block from Kuebler’s Park.4 Overall, Giants Park slightly favored hitters over pitchers. The park had a right-field fence that was approximately 20 feet closer to home plate than the left-field fence, presumably favoring left-handed hitters over right-handed ones. Although there was no official “league,” the Giants were part of an association of major Western teams that regularly played each other, which included the Chicago American Giants, the Detroit Stars, the Cuban Stars, the Dayton Marcos, and Jewell’s (Indianapolis) ABCs.

When Rube Foster brought together a group of Black team owners in 1920 to form the Negro National League, the teams he invited to join with his own Chicago American Giants team were these same teams, except that the Indianapolis team was C.I. Taylor’s ABCs (who had sat out the 1919 season), the Kansas City Monarchs (which had been reformed from the former All Nations team), and the Chicago Giants, to give the league eight teams, just like the White major leagues.

In addition to establishing the teams and playing schedules, issues Foster had to address with the other owners included player contracts and player jumping. Foster also seems to have been concerned about the league having a certain amount of parity. Charlie Mills was sick and had to send delegates to represent the Giants at the inaugural Negro National League meeting. Whether it was because he was not there to protect his interest, or because Foster had a friendship with Detroit owner Tenny Blount, or because Foster was concerned that he needed to keep Detroit competitive as a rival to Chicago, the league (Foster) made the following major player movements:

  1. Oscar Charleston moving from Chicago to Indianapolis, his former team and hometown.
  2. Jose Mendez and John Donaldson moving from Detroit to their former Kansas City location.
  3. Jimmie Lyons moving from the St. Louis Giants to Detroit. (Lyons had no previous connection or contract with Detroit.)

This left St. Louis without its major star, with no compensating talent coming back in return.

As might be expected, the Giants struggled to a sixth-place finish in the eight-team league in 1920. Perhaps because of the loss of Jimmie Lyons, or perhaps because Rube Foster was concerned about the financial condition of the team and wanted to boost its revenue, the Giants were assigned the contract of Oscar Charleston, the “Babe Ruth of the Negro Leagues,” for the 1921 season.

The Giants had their spring training by taking 20 potential team members to Florida in late March, then playing their way back toward St. Louis with exhibition games. Their spring training exhibition schedule was as follows:5

Ominously, Mills stated that “owing to the cold weather it has caused a heavy financial loss.”[6

Despite those premonitions, Oscar Charleston’s addition to the lineup meant optimism was high that St. Louis could be competitive with the defending champion and league flagship franchise, the Chicago American Giants. NNL teams were allowed 16 players – the Giants carried 15 active players (10 position players and 5 pitchers generally), although manager Dick Wallace could be the allowed 16th player if needed. The most common St. Louis lineup was:

  1. SS – Joe Hewitt (left-handed batter)
  2. 3B – Sam Mongin
  3. CF – Oscar Charleston (left-handed batter)
  4. RF – Charlie Blackwell (left-handed batter)
  5. LF – Doc Dudley (left-handed batter)
  6. C – Dan Kennard
  7. 1B – Tullie McAdoo
  8. 2B – Eddie Holtz

Sam Mongin left to join the Bacharach Giants the last two months of the season and was replaced by 20-year-old George Scales at third base, batting seventh, with McAdoo moving up to the number-two batting order spot.

Bench: OF/1B/3B/P – Sidney Brooks; C – Sam Bennett; SS (and manager) – Dick Wallace.

Main pitchers: Bill Drake, John Finner, Jimmy Oldham.

Other pitchers: Wayne Carr/James Field (left-hander)/Deacon Myers, Perry Hall/Herbert Smith/Otis Starks (left-hander).

Additionally, Deacon Meyers joined the team in September, replacing another rookie, James Field, who wasn’t quite good enough for this level of competition and who had previously replaced Wayne Carr as the fourth starter. Carr had jumped the team and gone east to the Brooklyn Royal Giants. Otis Starks came to St. Louis from Chicago in July to fill the fifth pitcher role that Perry Hall and then Herbert Smith had temporarily occupied. Bench player Sidney Brooks pitched in with four starts on the mound when the team was short of rested pitchers, and Oscar Charleston relieved in a few games, which were mostly blowouts.7

The Giants opened their season at home on Sunday, April 24, with the first of three games against a White professional team, the Huron Packers of the Class-D Dakota League. The Packers would finish in last place in their league. Rain was in the area, but “a few thousand followers of the game” attended. Hewitt and Mongin both went 3-for-3 with a double. In the second game, on Monday, Huron jumped out to a 6-0 in the third inning, but the Giants came back to win 12-7. Hewitt went 2-for-3. The score for the final game of the series, on Tuesday, was not reported.8

The NNL schedule rules called for the eight teams to play the other seven teams 15 times (three series of five games each), and if any team played another more than 15 times, those games were not to count in the standings.9 The first official published schedule went only through June.10 The Giants opened the NNL season on Saturday, April 30, in Kansas City against the Monarchs. A reported 2,000 fans attended the 4-2 Giants win in rainy conditions.11 The Monarchs shared their ballpark, Association Park, with the Kansas City Blues of the American Association. The park had a short right field with a 30-foot-high screen.12

On Sunday, May 1, Kansas City won 3-1 in a game whose start was delayed by rain and was played in drizzle. Bullet Rogan gave up no earned runs for the win. On Monday the Monarchs won 21-7, pounding out 26 hits.13 Oscar Charleston came in from the outfield to mop up the last four innings, and gave up four runs on nine hits. The series ended on Tuesday with a tough, 11-inning, 12-11 Giants loss.14 The Giants headed back to St. Louis for their home opener with a three-game losing streak.

The Giants opened their home season on Sunday, May 8, with a 9-0 win vs. the Chicago Giants. Bill Drake pitched the shutout for St. Louis. Catcher Dan Kennard received a deep gash on his right hand from a foul ball late in the game, requiring stitches. He was out of action until June 5.15 Catcher Charlie Hancock replaced him on the roster, but Sam Bennett became the starting catcher in Kennard’s absence. The Chicago Giants were the league’s “traveling” team, with no real home ballpark. They had finished last in the league in 1920 and would finish last again in 1921. It became obvious that they were not quite up to this level of competition and would be replaced in the NNL but continue on as a barnstorming team for many years.

Game two of the series on Monday also went to St. Louis, 6-2. The game was called after eight innings due to rain, and both the Tuesday and Wednesday games were rained out.16 On Thursday, May 12, the St. Louis Giants scored seven runs in the first inning, but the Chicago team came back, and after nine innings the score was tied 9-9. In the bottom of the 11th, Oscar Charleston hit a walk-off home run to win the game 10-9. Charleston had the first of many great days this season – he went 4-for-5 with two home runs. On Friday the teams played a doubleheader to make up for the two rained-out games. On top of having a doubleheader, pitchers John Finner and Wayne Carr were both suspended for “breaking the training rules.”17 St. Louis made it four in a row over Chicago with a 7-3 victory. In the second game, in order to save his pitching staff for the five games in a row coming up against Columbus, manager Mills started outfielder Sidney Brooks on the mound. Brooks lasted into the fourth inning, giving up four runs, then was relieved by Oscar Charleston. Charleston had what would be his best pitching performance of the season, giving up just one hit in 4⅔ innings, but the offense scored only one run in a 4-1 loss.18

Because of the makeup games on Friday, the team didn’t have much spare time, having to take a 13-hour drive to be in Columbus, Ohio, on Saturday, May 14, for the first of five games against the Columbus Buckeyes. The Buckeyes were the new team in the league, replacing the Dayton Marcos of 1920. The Buckeyes played in the second version of Neil Park, which had been used by the Detroit Tigers for two American League games in 1905, making it the first steel and concrete stadium in major-league history. With only two “real” pitchers on the trip due to the suspensions (a fifth pitcher had not yet been added to the roster), Mills again pitched outfielder Sidney Brooks. Columbus won the game, 7-3. On Sunday, May 15, Bill Drake pitched, and the Giants won 8-1. Jimmie Oldham pitched a complete-game, 13-6 Giants victory on Monday.19 Brooks had to start again Tuesday, and the Giants lost 6-4. Bill Drake pitched 3⅓ innings in relief, then came back on Wednesday as the starting pitcher. He pitched into the eighth inning Wednesday, giving up 12 runs in another loss, this time by a 15-7 score.

The team traveled back to St. Louis with a 7-7 league record. Considering that they had played the lowly Chicago Giants and the new Columbus Buckeyes; the record must have been disappointing. The team had scored 91 runs, leading the league in runs per game, but had also given up 91 runs. Great offense and poor run prevention was a recurring theme throughout the season.

On Sunday, May 22, the team hosted the Broadway Athletic Club Stars, a strong St. Louis semipro White team. The Giants won 8-6. Charlie Hancock played catcher to give Bennett a rest, and pitcher Perry Hall was given a tryout start, pitching the first three innings and giving up one run. That was good enough for him to be added to the pitching-desperate team. Pitcher Finner was back from suspension, but Carr had left the team during his suspension to pitch in Brooklyn.20

The team began a five-game series with the defending Negro National League champion Chicago American Giants on Monday, May 23. St. Louis won 13-1, with Charleston and Blackwell driving in five runs each. The second game was a different story, with Finner, pitching his first game back after his suspension, lasting for only seven batters. St. Louis lost 16-5. Finner’s short outing allowed him to come back and start the next day. In the first inning, with the bases loaded and two out, center fielder Charleston, who didn’t put on his sunglasses, lost a fly ball in the sun. Chicago scored four runs in the inning. St. Louis ended up scoring four runs in the seventh inning to tie the game 6-6, but Chicago scored one in the eighth for a 7-6 win.21 On Thursday, rain shortened the game to five innings, and St. Louis prevailed 9-3. On Friday afternoon, the largest crowd of the series turned out to see St. Louis rally for three runs in the seventh inning and win 7-6.22

After an offday on Saturday, the Giants opened a five-game series with the Cleveland Tate Stars, a new independent Black team that would take the place of Columbus in the NNL in 1922. Several major Eastern independent teams played a significant number of games against NNL teams:

  • Atlantic City Bacharach Giants, 54 games
  • Cleveland Tate Stars, 35 games
  • Hilldale Team, 21 games
  • Pittsburgh Keystones, 15 games

The Bacharach Giants, considered an associate member of the NNL, actually played more games against NNL teams than the NNL member Chicago Giants (47 games). Both Cleveland and Pittsburgh would join the NNL in 1922. Hilldale would be the driving force in founding the Eastern Colored League (ECL) in 1923; they were league champions from 1923 through 1925.

The Giants won four of five games from the Tate Stars. The most exciting game was the first one, when with the score 2-2, Dudley tripled to left field in the ninth inning, and Bennett singled him in for the walk-off win.23

The Indianapolis ABCs came to St. Louis for a scheduled five-game series that began Sunday, June 5. After they split the first two games, rain prevented the Tuesday and Wednesday games. On Thursday John Finner pitched a one-hit, 6-0 shutout. Friday was supposed to be a doubleheader to make up for the two rainouts. In the first game, Drake make it back-to-back shutouts, and Blackwell homered over the right-field fence in a 3-0 win. Rain prevented the second game from being played.24

In the original NNL schedule, St. Louis was to host the Chicago Giants June 11-15, but it appears the Chicago team may have backed out of those games. On Sunday, June 12, St. Louis hosted the White semipro Quincy (Illinois) Moose Gems, defeating them 9-3. Charleston hit two home runs. On Monday Quincy won 5-3. The Giants let 18-year-old Salvador Poree, a local Sumner High School graduate, pitch as a tryout to make the roster. He would end up starting one NNL game in August for the team.25

Without the Chicago Giant series, St. Louis had a slight midseason break in the schedule. The Giants resumed NNL games with a big five-game series at home against Kansas City, beginning Sunday, June 19. In the first game, the two pitching aces, the Monarchs’ Bullet Rogan and the Giants’ Bill Drake, were starting. Drake allowed only five hits and Tullie McAdoo had two triples and a double to lead St. Louis to a 6-1 victory.26 Monday’s game was rained out. On Tuesday Kansas City’s Dobie Moore hit one of the longest home runs ever to left field at Giants Field, and Kansas City prevailed 9-5.27 After another rainout on Wednesday, Jimmy Oldham shut out the Monarchs 6-0 on three hits. On Friday, the teams made up one of the rainout games, with Kansas City winning 6-4.28

The Giants then played a doubleheader at home on Sunday against Jewell’s ABCs, an independent Black team. St. Louis won both games, 12-6 and 6-4. Salvador Poree started the first game in his second tryout with the team, and James Field pitched the second game.29

The Columbus Buckeyes came to St. Louis for games on Wednesday and Thursday, June 29-30. These games don’t appear on any NNL schedule and seem to have been scheduled by the teams themselves, as St. Louis had open dates, and Columbus was traveling from Kansas City, with no NNL games scheduled until July 3. The Wednesday game turned out to be historic for St. Louis, as the Giants won 21-1, tying the NNL scoring record and setting the league record for the largest margin of victory. Charleston and Blackwell each had five RBIs, and Hewitt had four hits.30 In the Thursday game, Oldham pitched his second consecutive shutout as St. Louis won 8-0.31

St. Louis then went on the road for the first time in six weeks, traveling north to face the Detroit Stars and then the Chicago American Giants. Detroit was in first place in the NNL with a record of 16-3, while Chicago (17-8-2) and Kansas City (25-12) were virtually tied for second place, with St. Louis fourth at 17-12. After traveling on Friday, St. Louis opened the series on Saturday, July 1, with a 9-4 win at Mack Park in Detroit. Oscar Charleston had four hits. The Giants won 7-3 on Sunday and 11-1 on Monday.32 On Tuesday the teams played a thrilling 11-inning game, won by St. Louis 11-10 on Oscar Charleston’s second home run of the game. Detroit finally won on Wednesday, by a 7-6 score in 10 innings.33

After a couple of days off, St. Louis played the Chicago American Giants at the Gary Works Field in Gary, Indiana. Field started on the mound and was hit hard, with St. Louis losing 16-4. Sunday was a doubleheader at Schorling Park in Chicago. Chicago took the first game 2-0 and the second game 6-3.34 Both teams then boarded a train to play three games in St. Louis.

On Monday, July 11, St. Louis won 10-3, with Charleston hitting two home runs. Tuesday’s game saw Charleston rap out four hits and score four runs. However, it took a bases-clearing pinch-hit double by Brooks in the eighth to secure a 10-7 St. Louis victory. In Wednesday’s game, Blackwell got four hits and pitcher Oldham recorded 10 strikeouts, but again it took some late-game heroics for St. Louis to win, as Dudley singled home Charleston in the seventh inning with the winning run.35

The Giants were off again until Sunday, July 17, when they opened a five-game series against Detroit. St. Louis had moved ahead of fading Detroit and into third place, just a few games behind Kansas City and Chicago, who were practically tied for first. The Stars took the first game, 12-3. On Monday St. Louis won 5-0 as Finner threw a shutout, helped by Blackwell throwing out two runners at third base. On Tuesday St. Louis jumped ahead, then held on for a 6-5 victory. Wednesday’s game was won 14-9 by Detroit, with veteran Pete Hill going 5-for-6.36 The final game of the series, on Thursday, saw Charleston get four hits, but it wasn’t enough; Detroit prevailed, 3-1.37

After two offdays, the Giants played the Cuban Stars for the first time in the season on Sunday, July 24. The Stars annually brought their team from Cuba, playing their “winter” season in the US Negro Leagues, usually as a traveling team. For 1921, however, they played “home” games at Redland Field (later called Crosley Field) in Cincinnati. In a rare low-scoring game at Giants Park, St. Louis won the first game, 3-1, with Finner pitching, on a two-run single in the bottom of the seventh inning by Kennard. Monday saw the Cuban team score three runs in the top of the first, but from there it was all St. Louis, with a final score of 9-3. For Tuesday’s game, pitcher Otis Starks, who had been released by the Chicago American Giants, made his debut with St. Louis. St. Louis trailed 4-2 entering the bottom of the ninth, but scored only one run after Charleston led off with a double and Blackwell followed with a triple.38

The final game, on Thursday, was a wild one. The Cubans’ Valentín Dreke went 4-for-6 with a double, a triple, three runs scored, and three RBIs, and Bienvenido Jiménez went 3-for-6 with a triple and a home run. For St. Louis, Sam Mongin was 3-for-3 with a double, a triple, and three RBIs. Doc Dudley was 3-for-4 with a triple and three RBIs. Joe Hewitt was 3-for-6 with a double and four stolen bases. St. Louis prevailed 14-12.39

In spite of the successful series, there were ominous legal proceedings off the field. The Giants had been sued in 1920 for $3,360 by two men who claimed they were promised money plus a transfer of the ballpark grounds lease in exchange for improvements made at the ballpark in 1919. A circuit judge now ordered the team into receivership.40 A few days later the team went to the St. Louis Court of Appeals and was granted a temporary block of the receivership until September 12.41

Back on the field after two offdays, the team opened a series at home vs. the lowly Chicago Giants starting Sunday, July 31. St. Louis now had almost caught the Chicago American Giants in the standings. St. Louis won the Sunday game 8-5. Joe Hewitt had four hits, and Blackwell had a double and two triples.42 St. Louis also took the Monday game, 12-7. Tullie McAdoo was the hitting star, going 2-for-3 with a triple, a walk, and three RBIs.43 Charleston missed Monday’s and Tuesday’s games after his sister died. Tuesday’s game was tied 3-3 until the 13th inning, when rains came. A big event, the Shriners Parade, was scheduled for Wednesday, so the Wednesday game time had been moved back to a 4 P.M. start. However, the scheduled start of the parade was pushed back, causing the game to be canceled.44

The team was off on Thursday and Friday, traveling to Chicago for a two-game series with the Chicago American Giants. On Saturday, August 13, Chicago won 8-3.45 On Sunday, each team’s ace pitcher, Dave Brown for Chicago and Bill Drake for St. Louis, in front of an overflow crowd, combined for a scoreless duel until the bottom of the eighth inning, when Cristóbal Torriente led off the inning with a single to left. Catcher George Dixon sacrificed him to second. Torriente then stole third base. St. Louis played in for a possible squeeze play, but to no avail, as Jelly Gardner got the bunt down and shortstop Wallace was unable to make the play while Torriente sped home. In the top of the ninth, not only was the game still in doubt, but pitcher Brown had no-hit St. Louis’s mighty offense to that point. Sam Bennett pinch-hit for shortstop Wallace to open the inning, and broke up the no-hitter with a single. Instead of having Sidney Brooks pinch-hit for pitcher Drake, who was never much of a hitter, Brooks ran for the slow, 37-year-old catcher Bennett. It was obvious St. Louis was playing to bunt, but manager Wallace tried to cross up Chicago by having Drake swing away, and he promptly hit the ball right to shortstop Bobby Williams, who stepped on second base and fired to first to complete a double play. Doc Dudley kept St. Louis hopes alive with a single, but the game ended with Dudley thrown out by Dixon on a steal attempt. It was a bitter loss for St. Louis, just about dashing any hopes of finishing ahead of the American Giants in the standings.46

At this point, it almost appears any league schedule had been abandoned and that teams were scheduling games as best they could, against any opponent they could find. St. Louis now had another two-week break in the NNL schedule but stayed in Chicago to play the White semipro Logan Squares on Monday. St. Louis lost the game 4-2, and immediately headed to Topeka, Kansas, for a Tuesday-through-Thursday series with the Fort Riley Sante Fe Storehouse Cavalry Service, an all-Black military team.47 The only score reported was a 15-0 St. Louis win on Wednesday.48 The team then traveled home to St. Louis for a Sunday-through-Tuesday series with the Dayton Marcos, a team that had been in the NNL in 1920, but now was playing independently. St. Louis won all three games.49

On August 19, the California Eagle published the NNL standings as follows:50

Team Wins Losses
Chicago American Giants 34 16
Kansas City Monarchs 43 23
St. Louis Giants 32 20
Detroit Stars 25 21
Indianapolis ABCs 22 27
Cincinnati Cuban Stars 23 33
Columbus Buckeyes 20 37
Chicago Giants 10 32

After four more days off, St. Louis hosted the White semipro Belleville (Illinois) B’s. St. Louis won, 12-3.51

Beginning Monday, August 29, the team had a chance back at home to avenge the losses suffered in Chicago to the American Giants. Chicago jumped ahead 5-1 after two innings, but after that St. Louis dominated, winning 11-5. On Tuesday Chicago won 9-6 despite four hits and four runs scored by Dudley. Torriente had four hits for the winners.52

Wednesday’s game was the most exciting one of the series. Twenty-one-year-old Deacon Meyers was making his big-time debut on the mound, having been signed from the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro Southern (minor) League. Chicago scored four in the first inning after Meyers walked the bases full, and five more in the second, when the St. Louis defense faltered, for a 9-0 lead. With two men out and none on in the bottom of the third inning, Charleston homered, sparking a St. Louis comeback. St. Louis scored two more runs that inning, two more in the fourth, one in the sixth inning, and four runs in the seventh inning. Chicago had managed to add one run in the fourth, so the game was tied, 10-10. Chicago manager Rube Foster used five pitchers attempting to stymie the comeback, but to no avail.

In the bottom of the ninth inning, with Jack Marshall pitching for Chicago, Marshall hit both Dudley and McAdoo, and after somehow getting past Charleston, who had already hit his second home run of the game, a three-run blast, in the seventh, walked Blackwell to load the bases. Marshall then hit Sam Bennett, too, forcing in the winning run for St. Louis. Deacon Meyers, amazingly after his poor first two innings, completed the game and was the winning pitcher.53

After a day off, the team traveled to Murphysboro, Illinois, for back-to-back games with the local town team, then started a series at home with the Montgomery Gray Sox, who had just finished in first place in the Negro Southern League.54 The Giants won the first game on Sunday, September 4, 6-2, then swept a holiday doubleheader, 2-1 and 6-2, on Monday. After a 9-3 win on Tuesday, the Giants lost 16-10 on Wednesday.55 The series wrapped up on Thursday with St. Louis winning 17-5.

After the game, the team immediately departed for Indiana to face the Indianapolis ABCs. In addition to what appears to be a planned five-game series in Indianapolis, the teams built in some additional games both before and after that series – almost a mini-barnstorming tour. The first game, on Friday, September 9, was played in Lebanon, Indiana. The ABCs won 8-5.56

The next day the teams visited Walnut Street Park in Muncie, Indiana. St. Louis prevailed 4-3. Then it was on to Indianapolis to play the regularly scheduled series, starting with a Sunday doubleheader. Indianapolis won the first game, 1-0, and St. Louis emerged victorious in the second game, 8-6.57 Monday saw the ABCs rout the Giants, 13-4. St. Louis came back Tuesday for a 5-1 victory. On Wednesday St. Louis won 16-3, with Charleston going 3-for-5 with a home run, three RBIs, and three runs scored. The ABCs took the final game in Indianapolis, 5-1.58

The teams then moved on to League Park in Fort Wayne, Indiana, for three more games. On Thursday, September 15, Indianapolis pitcher Jim Jeffries took a no-hitter into the ninth inning, but Eddie Holtz doubled to spoil it as the ABCs won 7-0.59 Friday’s game was rained out, so the teams added a makeup game to Saturday’s scheduled tilt.60 The start of the doubleheader was delayed by rain, but the teams were able to get the games in, with St. Louis winning 3-2 in the first game and 4-1 in the second one, in a game shortened to five innings.61

The team traveled to Chicago for its second doubleheader in two days. By this time the American Giants had pulled ahead of Kansas City in the standings, and had been declared league champions. In the first game, Dave Brown again shut out St. Louis, 2-0. In the second game, St. Louis ace Drake started on the mound against Chicago outfielder Torriente, but Drake was hit for six runs in the third inning . The left-handed Torriente was able to neutralize the dangerous left-handed St. Louis bats, and Chicago won the second game, 6-2.62

The team returned home for a five-day break, then started its final NNL series of the year in Kansas City on Saturday, September 24, with a 5-3 loss to the Monarchs in a seven-inning game, with 6,000 fans in attendance. A Sunday doubleheader had another estimated 6,000 fans see St. Louis win 9-7 in the first game, with Drake striking out nine batters. Kansas City came back to win the second game, 4-0, in six innings, with Bullet Rogan getting the shutout.63 Monday saw the Giants win 4-3, and then the Giants won again, 11-2, on Tuesday with Blackwell getting four hits. The teams played one additional game in Osawatomie, Kansas, on Thursday, with the Monarchs winning 8-6.64 The NNL standings are hard to determine, with no “official” standings kept by the league, but instead various Black newspapers printing standings that often conflicted. It appears that by splitting the six games with Kansas City, St. Louis finished in second place, .005 percentage points ahead of the Monarchs.

But the season wasn’t quite over yet. The previous fall, a group of St. Louis Cardinals led by Milt Stock had played a four-game series against the Giants. (They split the series.) The Cardinals barnstormers were putting another postseason schedule together, and would kick it off with six games against the Giants. All games were played at Sportsman’s Park. The Cardinals barnstormers were the starters for the regular National League season plus backup catcher Pickles Dillhoeffer and minus Rogers Hornsby. Jesse Haines, Bill Pertica, Roy Walker, and Lou North were the team’s pitchers – the Cardinals’ top pitchers, less Bill Doak. The Cardinals had finished in third place, seven games behind the New York Giants.

The first game of the series was played on Monday, October 3. Stands on the third-base line were for White fans, while Black fans were seated on the first-base line. (Normally, Black fans had to sit in the right-field pavilion seats for Cardinals and Browns games.)65 Roy Walker started for the Cardinals, while Bill Drake was on the mound for the Giants. The Giants took a 4-1 lead, but the Cardinals scored three runs in the eighth inning to tie the game. In the 11th, Lavan reached on an error, was sacrificed to second, and scored on a single by relief pitcher Pertica. Blackwell had four hits, including a home run, for the Giants.66 Tuesday’s game saw Oldham pitching against Haines. Oldham struck out eight, Charleston had a double and a home run, and the Giants won, 6-2.67

The teams took a break then played a doubleheader on Sunday, October 9. In the first game, the Cardinals scored six runs in the second inning and coasted to a 12-3 win. In the second game, the Cardinals scored four in the first, and the Giants could never catch up, resulting in a 9-6 Cardinals victory.68 The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the gate receipts were seized due to a judgment for $3,710 from a suit in connection with the erection of the Giants Park grandstand.69

On Monday the Cardinals scored three runs in the first and three runs in the third. Charleston homered for the Giants, but it wasn’t enough in a 10-3 Cardinals victory.70 For Tuesday’s game the St. Louis Globe Democrat reported that the Giants failed to show up, noting that the gate receipts for Sunday had been attached, and the Giants players had not been paid.71 The St. Louis Argus reported that Giants owner Charlie Mills called off the game because of the cold weather.72

It was a rather ignominious end to the season and, as it turned out, to the franchise. The team had led the league in most offensive categories, including runs per game, OPS+, on-base percentage, slugging, and walk percentage. Charleston had been the league’s best hitter, with a 250 OPS+ in league games, and Blackwell had been the second best at 222 OPS+. Charleston had the “triple crown” of leading the league in batting average, home runs, and RBIs. Blackwell was second in average, third in home runs, and second in RBIs. Joe Hewitt led in stolen bases, and Charleston was second. But on the pitching side, the team was seventh out of eight teams in earned-run average. Drake had a good season, and Oldham and Finner had been around average, but the seven other pitchers with at least 10 innings pitched had been awful.73

In the league meetings in January 1922, the St. Louis franchise was awarded to new owners, who were to build a new ballpark.74 In February, the St. Louis Argus noted “financial difficulties arose during last season, and for a time it looked as if St. Louis would drop out and not be a member of the league this season.”75 In March, Rube Foster came to St. Louis to “straighten out the local tangle” of the former Giants team and the new franchise, and resolve the question of whether Oscar Charleston would play for St. Louis or Indianapolis.76 On March 31 the Argus noted that the new team would be named the St. Louis Stars and would have a new ballpark built in the heart of the city that would seat 10,000 fans.77 The Chicago Defender reported that Charleston was in spring practice with Indianapolis.78 Charleston and the Giants were no more in St. Louis. But the new team went on to be one of the NNL’s best teams from 1925 through the league’s demise in 1931.

Notes

1 Dr. Layton Revel, “Charles Mills,” www.cnlbr.org, accessed February 2, 2021.

2 Gary Ashwill, “A Brief and Incomplete History of St. Louis Giants Ballparks, Park I,” www.agatetype.typepad.com, accessed February 3, 2021.

3 Gary Ashwill, “A Brief and Incomplete History of St. Louis Giants Ballparks, Park I.”

4 Gary Ashwill, “Giants Park, St. Louis 1919-1922,” www.agatetype.typepad.com, accessed February 3, 2021.

5 “Giants Lose a Hard Fought Game,” St. Louis Argus, April 8, 1921: 12.

[6 “Eyes Turned Toward First Game Here by St. Louis Giants,” St. Louis Argus, April 15, 1921: 12.

7 Roster and transactions inferred from unpublished game data, courtesy of www.seamheads.com.

8 “St. Louis Giants Look Very Good in First Game,” St. Louis Argus, April 29, 1921: 12.

9 “National Negro League Far Behind Schedule,” St. Louis Argus, September 2, 1921: 12.

10 “The Official Negro National League Schedule for May and June,” St. Louis Argus, April 29, 1921: 12.

11 “Giants Break Even with the K.C. Monarchs,” St. Louis Argus, May 6, 1921: 12.

12 Philip J. Lowry, Green Cathedrals: The Ultimate Celebration of all Major League and Negro League Ballparks, Fifth Edition (Phoenix: Society for American Baseball Research, 2019).

13 “Monarchs Take Slugfest,” Chicago Defender, May 7, 1921: 11.

14 “St. Louis Ties Count in 9th Only to Lose in the 11th,” Chicago Defender, May 7, 1921: 10.

15 “St. Louis Giants Slaughter Windy City Pitchers,” St. Louis Argus, May 13, 1921: 12.

16 “St. Louis Giants Slaughter Windy City Pitchers,”

17 Finner and Carr Suspended,” St. Louis Argus, May 20, 1921: 12.

18 “St. Louis Giants Win Four Out of Five from Chicago,” St. Louis Argus, May 20, 1921: 12.

19 “Giants Win Two of First Three from Columbus,” St. Louis Argus, May 20, 1921: 12.

20 “Mills’ St. Louis Giants Beat Semi-pros, 8 to 6,” Chicago Defender, May 28, 1921: 11.

21 “Batting Averages Fatten in Giants Chicago A. Series,” St. Louis Argus, May 27, 1921: 12.

22 John J. Eschbacher, “Charlie Mills’ Pill Smashers Cop the Series,” Chicago Defender, June 4, 1921: 11.

23 “Cleveland No Match for the Speedy St. L. Giants,” St. Louis Argus, June 3, 1921: 12.

24 “St. Louis Giants Score 3-0 Victory Over Indianapolis,” St. Louis Star and Times, June 11, 1921: 10.

25 “Giants Break Even with Quincy Moose Club,” St. Louis Argus, June 17, 1921: 12.

26 “St. Louis Giants Beat K.C. Monarchs, 6-1,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, June 20, 1921: 15.

27 “K.C. Monarchs Beat St. Louis Giants, 9 to 5,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, June 22, 1921: 8.

28 “St. Louis Giants and Kay Sees in an Even Break,” Chicago Defender, July 2, 1921: 11.

29 “St. Louis Giants Take Two from Indianapolis,” St. Louis Argus, July 1, 1921: 12.

30 “Giants Trim the Columbus Buckeyes 21-1,” St. Louis Argus, July 1, 1921: 12.

31 “Giants Win Again,” St. Louis Post Dispatch, July 1, 1921: 29.

32 “Pill Smashers Win Two from Detroit Stars,” Chicago Defender, July 9, 1921: 10.

33 “Giants Make Stars Fall in Detroit,” St. Louis Argus, July 8, 1921: 12.

34 “American Giants Win 2 from St. Louis Giants,” Chicago Defender, July 16, 1921: 10.

35 “Giants Take All 3 From Rube’s Team,” St. Louis Argus, July 15, 1921: 12.

36 “Detroit Stars Split First 4 with St. Louis,” St. Louis Argus, July 22, 1921: 12.

37 “Giants Drop Final to Detroit Stars, 3 to 1,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, July 22, 1921: 15.

38 “Giants Win Series from the Cubans,” St. Louis Argus, July 29, 1921: 12.

39 “St. Louis Giants Again Defeat Cuban Stars,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, July 29, 1921: 16.

40 “Receiver Named for Negro Baseball Club,” St. Louis Post Dispatch, July 25, 1921: 14.

41 “St. Louis Giants Get Writ to Block Receivership,” St. Louis Star and Times, July 29, 1921: 3.

42 “St. Louis Giants Take Opener from Chicago,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, August 1, 1921: 11.

43 “St. Louis Giants Beat Chicago Giants, 12-7,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, August 2, 1921: 7.

44 “St. Louis Giants Win Two, Tie One with Chi. Giants,” St. Louis Argus, August 5, 1921: 12.

45 “St. Louis, 3; Am. Giants, 8,” Chicago Defender, August 20, 1921: 10.

46 “Giants Lose Sensational Game to Chi.,” St. Louis Argus, August 19, 1921: 12.

47 “Menke Makes Hit; Wins for Squares,” Kenosha (Wisconsin) Evening News, August 16, 1921: 8.

48 “Giants Defeat Storehouse,” Topeka Daily Capital, August 19, 1921: 8.

49 “Giants Take Three Exhibition Games from Dayton Marcos,” St. Louis Argus, August 26, 1921: 12.

50 “Negro Nat. League Standings,” California Eagle, August 19, 1921: 6. The league kept no “official” standings; newspapers relied on teams sending in game scores. The end result was that every paper had its own version of the standings, and no one was quite sure what the “real” league standings were. Unlike the National and American Leagues, there was no additional revenue or pay for finishing first or in the first division, so standings tended to not be viewed as important in the NNL. Unless noted, as in this instance, all standings mentioned are based on unpublished game scores courtesy of www.seamheads.com.

51 “St. Louis Giants Beat Belleville B’s, 12 to 3,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, August 29, 1921: 6.

52 “Giants Split Season Finals with Chicago A.,” St. Louis Argus, September 2, 1921: 12.

53 “Giants Win a Thriller from Rube’s Stars Wed,” St. Louis Argus, September 2, 1921: 12.

54 “M’Boro Team to Play Five Games Next Five Days,” Daily Free Press (Carbondale, Illinois), September 2, 1921: 1.

55 “Southern Champs No Match for St. Louis Giants,” St. Louis Argus, September 9, 1921: 12.

56 “A.B.C.’s are Winners,” Lebanon (Indiana) Pioneer, September 15, 1921: 1.

57 “A.’s Divide with St. Louis Giants in Double-Header,” Indianapolis Star, September 12, 1921: 14.

58 Unpublished game data, courtesy of www.seamheads.com.

59 “Colored Leaguers in Fast Exhibition,” Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, September 16, 1921: 18.

60 “Colored Leaguers in Double-Header Today,” Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, September 17, 1921: 10.

61 “St. Louis Giants Pull Double Win Taking Series,” Fort Wayne Sentinel, September 18, 1921: 8.

62 “American Giants Beat Drake and Finner; St. Louis Drops 2,” Chicago Defender, September 24, 1921: 10.

63 “Monarchs Strengthen Hold on Second Place,” Chicago Defender, October 1, 1921: 10.

64 “Monarchs Won Here,” Osawatomie (Kansas) Graphic, October 6, 1921: 7.

65 “Cardinals and Giants Open Series Today,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, October 3, 1921: 14.

66 “Cardinals Team Beats Giants in 11 Innings, 5 to 4,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, October 4, 1921: 8.

67 “Giants Win Tuesday,” St. Louis Argus, October 7, 1921: 12.

68 “Giants Fall Down Before the Cardinals,” St. Louis Argus, October 14, 1921: 12.

69 “Receipts of Baseball Series Seized on an Attachment,” St. Louis Post Dispatch, October 10, 1921: 3.

70 “Cardinals Take One More from Giants, 10-3,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, October 11, 1921: 8.

71 “Giants Fail to Show for Game with Cards,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, October 12, 1921: 8.

72 “No Game Tuesday,” St. Louis Argus, October 14, 1921: 12.

73 https://www.seamheads.com/NegroLgs/team.php?yearID=1921&teamID=SLG&LGOrd=1. Accessed March 1, 2021.

74 “Baseball Interests Centers in Chicago,” St. Louis Argus, January 20, 1922: 12.

75 “Nat’l Negro Baseball League Magnates United for Success,” St. Louis Argus, February 17, 1922: 12.

76 “Owners of St. Louis Giants Baseball Club Quit Game,” St. Louis Argus, March 17, 1922: 12.

77 “National Negro League Baseball Club Here Is Named St. Louis Stars,” St. Louis Argus, March 31, 1921: 12.

78 “New Timber for Taylor,” Chicago Defender, April 1, 1922: 10.

The 1921 Kansas City Monarchs

By Dana Joseph Berry

The Kansas City Monarchs franchise was the longest-running franchise in the history of Negro League baseball. During the lifespan of this historic franchise, there were many firsts, championships, legendary players, and other notorious events. Here the focus is on the 1921 season.

The 1921 Monarchs, who finished in second place in the Negro National League, played a league-high 95 games, which contributed to player fatigue and injuries. The first-place Chicago American Giants played 64 games.

Before the start of the NNL season, several of the 1921 Monarchs played in the winter leagues in California for the Los Angeles White Sox. On January 18, the Los Angeles Evening Post poked fun at Doc Anderson, the White Sox manager. “Anderson covers more ground during the game than all his players combined,” the newspaper’s article said. “In fact, Anderson has a standing challenge to meet any other baseball manager in a walking contest. In this particular game, the manager made 63 round trips between the admission gate and the left field bleachers in Sunday’s game.”1

On March 27, the Kansas City Star, in a season preview, wrote, “A new player has been secured to play center field, which will put Donaldson on the pitching staff with Rube Currie, Sam Crawford and Bullet Rogan as the other members, the hurling department looks like the class of the league.”2

The popularity of the Monarchs reached well beyond the Kansas City region. The April 7 Oakland Tribune, for instance, wrote, “‘Bullet’ Rogan and ‘King’ Curry, two great colored pitchers, are with the Sox. They hail from the Kansas City Monarchs. Rogan would be in the majors today, but for his color.”3

While there is little debate about the Monarchs’ talent on the field, they were also known for their showmanship. For example, on April 15 the Leavenworth (Kansas) Post in a preview of a coming exhibition game, said, “The Monarchs club is considered the best colored nine in the country. It will be worth the price of admission to witness the Monarchs perform their famous ‘dummy’ or silent game of ball; no baseball being used.”4

At the age of 25, Dobie Moore was praised as perhaps a coming star. On May 14 the Indianapolis Post commented on how “Moore, the shortstop, is one of the most valuable men in the league, being a great fielder, good hitter, and fast baserunner.”5

On May 31 the Monarchs performed one of the league’s best comebacks against the Indianapolis ABCs. Down 6-1, the Monarchs scored two runs in the bottom of the eighth inning, then tallied four runs in the ninth for a walk-off 7-6 win.

On June 22, the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, another competitor’s newspaper, commented favorably on Moore’s talent, stating how one of his hits “was one of the longest ever at Giant Field.”6

On June 25 the St. Louis Giants practically handed the Monarchs a victory by making six errors, which contributed to the Monarchs defeating the Giants by the score of 6-4.

On July 25 the Monarchs and the Detroit Stars hooked up in Kansas City for one of the league’s most entertaining games of the season. Entering the eighth frame, the Monarchs were ahead 2-0. In the top of the inning, the Stars scored three runs to surge ahead, 3-2. Not to be outdone, the Monarchs crossed the plate three times in the bottom of the eighth to take a 5-3 lead. The Stars practically defined the term “one-upmanship” by scoring four in the ninth inning to take a lead of 7-5. When play-by-play announcer Jack Buck uttered, “I can’t believe what I just saw” when he witnessed Kirk Gibson’s surprise winning home run for Dodgers in the 1988 World Series,7 he could have been discussing this 1921 Monarchs-Stars battle when the home team was able to snatch victory from defeat by scoring three runs in the bottom of the ninth to send the fans home happy with an 8-7 victory.

Ultimately the Monarchs finished the 1921 season in second place, but on August 7 they claimed first place (albeit briefly) by defeating the Chicago Giants in both games of a doubleheader, 7-2 and 6-2.

Between league games, the Monarchs drew on their popularity by playing exhibition games. On August 17 they met up with the Osawatomie Athletics in front of the largest crowd to ever witness a baseball game in Oswatomie, Kansas. While the game may not have had any surprises, with a Monarchs victory, it was truly memorable. Temporary seating had been installed. Earlier in the day, there was a cloudburst of rain on the field. The Osawatomie Graphic wrote, “[the] temporary bleachers along the third-base line collapsed and a bunch of humanity fell scrambling in the mud. Fortunately, no one was hurt.”8

With the rain that day, the hopes of a Monarchs league championship may have also gone down the drain. On August 27 the Chicago Tribune informed its readers that the Chicago American Giants would host the Monarchs for perhaps the last time in the regular season and the “Chicago club is leading the Negro National League, while Kansas City is in second place.”9

While the Monarchs were not league champions in 1921, their season did not end with the NNL campaign. As late as November 2, the Monarchs hooked up for a game with the Kansas City Blues, Negro National League minor-league team. While there is no documentation on the price of admission, it was reported by the Saskatoon Daily Star that the gate brought in more than an astounding $24,000.

The Monarchs later became the first professional baseball team to use a portable lighting system, which was transported from game to game in trucks. The Monarchs won first Negro League World Series, in 1924, and 10 championships in the years before integration spelled the end of the Negro leagues.

J.L. Wilkinson, the owner of the Monarchs, was a White man. The 1921 team was managed by Sam Crawford, in his first year on the job, and played its home games at Association Park in Kansas City.

Their league record in 1921 is presented by Seamheads.com as 54-12, good for a second-place finish. They had finished in third place in 1920.

Two players, Bullet Rogan and Jose Mendez, are in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Mendez is also in the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame.

The Monarchs ranked second in OPS (.726) and slugging (.390), and third in batting average (.279) and on-base percentage (.336). The top hitter on the team was Dobie Moore, with a .324 batting average (.355 OBP) and a .921 OPS.

The pitching staff’s team ERA of 3.40 ranked second in the NNL. Bullet Rogan was 16-8 with a 1.72 ERA in league play. When not pitching, Rogan played outfield and had a .305 season batting average.

Sources

In addition to the game story and box-score sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted the Seamheads.com and DollarTimes.com websites and the following publications:

“Crippled A.B.C.’s Lose Another to K.C. Monarchs,” Indianapolis Star, June 1, 1921: 12.

“Kansas City Annexes Final from Giants,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, June 26, 1921: 14.

“Stars Losers at Kansas City,” Detroit Free Press, July 26, 1921: 18.

“Monarchs in First Place,” Winfield (Kansas) Daily Courier, August 8, 1921: 6.

“Strike Pay Streak,” Saskatoon Daily Star, November 3, 1921: 13.

Notes

1 “Are the Same Team,” Los Angeles Evening Post, January 18, 1921: 14.

2 “Members of the Negro Team Will Report Here April 15,” Kansas City Star, March 27, 1921: 18.

3 “Los Angeles White Sox Will Meet the Crystals,” Oakland Tribune, April 7, 1921: 14.

4 “Monarchs Return from Coast Friday,” Leavenworth (Kansas) Post, April 15, 1921: 2.

5 “Kansas City Monarchs Here for Series of Five Games With A.B.C. Club,” Indianapolis News, May 14, 1921: 10.

6 “K.C. Monarchs Beat St. Louis Giants, 9 to 5,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, June 22, 1921: 8.

7 “Top 5 Calls of Jack Buck’s Career – Which One Is the Best?” CBS St. Louis, stlouis.cbslocal.com/2014/05/30/top-5-calls-of-jack-bucks-career-which-one-is-the-best/.

8 “Not So Bad at That,” Oswatomie (Kansas) Graphic, August 18, 1921: 1.

9 “Kansas City Nine Plays American Giants Tomorrow,” Chicago Tribune, August 27, 1921: 10.

The 1921 Indianapolis ABCs

By Chris Hicks

The Indianapolis ABCs in 1921 looked to improve on their record of 44-38-4 (49-43-5 overall) in the inaugural season of the Negro National League. C.I. Taylor, owner and president of the team, started spring training at Indianapolis’s Northwestern Park on April 4, 1921. Ben Taylor, a member of the team for five years and C.I.’s brother, was tabbed to be the new manager of the team and play first base.1

The players arrived early and worked hard at spring training, doing exercises and fielding drills supervised by C.I. Taylor. The team had an influx of young talent who competed with many veterans for the limited number of roster spots. It was reported that after a three-hour workout, the players were going to see the Indianapolis Indians take on the Cincinnati Reds at Washington Park.2 The ballpark, which held 20,000 people, was home to the ABCs from 1920 to 1926 when the Indianapolis Indians were not in town. It was said that the field rivaled both major- and minor-league ballparks.3

The ABCs made their exhibition debut taking on the Cuban Stars at Washington Park. The games against Muncie were canceled because of bad weather.8 Jim Jeffries made the start for the ABCs opposite José LeBlanc for the Cubans. Jeffries gave up one hit, resulting in a run, in the second inning, and another in the ninth inning. The team gave him no run support, giving LeBlanc a 2-0 shutout. The play of the game came when Williams, making his debut at shortstop, got a double play from a hit to second base by Matías Ríos.9

On April 30 the ABCs opened their Negro National League season against the Cuban Stars in Cincinnati, winning 12-2. They also won their second game, 3-1, on LeBlanc’s errant pickoff throw to first with the bases loaded in the fifth. They went on to lose the series finale. The home opener was played on May 7 with a pregame parade before the ABCs battled the Columbus Buckeyes. The teams split a four-game series.10 During the series Taylor moved his fielders around, moving center fielder Clark back to his role as shortstop. Ben Taylor also left for Ohio to visit with Powell to coax him to re-sign with the team. Harry Kenyon, now finished with the semester at Arkansas Baptist, reported to the team in time for the coming series against the Kansas City Monarchs.11

The ABCs won two of the five games with the Monarchs.12 One was a high-scoring affair: 14-11.13 The team next played the Bacharach Giants in nonleague games to finish a 10-game homestand. The ABCs won the first two games of the series, then lost the final three games, beginning the first of two 10-game losing streaks during the 1921 season.

Next was a 17-game road stretch. It began with a five-game rematch with the Monarchs, this time in in Kansas City. The ABCs struggled, winning only the final game in the series, breaking their losing skid. The team then traveled to St. Louis to face former ABC player Oscar Charleston and the Giants, winning the second game in the series. Game three’s loss began another 10-game winless streak that went from June 9 to 19 with losses to the Chicago American Giants and Detroit Stars. On June 20 the ABCs snapped the losing streak with a shutout against the Detroit Stars 10-0 in the final game of the series.14

On June 26 the team kicked off a homestand against the American Giants, going 2-1-2. One of those ties, on June 28, was another high-scoring game, the teams tied 18-18 in a game that was stopped because of darkness in the top of the ninth.15 The Columbus Buckeyes came next to Washington Park with the home team taking four out of five games, including a 14-0 shutout. They won four of five from the Chicago Giants and two of five from the Monarchs.

In an East Coast swing from July 23 to August 20, the ABCs played a series of nonleague games against the Hilldale Giants, Atlantic City Bacharach Giants, Pittsburgh Keystones, and the Eastern Cuban Stars. They went 10-9-1. Two games that stood out in this series took place on July 31 in a doubleheader at Ebbets Field, home of the Brooklyn Dodgers. The doubleheader included a spectacle of pregame events, including a parade, a military marching band from the 15th Regiment Band, and an appearance by the heavyweight boxer Jack Johnson.16 The ABCs lost the first game, 11-3, and rain halted the second game with no score in the fourth inning.17

On August 21 the ABCs resumed their Negro National League schedule, playing the Cuban Stars in a marathon game at Washington Park that lasted 16 innings before the ABCs scored the deciding run for a 6-5 victory. There was supposed to be a second game, but it could not be played because of the Blue Law prohibiting playing after 6:00 P.M. on Sunday in Indianapolis.18 Three more games were played at Washington Park and the last in the series was at Exposition Park. The ABCs won all four of those games. The Detroit Stars arrived next at Washington Park and the ABCs took three out of the five games. The team hit the road for two games with the Columbus Buckeyes, losing both. The St. Louis Giants and ABCs next played an extended series that took place at Muncie and Fort Wayne, Indiana, along with a set of five games at Washington Park. The ABCs lost six of the 10 games.

Two series made up the final seven games of the ABCs’ league season. They played four against the Columbus Buckeyes, three at Washington Park and one at Lebanon Field. The teams split the series. The team concluded with three games against the Dallas Stars at Mack Park in Detroit; the ABCs finished their Negro National League season by winning all three.

The final games of 1921 came in a six-game barnstorming tour against the Cleveland Tate Stars. Among the Cleveland players was Candy Jim Taylor, brother of C.I. and Ben. The games were played across Ohio with the ABCs winning three of the five.

The ABCs finished with an overall record of 55-55-3 and 37-37-2 in Negro National League play. This put them in fourth place, 11 games behind the league champion American Giants both in league play and overall. During the winter meetings, C.I. Taylor was elected vice president of the league,19 but on February 23, 1922, he died of pneumonia. His wife inherited the majority ownership of the team, with Ben Taylor controlling the remaining 25 percent. Ben left to go to the Baltimore Black Sox of the Eastern Colored League in 1923 and the ABCs ceased operations in 1926. But not before star center fielder Oscar Charleston returned to the team, staying until 1924. They improved to 50-34 in league play and 63-42 overall under manager Ben Taylor in 1922.20

Acknowledgments

The author thanks Kevin Johnson for his assistance with research materials, schedules, and scores from the Indianapolis ABCs 1921 season.

Sources

All statistics came from Seamheads and all schedule and final results information, unless otherwise noted, is courtesy of Kevin Johnson.

Notes

1 “Taylor’s ABCs in Initial Workout on Next Monday,” Indianapolis Star, April 2, 1921: 13.

2 “A.B.C. Youngsters Show Real Class in Day’s Practice,” Indianapolis Star, April 6, 1921: 13.

3 Philip Lowry, Green Cathedrals: The Ultimate Celebration of Major League and Negro League Ballparks (New York: Walker Publishing Company, 2011), 105-106.

4 “Five Additional Players Report to A.B.C. Manager,” Indianapolis Star, April 8, 1921: 10.

5 “New Players with A.B.C.s Will Cause Infield Shakeup,” Indianapolis Star, April 10, 1921: 35.

6 Three Additional Hurlers Bolster A.B.C. Mound Staff,” Indianapolis Star, April 11, 1921: 10.

7 “Has Best in Ten Years, Thinks A.B.C.’s Manager,” Indianapolis News, April 13, 1921: 24.

8 “A.B.C.s to Meet Cuban Stars Here Next Sunday,” Indianapolis Star, April 19, 1921: 15.

9 “Cubans Take Pitchers’ Battle from A.B.C.s 2-0,” Indianapolis Star, April 25, 1921: 11.

10 “A.B.C.s Win and Even Series,” Indianapolis News, May 11, 1921: 24.

11 “Kansas City Monarchs Meet A.B.C.s Tomorrow,” Indianapolis Star, May 13, 1921: 13.

12 “Monarchs Take Last in Series with Taylor Club,” Indianapolis Star, May 19, 1921: 10.

13 “A.B.C.s Slug Victory,” Indianapolis News, May 18, 1921: 25.

14 “A.B.C.s Win, 10 to 0,” Indianapolis Star, June 21, 1921: 12.

15 “A.B.C.s and Giants Play Nine-Inning 18-18 Draw,” Indianapolis Star, June 29, 1921: 10.

16 “Parade Precedes Games Between Colored Teams,” Standard Union (Brooklyn), July 30, 1921: 8.

17 “Bacharachs and A.B.C.s Play to Big Crowd,” Chicago Defender, August 6, 1921: 10.

18 “16 Inning Sees A.B.C.s Beat Cubans,” Chicago Defender, August 27, 1921: 10.

19 “Sport Hits,” California Eagle (Los Angeles), February 11, 1922: 6.

20 Bill Johnson, “C. I. Taylor,” Society for American Baseball Research Biography Project, August 2020. https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/c-i-taylor/

The 1921 Detroit Stars

By Gary Gillette

In their second season in the Negro National League, the Detroit Stars were neither serious contenders nor bottom-feeders; neither excellent nor awful. Their mediocrity was a disappointment after the club had posted the best record among the Western Independents in 1919 and had made a serious run for the NNL championship in 1920.

Coming off a second-place finish to NNL founder Rube Foster’s powerful American Giants in 1920, preseason expectations for the ’21 Stars were high.1 Under manager and future Hall of Famer Pete Hill, who had skippered the club since its inaugural season, Detroit started off very strong, finished very weak, and ended up in fifth place in the NNL with a 31-33-1 record.

The Stars were owned by Tenny Blount, a big-time gambler, card house operator, and (later) a numbers banker. In the parlance of the day, Blount was a “nationally known sportsman.”2 A crony of Foster’s, Blount worked closely with the Chicago baseball magnate to set up the new Detroit club in 1919. In order to increase the chances that the Detroit venture would succeed, Foster transferred some of the top talent on his powerful American Giants to the Stars,3 including Pete Hill, Bruce Petway, and Edgar Wesley.4

The Stars played in Mack Park on the East Side of Detroit5 as tenants of White businessman John Roesink, who would buy the team in 1928.6 Roesink was a major promoter of semipro sports in the Motor City, and Mack Park was a hive of activity in the early 1920s for semipro baseball, semipro football, prep sports, and professional boxing.

Despite what now would seem like a crude, barebones facility, Mack Park was the second-best sports venue in the fast-growing city of Detroit after Navin Field. The 1920 Detroit Heralds played home games at Mack Park in the NFL’s inaugural season when it was known as the American Professional Football Association.7 A few years earlier, the Federal League had been interested in placing a franchise in Detroit, but Roesink decided against betting on the rival league and refused to rent Mack Park to the Feds. By doing so, Roesink thereby denied them entry into the lucrative Detroit market.8

A wooden facility that had opened in 1913,9 Mack Park had an extremely short right-field line that a high wooden fence could not adequately protect. Center and left-center, though, constituted a Death Valley for long fly balls. Ballparks expert Ron Selter has estimated that the right-field line was only 265 feet long, with straightaway right a cozy 278 feet and right-center a short 318.10

The home of the Stars was located in a newly built White neighborhood that resented the Black Detroit Stars. In autumn 1921, the Detroit School Board tried to condemn Mack Park for the site of a new school. Fortunately for Roesink and the Stars, the Detroit Free Press exposed the scheme by disclosing that the School Board had suitable alternate sites for the new school, including one site a block away that was substantially cheaper than the Mack Park site.11

The ’21 Stars returned mostly intact from their first year in the Negro National League, though stalwart catcher Bruce Petway didn’t re-up till late April.12 Only one key player from the 1920 team was missing: center fielder Jimmy Lyons. Lyons hit .379 with an OPS+ of 189 and at least 21 steals. Several young players who were with the Stars in ’20 stepped into more important roles in ’21.

After a short spring camp in Detroit, the Stars’ 1921 season began on April 30 with a few tune-up games against semipro clubs.13 Their first games against a major Black team were at home against the powerful East Coast independent Bacharach Giants in early May, but their league schedule didn’t begin until May 28. This led to a weird interlude when the Stars were considered to be in first place by virtue of their won-lost percentage even though they had played many fewer games than most other NNL clubs. The Chicago Defender even showed that Detroit was atop the NNL standings as of May 25 with a 0-0 record and an erroneous “1000” [sic] Pct.14 Other NNL clubs had played between 7 and 19 games by May 25, according to those standings.

The Stars were a good-hitting team in ’21, aided by the extreme dimensions of Mack Park. Their lineup was built around veteran left-handed batters and switch-hitters, plus impressive 21-year-old shortstop Arvell Riggins, who was in his sophomore season. The big thumpers were first baseman Edgar Wesley, a feared portside power hitter, and the seemingly indefatigable Pete Hill.

Unfortunately for the Stars, the rest of their lineup was not nearly as good. Young keystoner Frank Warfield (only 22) was respectable with the stick, as was third sacker Johnson Hill. But rookie left fielder Ambrose Reid was way overmatched, and center field was manned by a committee of weaklings, plus Pete Hill and Riggins at times. Outfielders Reid and Charley Hill were very weak links in the otherwise solid lineup, with both hitting less than .200 with no power.

The Stars’ mound corps was basically a trio of young hurlers plus grizzled veteran Bill Gatewood. Hard-throwing rookie righty Bill Force, who pitched for Knoxville in the Negro Southern League in ’20,15 was acquired by Detroit for Lyons16 after a brief stint with the American Giants.17 Promising 20-year-old right-hander Bill Holland had a terrific year while future Hall of Fame southpaw Andy Cooper was still learning his trade. The quartet that composed the core of the staff had returned intact from 1920, and no other pitcher appeared in more than two games for Detroit that summer.

When the Stars finally opened their league schedule at the end of May, they began with a bang by sweeping the doormat road team Chicago Giants in a five-game series at Mack Park. That wasn’t much of an accomplishment, as the homeless Giants had finished with a .139 “winning percentage” in 1920 and ended up with a .222 percentage in ’21.

Detroit’s second NNL series was against the weak Cincinnati Cuban Stars who, while not nearly as bad as the Chicago Giants, finished next to last in the NNL in 1921. Detroit took four of six games from the Cubans, highlighted by 39-year-old Bill Gatewood’s no-hitter on June 6.18 Gatewood, a huge right-hander, depended on his spitball and emery ball as well as on intimidating hitters.19

Another five-game sweep, this time of the Columbus Buckeyes, was followed by the Stars’ taking two of three from the Indianapolis ABCs. Thus, in mid-June, Detroit was sitting pretty in first place in the NNL with a 16-3 record – all of them home games.

Newspaper coverage indicated that the writers overestimated the Stars’ prowess and that Detroit fans were giddy with optimism. Roy L. Jackson reported on July 2 in the Defender, “Detroit fandom has simply gone dippy over the Stars.”20 The hometown Free Press was more sober, but it still believed the Stars were more formidable than they really were.21

No one apparently had figured out that Detroit’s impressive record was partly a function of playing its first 22 games at home and largely a function of playing the three weakest teams in the NNL (based on their full-season records). Reality finally began to intrude when the wheels fell off the Detroit Stars’ jalopy over the July 4 holiday.

Facing a good opponent for the first time, Detroit plainly and simply got killed. St. Louis, with young superstar Oscar Charleston patrolling center field, won the first four games of the series while pounding the hometown pitchers for 38 runs. The Stars managed to eke out a win in the fifth game, but their magic bubble had burst.

Heading out on a road trip for the first time that season, Detroit faced Columbus in a rematch of their June series, beginning on July 9. This time, though, the Buckeyes showed some fight and won four of six. That poor showing was followed by a three-game series in Cincinnati with the Cuban Stars, which ended with Detroit losing two and tying the remaining game.

The Stars stanched the bleeding temporarily in St. Louis, taking three out of five from the St. Louis Giants. The last series of the brutal 19-game road trip, however, proved to be the Stars’ downfall, as they were swept five straight in Kansas City. Three of the five losses to the Monarchs were one-run games, and the fourth was a two-run decision, so it certainly wasn’t a slaughter – but it definitely destroyed Detroit’s febrile dreams of winning the NNL pennant.

The July 24 game at Association Park saw future Hall of Famer Bullet Rogan beat Detroit’s Bill Holland, 4-2, in front of a large crowd estimated at both 7,00022 and 10,000.23 The next day, Rogan, playing right field, hit a two-run homer in the ninth to tie the game before the Monarchs plated the winning run later that inning. After KC starter Joe Bell had reeled off seven perfect frames,24 the Stars rallied for seven runs in the eighth and the ninth, yet still went down to a bitter defeat.25

On July 27 future Hall of Famer José Méndez started for the Monarchs in what developed into a wild affair. The visitors tied the game, 3-3, in the sixth before taking a 5-3 lead an inning later. The hometown nine replied by tying the game again in the seventh. Ultimately, KC edged Detroit 6-5 in 10 innings, despite Petway’s heroics – 3-for-5 with two triples and a steal of home for the Stars.26

When the Monarchs’ sweep was complete, they had dropped the Stars from second place to fourth in the NNL in the span of one fatal series. While some in Detroit still held out hope – the Free Press said that a late August series against the American Giants was “the most important of the season for the Blountites”27 – it was all over but the shouting for the Stars.

There was one highlight to come for Detroit in 1921: a 5-4, 17-inning victory on August 6 over Columbus that was the longest game ever played at Mack Park.28 After that, Detroit slowly slid toward .500.

On August 20 the Motor City nine embarked on a grueling, three-week road trip that took them to Chicago, Indiana, Pittsburgh, Atlantic City, and Philadelphia. The first seven games on their sojourn were NNL affairs; the remaining 11 games in Pennsylvania and New Jersey were exhibition contests.

Detroit went a respectable 3-4 in the official games, but slumped to 4-7 while playing major Eastern independents. Hilldale, in particular, had the Stars’ number, taking five of six games from the visitors from Michigan. Lowlights of the trip were being no-hit on September 5 in the second game of a doubleheader by Hilldale spitballer Phil Cockrell,29 and being clobbered by Hilldale, 14-4, in the trip’s finale five days later.

Detroit limped home from the East Coast to close out the season with a 2-6 homestand. On September 25 the Stars dropped both ends of a doubleheader to the ABCs by identical 5-3 scores, putting a fitting coda on a season that had looked so promising on Independence Day.

If there were a Detroit Chapter of Black Base Ball Writers in 1921, their pick as team MVP would likely have been player-manager Pete Hill (.337/.433/.483 with 44 RBIs in 61 games), with slugger Edgar Wesley a strong second (.318/.384/.514 with 9 homers and 39 RBIs in 57 games). The team’s rookie award would likely have gone to pitcher Bill Force (12-10 in 33 games/22 starts).

In summary, 1921 was one of several ho-hum seasons for Detroit in the ’20s, in which they were competitive but not legitimate contenders.30 Their record against the league’s top three teams shows Detroit’s inherent weakness, as the Stars managed to win only four of 15 games (.267) against the Chicago American Giants, the St. Louis Giants, and the Monarchs combined.

A favorable and grossly imbalanced 1921 schedule allowed Detroit to fancy itself a legitimate contender, but the Stars were outclassed when facing top-notch competition. Detroit played 33 games against the Buckeyes, the Cubans, and the Chicago Giants, yet they faced the class of the league – the American Giants, the Monarchs, and the St. Louis Giants – only 15 times.

Detroit finished with a 31-33-1 record in the NNL and a 39-45-1 record against major Black Baseball clubs overall. After their torrid but deceptive 16-3 (.842) start, the Stars went a woeful 15-30-1 (.333).

In the aftermath of the ’21 season, Pete Hill was let go31 and replaced by Bruce Petway as the Stars’ manager. Petway had played for the Stars since their birth in 1919 and certainly knew the club well. The cerebral protégé of Rube Foster32 was in his mid-30s and in the twilight of his storied catching career. His bat had seen a revival in 1921, however, when he hit .301 with an OPS+ of 105 – the first time his offense was above average for a full campaign since 1908.

Hill, who had batted .337 with a 153 OPS+ in his last year in Detroit, played four more years in part-time roles while managing the Milwaukee Bears and Baltimore Black Sox before hanging ’em up.

While its ownership changed hands several times, the Detroit Stars’ franchise lasted until the Negro National League fell apart in 1931. It peaked in 1930 when the Stars, led by superstar Turkey Stearnes, won the NNL’s second-half title before falling to the powerhouse St. Louis Stars in seven games in a hard-fought League Championship Series.33

Sources

Statistics and standings quoted are per Seamheads.com as of March 18, 2021, unless otherwise noted.

Details of the Stars’ schedule and game-by-game results taken from an Excel file provided by Kevin Johnson of Seamheads as well as from sources cited in the Notes. Note that the Seamheads file does not track exactly with the current 1921 record on their website. In the case of the Detroit Stars in 1921, their league record differs by one game.

Notes

1 “Blount and Hill Ready for Gong,” Chicago Defender (Big Weekend Edition), February 19, 1921.

2 “Tenny Blount, Noted Sportsman, Dies in Fall,” Chicago Defender (National Edition), December 29, 1934; “Tenny Blount, Former Baseball Club Owner, Dies,” Afro-American, December 29, 1934: 10.

3 Russ J. Cowans, “Everybody Went to Mack Pk. on Sunday,” Michigan Chronicle, April 4, 1964.

4 James A. Riley, Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues, unpublished second edition. Edgar Wesley entry.

5 Philip J. Lowry, Green Cathedrals: The Ultimate Celebration of All Major League and Negro League Ballparks, fifth edition (Phoenix: Society for American Baseball Research, 2019), 119.

6 “Walker and Roesink Buy the Detroit Stars,” Afro-American, March 10, 1928: 12.

7 Pete Palmer et al., eds., The ESPN Pro Football Encyclopedia, second edition (New York: Sterling Publishing, 2007), 1509.

8 E.A. Batchelor, “National Leaguers to Appear,” Detroit Free Press, February 25, 1915.

9 “Play Opener at New Mack Park,” Detroit Free Press, April 20, 1913.

10 Lowry.

11 “Costlier of 2 Plots Chosen,” Detroit Free Press, September 30, 1921.

12 “5,000 See Homer and Squeeze Play Save Game In 9th,” Chicago Defender (National Edition), April 30, 1921.

13 “Creamery Team Stars’ Opponent,” Detroit Free Press, April 29, 1921.

14 “The Standing,” Chicago Defender (National Edition), June 4, 1921.

15 William J. Plott, The Negro Southern League: A Baseball History, 1920-1951 (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2015), 23.

16 “5,000 See Homer and Squeeze Play Save Game in 9th.”

17 Riley, Biographical Encyclopedia, Bill Force entry.

18 “No-Hit Victory to Gatewood,” Detroit Free Press, June 7, 1921.

19 Riley, Biographical Encyclopedia, Bill Gatewood entry.

20 Roy L. Jackson, “Blount’s Men Setting Hot Pace in League,” Chicago Defender (National Edition), July 2, 1921.

21 “St. Louis Giants to Start Series,” Detroit Free Press, July 2, 1921.

22 “10,000 See Monarchs Defeat Detroit Stars,” Chicago Defender, July 30, 1921.

23 “Monarchs Win Again,” Kansas City Kansan, July 25, 1921.

24 “Detroit Stars Lose Again,” Kansas City Kansan, July 26, 1921.

25 “Monarchs Won in Ninth,” Kansas City Times, July 26, 1921.

26 “The Monarchs Cleaned Up,” Kansas City Times, July 28, 1921.

27 “Stars Leave for Chicago Series,” Detroit Free Press, August 21, 1921.

28 “17 Innings for Blount’s Men to Trim Columbus,” Chicago Defender, August 13, 1921.

29 “Cockrell Pitches No Hit No Run Game,” Philadelphia Tribune, September 10, 1921.

30 Gary Gillette and Pete Palmer, eds., The ESPN Baseball Encyclopedia, fifth edition (New York: Sterling Publishing, 2008), 1729.

31 Phil Williams, “Pete Hill,” SABR Baseball Biography Project, https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/pete-hill/, accessed March 15, 2021.

32 Stephen V. Rice, “Bruce Petway,” SABR Baseball Biography Project, https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/bruce-petway/, accessed March 22, 2021.

33 “St. Louis Stars Claim Pennant,” St. Louis Argus, September 26, 1930.

The 1921 Columbus Buckeyes

By Bob Webster

The Dayton Marcos were one of the eight teams in the inaugural 1920 season of the Negro National League. The Marcos finished the season in seventh place with a 16-36 record.

On December 4, 1920, a meeting of the National Association of Colored Base Ball Clubs was held at the YMCA in Indianapolis. All of the team owners were present, including the owner of the Marcos, John Matthews.1

Two men from Kansas City attended the gathering in search of a team to purchase: Dr. Howard M. Smith, superintendent of the Home for the Aged and Infirm Negros. And Harry St. Clair, a local businessman, who regularly appeared in the local newspapers because of his involvement with gambling in Kansas City.2

On day two of the two-day meeting, it was announced that the Dayton Marcos would leave the Negro National League and be replaced by a team in nearby Columbus and become the Columbus Buckeyes. The Marcos lost Westwood Field, their home field of the 1920 season, because the field would be used exclusively by the Dayton Gymnastic Club, which had a prior lease on the field. By that evening, Smith and St. Clair had agreed to purchase the Marcos and move the team to Columbus. On December 25 it was announced that the two had hired Solomon White as the team’s business manager.3 White, also known as King Solomon White or Sol White, was known as one of the greatest shortstops in the game and one of the most intelligent men in baseball. A new Dayton Marcos team emerged and played semipro baseball in nearby Piqua.4

John Henry “Pop” Lloyd, was signed to play shortstop and manage the Buckeyes for the 1921 season. White managed Lloyd in 1907 while they were both with the Cuban X Giants and taught Lloyd how to play shortstop.

Nine players from the 1920 Dayton Marcos, six position players and three pitchers, played for the Buckeyes in 1921: Marcos starting outfielders Koke Alexander and George Brown; backup infielders Arthur Coleman, Isaac Lane, Boots McClain, and Samuel Dewitt; and pitchers George Britt, Charley Wilson, and Herlen Ragland. Britt was the workhorse, pitching 134⅓ innings for the Marcos in 1920.

Twenty-two players were on hand for the first training session, on April 3.5

A cold, wet April kept the Buckeyes from playing as many exhibition games as planned in preparation for the regular season. But manager Lloyd insisted that the team would be ready for the regular season.

The Buckeyes played their home games at Neil Park II, home of the Columbus Senators of the American Association.

The ballparks of Columbus had an interesting history during the first few years of the 1900s. The Columbus Senators joined the Interstate League in 1900 and played their games at Athletic Park, on the outskirts of Columbus. Because of its distant location, the Senators were not drawing well. So the wooden structure was dismantled and moved via the Columbia Street Railway System to 512 Cleveland Avenue and reassembled. It was renamed Neil Park, after Robert Neil, owner of the parcel of land.6

Three years later, with the Senators a successful American Association team, a new, 6,500-seat ballpark was built. It was the first concrete-and-steel stadium in the country. (Forbes Field in Pittsburgh was the second, in 1909.) Called Neil Park II, the ballpark was expanded to 6,500 seats in 1910.7

The Senators remained at Neil Park II until after the 1931 season when the organization became a Cardinals farm team and moved to a new ballpark, Red Bird Stadium. The name as well as the team’s affiliation and nickname changed various times until it was closed in 2008.8

Saturday, April 30, was Opening Day for the Buckeyes. The day began with a parade through downtown streets, with players from the Buckeyes and their opponents, the Chicago Giants, as well as club officials riding in the autos. The parade also included prominent officials of rival clubs in the league as well as league President Rube Foster.9

At the ballpark, the Second Regiment Band and jazz musicians played before the game. Governor Harry L. Davis was scheduled to throw out the first pitch, but was delayed, so Columbus Mayor James J. Thomas threw out the first pitch with Ohio Secretary of State Harvey C. Smith handling the catching duties.10

Despite the cold weather, 3,000 fans showed up for the game. The Buckeyes outhit the Giants, but lost, 5-3. The two teams played to a 4-4 tie on Sunday before being rained out the next three days.11 With Thursday, May 5, as a scheduled day off and Friday a travel day, the Buckeyes finally played their third game of the season in Indianapolis against the ABCs. The teams split the four-game series, after which the Buckeyes began a 13-game homestand.

The homestand got off to a nice start on Saturday, May 14, as the Buckeyes took the first game of the five-game series against the St. Louis Giants, 7-3. The Giants took the next two games, 8-1 and 13-6, before the Buckeyes took the final two games of the series, 6-4 and 15-7.

Next came the Kansas City Monarchs, one of the strongest teams in the league, for a four-game series beginning Saturday, May 21. In game one, the Monarchs jumped ahead with two runs in the top of the first and took a 4-2 lead into the bottom of the ninth before the Buckeyes came alive and scored three runs to win the game, 5-4. The game featured excellent defense and pitching. Both starting pitchers, Rube Curry for the Monarchs and George Britt for the Buckeyes went the distance with each giving up only one walk. Britt picked up the win for Columbus.12

The Monarchs took the second game of the series, 4-3, before the Buckeyes won game three in walk-off fashion again, this time by 6-5, with Britt in relief earning his second win of the series. In game four the Monarchs’ Rube Curry had a no-hitter until two outs in the ninth, when Lloyd singled. The Monarchs won, 8-0, for a series split.13

The Atlantic City Bacharach Giants came into town to begin a four-game series on Sunday, May 29. The fans were treated to some extra baseball as the Buckeyes defeated the Giants 7-4 in 13 innings. The Buckeyes took both games of a Monday doubleheader, 8-7 and 7-6. George Britt pitched both games, completing both. They were not easy games to pitch, as the Bacharach Giants managed 21 hits in the two games.14 The Bacharachs won the final game of the series, 13-1.

At this point in the season, the Buckeyes were 7-7 in league play and 9-9 overall.

Then something went wrong. The Buckeyes hit the road for four games in Chicago against the Chicago American Giants and then went to Detroit for a five-game series with the Detroit Stars. The Buckeyes lost all nine games. From Detroit the Buckeyes traveled to Cleveland and lost again, 10-9to the Cleveland Tate Stars. The Buckeyes were back home beginning Saturday, June 18, for a four-game series with the Cincinnati Cuban Stars. Cincinnati took the first game, 8-3, extending the Buckeyes losing streak to 12 games and dropping their league record to 7-17.

To mix things up a bit, Buckeyes business manager Sol White put on a uniform and assumed coaching duties. His presence in the dugout helped as the Buckeyes broke their losing streak with a 10-0 victory.15 The next day player-manager Lloyd went 4-for-4 with a double and three singles, leading his team to another win, 6-2. The Stars took the fourth game of the series, 5-3, for a split. The Buckeyes at that point were 9-18 in league play and 11-21 overall.

The Buckeyes hit the road for a series at Kansas City. The Monarchs swept a doubleheader on June 27 and won again the next day. The Buckeyes then played a couple of nonleague games in St. Louis and the Giants walloped the Buckeyes, 21-1 and 8-0. Then it was on to Indianapolis, where the ABC’s won four of five games. By July 6 the season was slipping away for the Buckeyes as they fell to 10-27 in league play and 12-30 overall.

The Buckeyes returned home, where they had fared better than on the road, to take on the Detroit Stars and the Chicago Giants.

The Buckeyes took four of six games in each of these series. One highlight of the homestand was in the July 19 game against the Chicago Giants. In the bottom of the ninth, Willie Green walked and Harry Bauchman reached on an error by second baseman Clint Thomas. Otto Ray lined to second baseman Thomas, who flipped to shortstop Lloyd to retire Green, who was on his way to third, and Lloyd threw to first baseman Robert Hudspeth to record a triple play and end the game with the Buckeyes 9-1 victors.16

It was reported on July 13 that seven members of the Atlanta Black Crackers had joined the Buckeyes. They were outfielders Charles Wesley and Clarence Smith, catcher Charles O’Neil, third baseman Preacher Davis, and pitchers Lewis Hampton, Willie Gisentaner, and Ben Harris.17 The four position players were all regulars in the lineup with Atlanta, sometimes the first four batters in the batting order.

By the end of this homestand on July 20, the Buckeyes had improved to 18-31 in league games and 20-34 overall.

The Buckeyes traveled to Schorling Park in Chicago to take on the Chicago American Giants. Their winning ways came to an end as they were swept 11-7, 7-4, and 4-0. It was on to Detroit and the Buckeyes and Stars battled it out for 17 innings before the Stars won 5-4. After splitting the next two games with the Stars, the Buckeyes headed east to play the Pittsburgh Keystones, Atlantic City Bacharach Giants, and the Hilldale Club. The Buckeyes won five of the 12 games before heading back home.

During the road trip, on Saturday, August 13, Sol White announced that he was leaving the Buckeyes. His original plan was to become the team’s business manager and help get a team established. Manager Lloyd took on White’s duties.18

When the Buckeyes opened a 12-game homestand on August 21, things began to turn around for them.

Opening a five-game series with the Monarchs, the Buckeyes swept a doubleheader, 5-4 and 7-1. The Monarchs won the next game, 11-5, but the Buckeyes took the final two games of the series and they were just heating up. The Buckeyes swept a five-game series against the Cleveland Tate Stars, then followed with a doubleheader sweep of the Indianapolis ABCs.

By September 9, the Buckeyes were one of the strongest clubs in the circuit, thanks to all of the players picked up from Atlanta. They won 12 of their last 14 league games and climbed out of the cellar into fourth place. Besides all of the position players, one of the best pickups was that of pitcher Ed “Cannon Ball” Rile. Since joining the Buckeyes from the New York Lincoln Giants, Rile had thrown a one-hitter against Indianapolis, and also won both games of a doubleheader against the Chicago Giants.19

Just before the season ended, the Buckeyes swept a four-game series from the Monarchs to improve to 29-37 in league games. They finished the season with a 30-38 league record and 42-48 overall. That was a big improvement since August 7, when they were 19-36 in league play and 21-39 overall before they put it all together late in the season.

The Kansas City Monarchs’ season had not come to an end yet and they were short on players because of injuries. In a nonleague series with the crosstown Kansas City Blues, they added three players from the Buckeyes to replace the injured players: Lloyd, Rile, and Frank Warfield from the Buckeyes.20

The league owners disbanded the Buckeyes team after the 1921 season.

Sources

In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author accessed Baseball-Reference.com and Seamheads.com, as well as SABR biographies of Sol White by Jay Hurd and Pop Lloyd by Thomas Kern. Special thanks to the Columbus Metropolitan Library for sharing articles from the Columbus Dispatch.

Notes

1 Q.J. Gilmore, “National Association of Colored Base Ball Clubs, Second Annual Meeting a Great Success,” Kansas City Sun, December 11, 1920: 4.

2 Gilmore.

3 “Baseball Review of the Past Season,” Kansas City Sun, December 25, 1920: 4.

4 “Piqua Will Be Home of Marcos During Season,” Dayton Daily News, April 15, 1921: 25.

5 “Twenty-two Men to Report Here,” Columbus Dispatch, March 27, 1921: 29.

6 Eric Pastore, 500 Ballparks: From Wooden Seats to Retro Classics (San Diego: Thunder Bay Press 2011), 248.

7 Pastore, 248.

8 Pastore, 298-299.

9 “Colored League Opening Saturday Will Be Put on with Thrills,” Columbus Dispatch, April 29, 1921: 36.

10 “Columbus Colored Team Is Defeated in First Contest,” Columbus Dispatch, May 1, 1921: 32.

11 “More Weather. Sol White Calls Off Another Game with the Chicago Giants,” Columbus Dispatch, May 3, 1921: 18.

12 “Strong at Finish Were Buckeyes,” Columbus Dispatch, May 22, 1921: 33.

13 “Kansas City Hill Man in Top Form,” Columbus Dispatch, May 26, 1921: 23.

14 “Britt Turns in Great Exhibition,” Columbus Dispatch, May 31, 1921: 27.

15 “White Helps in Buckeye Victory,” Columbus Dispatch, June 20, 1921: 15.

16 “Triple Play Put Over by Buckeyes,” Columbus Dispatch, July 20, 1921: 20.

17 “Wilson Big Noise in This Victory,” Columbus Dispatch, July 13, 1921: 20.

18 “White Quits Buckeyes,” Columbus Dispatch, August 14, 1921: 25.

19 “The Buckeyes Here Tomorrow. Monarchs Will Open a 5-Game Series with Columbus Club,” Kansas City Times, September 9, 1921: 12.

20 “Monarchs Are Strengthened: Three Columbus Players Secured for Series with Blues,” Kansas City Kansan, October 5, 1921: 9.

The 1921 Cincinnati Cuban Stars

By Leslie Heaphy

As the 1921 season began the Cuban Stars had found a home field at Cincinnati’s Redland Field after having played all league games on the road during the 1920 season. The Stars started the season with high hopes to improve on their 35-34 record from 1920. Much of the squad was back for the 1921 season, along with a few additions that gave the players a good feeling. But their final record did not fulfill that hope as the Stars ended the Negro National League season with a 29-40-1 record. The Cuban Stars returned to being a road team for the rest of their league play, since staying in one place had not helped their overall standing. What follows is a look at the 1921 season highlighted by some fine pitching and fielding, and decent hitting that did not always translate into wins.1

The Cuban Stars were led by 27-year-old pitcher Jose Leblanc from Cienfuegos, Cuba. He led the club with a 15-12 record and one save in 238⅔ innings pitched. Another key player for the Stars was outfielder Bernard Baro, who led the team in stolen bases with 30 and a .343 batting average. Speed played a key role in a number of the Stars’ victories. Valentin Dreke hit .296 with 40 RBIs to back up Baro.2

As a team used to traveling from ballpark to ballpark, the Stars filled their season with league games and exhibitions. With the season set to open on April 30, 1921, against the Indianapolis ABCs, the Stars played a series of spring games to tune up and see what they had. Their first exhibition against the ABCs saw them win 2-0 as Leblanc shut them out on a six-hitter with five strikeouts and one walk. The scoring came from Baro and Marcelino Guerra. In another early contest, the Stars beat the Montgomery Grey Sox, 7-5, in a 10-inning game. Leblanc came on in relief of starter Claudio Manela and not only shut down the Grey Sox but also knocked in the winning runs in the 10th with a long triple. The lack of pitching depth shown in these early games hurt the Stars over the course of the season.3

The Stars opened their season on April 30 with a 3 P.M. game at Redland Park. The game was preceded by a parade and a local band concert. Local press played up the opening, highlighting the fact that the Cuban Stars had won the winter Cuban championship so fans should be excited for the season. The Stars opened with a planned five-game series with C.I. Taylor’s ABCs, followed by a four-game nonleague series with the Bacharach Giants. With rain playing havoc with the opening series, the Stars came out with a 2-2 start. Their first victory was a 7-2 win with Manela picking up the victory behind the strong hitting of Eufemio Abreu, Valentin Dreke, and Paito Herrera. The second win was a 5-2 win backed up by the strong pitching of Leblanc and a 4-4 night for Drake.4

As May unfolded, the early play had fans excited. In two games against the Cleveland Tate Stars the Cubans won both contests. In four games with the Chicago Giants the Stars won three and then went 2-2 vs. the Chicago American Giants. In one of the wins against the Chicago Giants, Baro showed off some power, hitting a home run to give Leblanc a 4-1 victory. The most exciting game for the fans was the Stars’ 14-2 win on May 22. Manela earned the victory but the real thrill was watching John Beckwith for the Giants wallop a ball over the left-field fence. The fans were so excited they threw money on the field to reward Beckwith and he left the game with an extra $25. Leblanc picked up another win in a pitchers’ duel with the Chicago American Giants on May 29. He pitched a three-hitter before 10,000 hometown Chicago fans, winning 2-1. The other highlight for the Stars was the shortstop Matias Rios exceptional fielding, which he continued throughout the season.5

Between the league games, the Cuban Stars found time to play a number of exhibition games to stay sharp and earn some extra money. They opened a home series with the Bacharach Giants, winning the first contest 17-2 in a rare display of high run-scoring. Baro and Dreke led the hitting attack, Rios excelled in the field, and Leblanc earned the win. They lost the next two games, mainly due to errors in the field and a little bit of wildness from the mound. They also played a three-game series against the Lattimore Numatics, winning all three games. The games were played at League park before the series with the Tate Stars. The pitching heroics again rested with Leblanc starting one and finishing another after Manuel Parrado was hit pretty hard.6

With a win over the Chicago American Giants on June 2, the Stars found themselves in first place in the Negro National League. Leblanc pitched a seven-hitter as the Stars won 3-2. Though the Cuban team had only four hits, it made them count. But this was the last time they sat in first place. By June 9 the papers had the Cubans dropping to third place with a 12-8 record and by the end of July they were still in third place at 33-20, according to the papers for that year. One of the teams that gave them difficulty was the Kansas City Monarchs. The Stars lost three of five games to the Monarchs during a June series as their lack of pitching depth became an issue and their hitting did not always come through. Leblanc did pitch them to a dramatic 5-4 victory over the Monarchs on June 14. The Stars came back to win for the second game in a row by one run. They were also victorious on the 13th by a score of 7-6.7

July 4 celebrations got off to a good start as the Stars defeated the Muncie Athletics 8-4 in an exhibition game. Lucas Boada got the win and was helped by 10 hits, including two home runs by Baro. Second baseman Bienvenido Jimenez also contributed four hits while Boada struck out three. In league play things got off to a good start with a win in the first game of a five-game series over the Chicago Giants at Redland Field. Leblanc got the win while Drake led the way with four hits, including one extra-base hit. The Stars lost the series two games to three and followed that with a similar result in a five-game series against the Monarchs. Jimenez and Leblanc were the leaders in their two wins. After two victories against the fifth-place Detroit Stars, the Cubans lost another series two games to three to the first-place Chicago American Giants. Jimenez led the way with some clutch hitting and basestealing while Leblanc picked up another couple of victories. There was some controversy in a game on July 21 which was forfeited after the second inning as Tinti Molina’s Stars left the field following a disputed call over a ball the Stars claimed was a foul ball. The Cubans rounded out the month with another lost series against the St. Louis Giants. Manela and Suarez took the brunt of the losses, giving up 17 hits in a 14-12 loss. Some poor fielding and wild pitches did not help the Cubans.8 Shortstop Rios was the only one applauded in the papers for his “pretty stops and accurate throws.”9

Over the final two months of the regular NNL season the Stars managed only nine victories. Weaknesses in the pitching staff and fielding errors continued to plague the Cuban ballplayers. While their fortunes declined in league play, the Stars were still a draw in exhibition games. In 12 exhibition games for which records were found, the Cubans went 7-4-1. A more balanced hitting attack and better pitching from Boada and Suarez seemed to be the keys to victory. For example, in a win over the Pyotts on August 6, Suarez struck out seven en route to an 11-7 win. Herrera, Baro, Bienvenido Jimenez, and Parrado all provided extra-base hits to power the attack. In a second victory over the Pyotts, on August 29, Boada won 4-1 with Bienvenido Jimenez providing all the power with three hits, including a home run. To finish out their year, the Stars took two games from the Marquette Manors on October 2, 2-0 and 4-3. Suarez and Leblanc pitched complete-game victories.10

After the season ended the Cuban Stars returned to Cuba for the winter season as they had the previous winter. When they returned for the 1922 season, they went back to being a road team with no home ballpark, ending the year in last place with an 18-43 record.11 For manager Tinti Molina and his Cuban Stars, the 1921 season started with great promise but ended in a disappointing seventh-place finish.

Roster

  • Eufemio Abreu – rf
  • Bernardo Baro – cf
  • Lucas Boada – p
  • Valentin Dreke – lf
  • Marcelino Guerra – of
  • Paito Herrera – 2b/3b
  • Bienvenido Jimenez – 2b
  • Eusebio Jimenez – 3b
  • Jose Leblanc – p/of
  • Claudio Manela – p
  • Eugenio Morin – c
  • Manuel Parrado – p/1b
  • Porter – 2b
  • Matias Rios – ss
  • Jose Suarez – p

Sources

All statistical information in this article came from seamheads.com Negro Leagues database at https://www.seamheads.com/NegroLgs/.

Notes

1 https://www.seamheads.com/NegroLgs/year.php?yearID=1921.

2 https://www.seamheads.com/NegroLgs/team.php?yearID=1921&teamID=CS&tab=bat; https://agatetype.typepad.com/agate_type/2014/09/the-mysterious-spitballer-leblanc.html.

3 “Cubans take Pitchers’ Battle from A.B.C.’s, 2-0,” Indianapolis Star, April 25, 1921: 11; “Cuban Stars Defeat Local Grey Sox in Hard Fought Contest,” Montgomery Advertiser, April 18, 1921: 6.

4 Cincinnati Commercial-Tribune, April 19, 1921: 7; “Amateur Baseball,” Cincinnati Enquirer, May 2, 1921: 11; “Cubans Back Up Pitcher,” Cincinnati Enquirer, May 5, 1921: 14; “Contest Is Postponed,” Cincinnati Enquirer, May 3, 1921: 6; “Cubans 5-Giants 2,” Cincinnati Commercial-Tribune, May 6, 1921: 4.

5 ‘Colored Star’s Drive Goes over the Wall at Redland Field,” Cincinnati Commercial Tribune, 23 May 23, 1921: 7; “Ball Goes over the Wall,” Cincinnati Enquirer, May 23, 1921: 9; “Cubs Beat Giants,” Cincinnati Commercial Tribune, May 24, 1921: 7; “Sensational Plays Feature,” Cincinnati Enquirer, May 25, 1921: 13; Cincinnati Enquirer, May 30, 1921: 2.

6 “Cubans Win Third from Latty’s Team,” Akron Beacon Journal, May 13, 1921: 24; “Cubans Defeat Giants,” Cincinnati Commercial Tribune, May 17, 1921: 6; “Giants Trim Stars,” Cincinnati Enquirer, May 20, 1921: 7; “Giants Defeat Stars,” Cincinnati Enquirer, May 21, 1921: 7.

7 “Cuban Stars Take Close Game from Giants, 3 to 2,” Chicago Tribune, June 3, 1921: 16; “Cubans Retain Lead,” Cincinnati Commercial Tribune, June 3, 1921: 6; “Another for Cubans,” Cincinnati Commercial Tribune, June 15, 1921: 6; “Cuban Stars Win,” Cincinnati Enquirer, June 15, 1921: 14; “Monarchs in Second Place,” Kansas City Kansan, June 9, 1921: 7; “Odd Game to Monarchs,” Kansas City Kansan, June 16, 1921: 9; “Monarchs Wallop Cubans,” Kansas City Kansan, July 31, 1921: 14.

8 “Good Game at the Yard,” Muncie Evening Press, July 4, 1921: 5; “Stars Win Opener,” Cincinnati Enquirer, July 5, 1921: 8; “Cubans Score Another,” Cincinnati Enquirer, July 1921: 5; “Rally Drops Short,” Cincinnati Enquirer, July 20, 1921: 11; “Cubans Trim Giants,” Cincinnati Enquirer, July 21, 1921: 6; “Cubans 4 – Giants 3,” Cincinnati Commercial Tribune, July 20, 1921: 11; “Players Leave the Field,” Cincinnati Enquirer, July 22, 1921: 7; “St. Louis Giants Again Defeat Cuban Stars,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, July 29, 1921: 16.

9 “Monarchs Wallop Cubans,” Kansas City Kansan, July 31, 1921: 14.

10 “Ten Straight for Monarchs,” Kansas City Kansan, August 2, 1921: 8; “Cuban Stars Mingle Hits with Speed for 11-7 Win over Pyotts,” Chicago Tribune, August 7, 1921: 18; “Logan Squares and Cubans Tie,” Chicago Tribune, August 9, 1921: 13; “Staleys 4; Cuban Stars 3,” Chicago Tribune, August 13, 1921: 6; “Great Crowd Sees Starch Workers Win from Cubans 6 to 4,” Decatur Herald Review, August 19, 1921: 4; “Cuban Stars Down Pyotts by 4-1 Score,” Chicago Tribune, August 30, 1921: 10; “Cuban Stars Down Romeos,” Chicago Tribune, September 4, 1921: 16; “Briscoes Beat Cubans, 9 to 3,” Chicago Tribune, September 11, 1921: 22; “Keystones Beaten,” Pittsburgh Daily Post, September 23, 1921: 9; “Cuban Stars Win Pair,” Chicago Tribune, October 3, 1921: 19.

11 https://www.seamheads.com/NegroLgs/year.php?yearID=1922.

The 1921 Chicago Giants

By Kevin Larkin

Frank Leland was born in February of 1869 In Memphis, Tennessee.1 Leland was one of the early pioneers of Black baseball in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

An outfielder when he began his career, he was credited with forming four of the best Black baseball teams of all time: the Chicago Unions, Chicago Union Giants, Leland Giants, and Chicago Giants.

A biography presented by the Center for Negro League Baseball Research says Leland had become a partner with Rube Foster in 1907 and they were together from 1907 until 1910 when the two parted ways. Both men claimed the 1909 pennant and the name Leland Giants. The team run by Foster won the right to the name. Foster called the team the Chicago Leland Giants, while Leland called his team the Leland Chicago Giants. That caused some confusion.2

From 1910 through 1917 and in 1919, the Chicago Giants were associated with the Western Independent Clubs. Nate Harris (1910), Bill Pettus (1911), and Joe Green (1912-1917, 1919) managed the team during that time. For the 1910 season the team used Red Sox Park and Logan Square Park in Chicago for their home fields. From 1911 through 1913 they played at Schorling Park in Chicago (the former South Side Park and home to the major-league Chicago White Sox). James A. Riley writes, “Then from 1914 through 1919 the team had no home ballpark.”3 According to seamheads.com, the team also had no home ballpark in either 1920 or 1921.

Rube Foster formed the Negro National League I in 1920 and the Chicago Giants became a member of the league along with the Chicago American Giants, Detroit Stars, Kansas City Monarchs, Indianapolis ABCs, Cuban Stars West, St Louis Giants and Dayton Marcos. Leland’s Chicago Giants finished the 1920 season with a record of 5 wins and 31 losses which put them eighth.

In 1921 the Columbus Buckeyes and Cincinnati Cuban Stars took the place of the Dayton Marcos and Cuban Stars West in the league. The Chicago Giants finished with a record of 10 wins, 35 losses, and 2 ties, placing them eighth and last in the standings, 23½ games behind the first-place Chicago American Giants. Joe Green was the manager of the team, having taken over after Frank Leland died on November 14, 1914, in Chicago at the age of 45.

On May 10, 1921, the Chicago Giants and the St. Louis Giants met in the second game of a series. John Taylor was the starting pitcher for Chicago and was staked to a 2-0 lead after the first two innings of play. The team from St. Louis scored a run in the bottom of the sixth inning to make the score 2-1. Then in the bottom of the seventh inning, St. Louis scored five times and took a 6-2 lead. The St. Louis Globe-Democrat wrote, “Taylor, pitching for Chicago, deserved a better fate, the poor support of his fielders allowing the locals to count all their six runs.”4 The game was called because of rain in the eighth inning, with St. Louis holding on for the 6-2 win. Taylor allowed seven hits and struck out four. He also led Chicago at the plate with two hits.

Five days later Chicago was at Walnut Street Park in Muncie, Indiana, for a game with the local Athletics that ended in an 8-2 win for Chicago. In the third inning, French of the Athletics doubled, went to third on an error by Harry Jeffries in center field, and scored when his teammate Campbell hit a line drive to Horace Jenkins in right field. A Muncie newspaper wrote, “Campbell of the Athletics made the final out when Thurman Jennings made a great play in right field.”5

In the sixth inning, Willie Green led off for the Athletics with a single, stole second base, and took third on the St. Louis catcher’s bad throw. Jeffries hit a groundball that the second baseman fumbled and Green scored the tying run. Pitcher Voyles hit Horace Jenkins, putting runners on first and second, but John Beckwith grounded into a double play and Jennings flied out to McBride in left field.

According to the Star Press, “Chicago added two runs to their total and in the eighth inning and then in the ninth inning five runs by Chicago ruined the game or rather caused the score to become one-sided.”6 The five runs came on five Athletics hits and four errors by Muncie.

Harry Jeffries (stolen base), Jenkins (double), Harry Bachman (double, stolen base), and Ollie Byrd all had two hits for Chicago in the win. Luther Farrell got the win for the Giants, allowing just four hits, walking three and striking out two.

Another game was summarized in the Chicago Tribune: “July 3 at Kozlek’s Park the Chicago Giants of Joe Green were facing the White Giants. The White Giants took a 1-0 lead at the end of the second inning. John Beckwith drove in the first run for Chicago in the sixth inning and drove in what proved to be the winning run in the eighth as the Chicago Giants defeated the White Giants, 2-1. Thurman Jennings and Beckwith each had two hits for Chicago in the win. Walter Ball got the win for Chicago, allowing six hits while walking two and striking out three.”7

The Indianapolis Star wrote of a July 10 game, “[T]he A.B.C.s and the Chicago Giants divided a twin bill at Washington Park in Indianapolis yesterday, the invaders taking the first, a pitcher’s duel between Johnson and Taylor, 2 to 1, and the A.B.C.s salting the second away by a 9 to 5 count.”8 The first game was scoreless until Chicago scored twice in the bottom of the seventh inning. Indianapolis cut into the lead in the top of the eighth with a run, but Chicago held on for the 2-1 victory. Lemuel Hawkins led Chicago with two hits in game one, and John Taylor got the win as he allowed seven hits and struck out two.

The Star added, “The A.B.C.s started the second game with a rush and maintained a steady bombardment on Miller while Jeffries was steady except in the fifth round.”9 Morten Clark led the A.B.C.s in game two with three hits while teammates Harry Kenyon and Ben Taylor each had two. Jim Jeffries got the win, allowing eight hits and striking out one. Harry Jeffries had three hits for Chicago in the loss.

On July 23, the Giants lost to the Pittsburgh Keystones, 7-5, in Pittsburgh.10 The Keystones had a 6-1 lead after five innings. Gerard Williams led the Keystones with four hits, including a double. Royster Bullock allowed 15 hits in gaining the win, striking out two. Harry Jeffries had four hits and Percy Miller had a home run for Chicago.

A week later, the Pittsburgh Press wrote, “Keystone and Chicago Giants played an 8 to 8 draw in a hard fought game.”11 Hap Allen had three hits, including a double, for the Keystones, while Lemuel Hawkins had for hits for Chicago. Lefty Gilmore allowed 12 hits and struck out three for the Keystones while John Beckwith allowed 12 hits and struck out six for Chicago.

For a road game at St. Louis on August 1, the Globe-Democrat wrote, “The St. Louis Giants won the second game of the series from the Chicago Giants yesterday by a 12-to-7 score. The third game of the series will be played this afternoon. A fourth game has been added to the series for Wednesday and will start at 4 o’clock after the Shriners parade.”12 McAdoo and Holt had two hits for St. Louis with Starks getting the win, allowing 13 hits and striking out five. Harry Jeffries had three hits while teammates Koke Alexander, Otto Ray, and Percy Miller each added two hits in the loss.

A September 4 game saw the team lose a close game. “The Cuban Stars defeated the Chicago Giants yesterday at Schorling’s park, 9 to 8,” wrote the Chicago Tribune. “The visitors clinched the game in the fifth inning by scoring five runs.”13 Going into the fifth inning, the score was tied, 3-3. The Stars then scored five times while Chicago came back with four runs of their own and then another run in the bottom of the sixth inning to tie the game 8-8.

In the top of the seventh inning the Cuban Stars went ahead 9-8 and held on for the victory. Bernardo Baro (double) and Lucas Boada each had two hits in the win. Boada, Jose Suarez, and Jose Leblanc combined to allow Chicago 11 hits and strike out four batters. (Boada had one strikeout, Suarez three.) In the loss Thurman Jennings and John Beckwith had two hits for the Giants.

A few biographical sketches

The games described above are just a brief overview of the Chicago Giants season. Following are some brief biographies of some of the team’s better-known players.

21-year-old John Beckwith led the Chicago Giants in batting for 1921, hitting for a .371 average in 47 games. James Riley writes, “He had begun his career in Black Baseball/Negro Leagues with Montgomery Grey Sox in 1916 and also played with the Chicago Union Giants in 1916 as well. From 1916 until 1923 he was a member of the Chicago Giants. During that period he also played with the Havana Stars (1917) and the Chicago American Giants (1922-1923). He also played with the Baltimore Black Sox (1924-1926, 1930-1931), Harrisburg Giants (1926-1927), Homestead Grays (1924,1928-1929, 1935), and the New York Lincoln Giants (1929-1930). Beckwith continued his career in 1931-1932 with the Atlantic City Bacharach Giants and Newark Browns, before playing with the New York Black Yankees in 1933 and 1934. He later played with the Newark Dodgers (1934), Palmer House Indians (1936), and Brooklyn Royal Giants (1938).”14 Beckwith was a right-handed pull hitter, very powerful and consistent with great slugging prowess. He maintained a high batting average for his career (finishing with a .347 career average). He could play any position on the field. His teammates and opponents regarded him as one of the game’s top players.

Walter “The Georgia Rabbit” Ball had played in Black baseball since 1903 with Augusta, Georgia, and the Chicago Union Giants (1903-1905). He was with the Cuban X-Giants in 1904, the Philadelphia Giants, Brooklyn Royal Giants in 1905 and 1913. From 1905 to 1909 he was with the Leland Giants, also playing with the Quaker Giants in 1906, the St. Paul Colored Gophers in 1907, and the Keystones in 1908. He played with the Chicago Giants (1910-1911, 1917-1921). He also played with the St. Louis Giants in 1912, the Chicago American Giants in 1912 and 1915, the Mohawk Giants in 1913, and the New York Lincoln Giants in 1914. Riley says, “He was regarded as one of the best pitchers in Black Baseball, in the early years of the sport. He was smart, had good control and did also use the spitball.”15

Frank “The Red Ant” Wickware began his career in 1910 with the Leland Giants and played for them into the 1911 season. In the 1911-1912 Cuban Winter League he played for the Fe team and in 1912 he played for the Chicago American Giants and Brooklyn Royal Giants as well as the New York Lincoln Giants. He was a member of the 1913 Schenectady Mohawk Giants before playing with a number of teams in 1914. He was back with the Chicago American Giants in 1915 and also played with them in 1916, 1918, and 1920. For the 1915-1916 Cuban Winter League he played with the San Francisco Park team as well as the Indianapolis ABCs part-time in 1916. He then spent the 1917 season with multiple teams. He also played with the 1917-1918 Royal Poinciana Hotel team in the Florida Hotel League. After again playing with multiple teams in 1919 and the American Giants in 1920, he played the 1921 season with the Chicago Giants. Wickware’s blazing fastball made him a tough pitcher in the late 1910s. He quickly became the ace of Rube Foster’s Leland Giants. At the early age of 22 he became noted for the speed of his fastball, his calmness on the mound, and his smooth delivery. He was in great demand by teams and did not hesitate to jump from one team to another for more money. Later, he briefly managed a team in New Bedford, Massachusetts. He died in Schenectady, New York, in 1967.16

Of Frank Duncan, Riley writes, “Frank Duncan began his career in the Negro Leagues in 1920 with the Chicago Giants, playing with them partway into the 1921 season as well. He then began to play with the Kansas City Monarchs, playing for them from 1922 to 1934 with him also playing with the Santa Clara team in the Cuban League during the 1923-1924 season. In 1931 Duncan played with the Harlem Stars. For the 1935 and 1936 seasons he was a member of the New York Cubans. For part of the 1937 season he was a member of the Chicago American Giants. He played with multiple teams in 1938 and 1940 and finished his career with the Monarchs, playing with them from 1941 to 1945 except for a short stint with the South All Stars in 1943. … Duncan was regarded as one of the top catchers in Black baseball.”17 Riley adds, “He was great when he had to catch pop flies and during his time with the Kansas City Monarchs he possessed one of the best throwing arms in the Negro Leagues. He handled a pitching staff that included such future Hall of Famers as Satchel Paige, Bullet Joe Rogan, and Jose Mendez. Despite being a slow baserunner, he ran the bases with reckless abandon. Although he did not have a great batting average, he was a good batter to have at the plate when the team needed a hit. “He became manager of the Kansas City Monarchs in 1942 and that team swept the Homestead Grays in the World Series. After his playing career was over, he umpired home games for the Monarchs and then ran a tavern. He died December 4, 1973, in Kansas City, Missouri.” Riley concluded, “After the 1921 Negro National League season, the Chicago Giants were no longer a major-league-quality ballclub, although the team continued to function into the latter ’20s.”18

In the 1921 Negro National League season, the Chicago Giants finished in last place with a record of 10 wins, 35 losses, and 2 ties.

Sources

In addition to the game story and box-score sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted the Seamheads.com website and the following publications:

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

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

Notes

1 Different years of birth for Leland have been presented by different researchers. Our research has gone with 1869, the year of birth listed on his death certificate. www.cnlbr.org.

2 https://cnlbr.org/Portals/0/EP/332567%20Forgotten%20Heroes%20Frank%20C%20Leland%20Single%20Pages.pdf.

3 Negro Leagues Baseball eMuseum, https://nlbemuseum.com/nlbemuseum/history/players/leland.html.

4 “St. Louis Giants Win Again from Chicago,” St. Louis Globe Democrat, May 10, 1921: 11.

5 “Chicago Giants Put Bug on Us,” Star Press (Muncie, Indiana), May 15, 1921: 11.

6 “Chicago Giants Put Bug on Us.”

7 “Chicago Giants Stop White Giants by 2 to 1,” Chicago Tribune, July 4, 1921: 19. No other references to the White Giants were found,

8 “A.S. and Chicago American Giants Split Twin Bill,” Indianapolis Star, July 11, 1921: 10.

9 Indianapolis Star, July 11, 1921: 10.

10 “Keystone Takes Final,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 24, 1921: 20.

11 “Keystones Tie Giants,” Pittsburgh Press, July 31, 1921: 27.

12 “St. Louis Giants Beat Chicago Giants, 12-7,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, August 2, 1921: 7.

13 “Cubans Down Giants, 9-8,” Chicago Tribune, September 5, 1921: 10.

14 James A. Riley, The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Leagues (New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers Inc., 1994), 69, 70.

15 Riley, 47, 48.

16 Riley, 839, 840.

17 Riley, 254-256.

18 Riley, 168.

Schorling Park, seen in 1909 when it was known as South Side Park as home of the Chicago White Sox, played host to Chicago American Giants games between 1920 and 1931 (LIBRARY OF CONGRESS)Schorling Park — seen here in 1909 when it was known as South Side Park for the Chicago White Sox — served as the home stadium for the Chicago American Giants of the Negro National League between 1920 and 1931. (LIBRARY OF CONGRESS)

The Ballparks

By Kevin Johnson

One of the keys to the survival of the Negro National League of the 1920s was the ability to have access to high-quality ballparks on a consistent basis. Black-owned baseball teams had limited access to capital, so building their own ballparks was difficult. Fortunately for them, most of the NNL teams were able to at least consistently lease a park, allowing them to schedule regular league games instead of having to barnstorm or play at various neutral sites.

In Kansas City, the Monarchs shared Association Park (II) with the Kansas City Blues of the American Association. The Blues owned the park, and therefore always had first priority for any dates, but for the most part the Monarchs were able to schedule home games when the Blues were on the road.

The Chicago American Giants had a deal with John Schorling, Charles Comiskey’s son-in-law, going back to 1911, to use the White Sox’ old South Side Park, by then called Schorling Park. Because the American Giants were the primary tenant, they could schedule games whenever they wanted. The availability of the ballpark resulted in the American Giants having more home games on the league schedule than the other NNL teams.

St. Louis played at Giants Park, and as the name implies, they were the primary tenants and owner, although it’s likely that local White businessman Conrad Kuebler provided some of the capital. The expense of upgrading the park in 1919 would ultimately contribute to the demise of the Giants (sued for payment related to the remodeling in 1921), replaced in 1922 by the St. Louis Stars, who had Black ownership with enough capital to build team-owned Stars Park by mid-1922.

The Indianapolis ABCs used Washington Park as their home field. This ballpark was the home field for the Indianapolis Indians of the American Association. As in Kansas City, the ABCs could only have the park when the Indians were traveling.

In Detroit, the Stars leased Mack Park, a small wooden park tucked into a Detroit neighborhood. Until the park was badly damaged by a fire in 1929, its 6,000-spectator capacity served the team well.

The Columbus Buckeyes replaced the Dayton Marcos in the NNL for 1922, and part of the reason was access to a better ballpark. The Buckeyes used Neil Park (II), which when the Detroit Tigers used it for a Sunday home game in 1905, became the first major-league steel-and-concrete stadium. The primary tenant was the Columbus Senators, and as at the American Association ballparks in Kansas City and Indianapolis, the NNL team had to work around the Senators’ schedule for home dates.

The Cuban Stars, a collection of players from the Cuban “winter” league, normally played as a traveling NNL team without a home ballpark, but in 1921 the team used Redland Field (later called Crosley Field) as their home base. Even with a designated home field, the Cuban Stars played the fewest home games in the league (except for the Chicago Giants, who continued to play as a traveling team with no home ballpark in 1921).

Neil Park in Columbus, Ohio (PUBLIC DOMAIN)

Neil Park in Columbus, Ohio, served as home of the Columbus Buckeyes in 1921, and it hosted several neutral-site Negro League games between 1920 and 1935.  (PUBLIC DOMAIN)

Sources

Lowry, Philip J., Green Cathedrals: The Ultimate Celebration of All Major League and Negro League Ballparks, Fifth Edition, Ron Selter, ed. (Phoenix: Society for American Baseball Research, 2019).

http://www.seamheads.com

http://www.cnlbr.org

http://www.agatetype.typepad.com

The Games

Find stories on notable Negro National League games from the 1921 season at the SABR Games Project.

Sol White (NATIONAL BASEBALL HALL OF FAME LIBRARY)

April 30, 1921: Chicago Giants defeat Columbus Buckeyes in Negro National League debut


Relocated, renamed, and piloted by two generations of Black baseball royalty, the Columbus Buckeyes opened the 1921 Negro National League season to fanfare, hosting the Chicago Giants on April 30. But Chicago’s John Taylor struck out 12 Buckeye batters and the Giants capitalized on shaky Columbus defense for a 5-3 win at Neil Park.

Dave Brown (SEAMHEADS.COM)

May 7, 1921: Chicago’s Dave Brown outduels Monarchs’ Rube Curry on Opening Day


Rube Foster’s Chicago American Giants closely resembled their championship team of 1920. Dave Brown was the staff leader in 1920 with a record of 13-3 and an impressive ERA of 1.82. In the 1921 season opener, he pitched a complete game allowing only one hit and three walks, striking out nine.

Bullet Rogan (TRADING CARD DB)

June 12, 1921: Monarchs’ Bullet Rogan bests Cincinnati’s José Leblanc in battle of Negro League aces

Showing off his two-way skills, Kansas City Monarchs star Bullet Rogan pitched a complete game and recorded two hits with an RBI against Cincinnati’s José Leblanc in a duel between the Negro National League’s top two pitchers.

Cristóbal Torriente (TRADING CARD DB)

June 19, 1921: Cristóbal Torriente’s triple leads American Giants over intra-city rivals

Cristóbal Torriente broke open a tie game in the sixth inning, when his two-run triple lifted the Chicago American Giants to their 12th consecutive victory at Schorling Park.

Cristobal Torriente (NATIONAL BASEBALL HALL OF FAME LIBRARY)

June 20, 1921: Cristóbal Torriente scores in 10th for American Giants’ 13th consecutive victory


Torriente drew a walk in the 10th inning, stole second base, and then scored the winning run to give the Chicago American Giants their 13th win in a row.

Oscar Charleston (NATIONAL BASEBALL HALL OF FAME LIBRARY)

June 29, 1921: Oscar Charleston drives in five runs in St. Louis Giants’ rout of Columbus Buckeyes


The St. Louis Giants’ purchase of legendary outfielder Oscar Charleston from the Indianapolis ABCs helped make them into a winner in 1921. On this day, he led the Giants to a 21-1 rout of the Columbus Buckeyes.

Pete Hill (NATIONAL BASEBALL HALL OF FAME LIBRARY)

July 9, 1921: Columbus Buckeyes surprise first-place Detroit Stars with comeback win


Pete Hill and the Detroit Stars held first place in the Negro National League when they arrived in Ohio to play the Columbus Buckeyes. The Stars appeared set to maintain their pace when they took an early lead in the series opener on July 9, but the Buckeyes capitalized on shaky Detroit defense and rallied for an 8-7 win.

Tom Williams (SEAMHEADS.COM)

July 10, 1921: Tom Williams outduels Bill Drake as Chicago American Giants edge St. Louis Giants

Fresh off a one-hit shutout of the Kansas City Monarchs, Tom Williams limited the Giants’ powerful lineup to three hits and stranded the bases loaded in the ninth inning.

1921 Chicago American Giants (SABR-RUCKER ARCHIVE)

July 16, 1921: Cristóbal Torriente, Chicago American Giants knock the starch out of ‘Iron Man’ McGinnity

In the finale of a competitive three-game series against a semipro team from Decatur, Illinois, that included future baseball Hall of Famer Joe McGinnity and football legend George Halas, the Chicago American Giants recorded 21 hits and Dave Brown struck out 11 in a complete-game effort.

Phil Cockrell (LIBRARY OF CONGRESS)

September 5, 1921: Hilldale’s Phil Cockrell tosses no-hitter against Detroit Stars


Phil Cockrell “drew transportation to the mythological ‘Hall of Fame’” following his overpowering no-hitter to lead the Hilldale club over the visiting Detroit Stars in the afternoon contest of a Labor Day doubleheader in 1921.


The Media

Chicago Defender headline, September 17, 1921 (COURTESY OF DONNA HALPER)

By Donna L. Halper

Frank Frank Albert “Fay” Young was one of the most influential sportswriters in the Black press, during a career that spanned five decades. Modern scholars have praised him for his thorough coverage of Negro Leagues baseball, as well as for reporting on athletic events at historically Black colleges.

Writing at a time when few Black newspapers were reporting about sports at all, and when most of the mainstream white newspapers seldom covered athletes of color, Young is often credited with being the first full-time Black sportswriter, as well as developing the Chicago Defender’s sports page, an idea that was soon emulated by other publications. He was frequently referred to by his peers as the Dean of Negro Sportswriters, and his columns, which included “Fay Says,” “The Stuff Is Here,” and “Through the Years,” were must-reads for sports fans.

He reported on the Negro National League from its inception in early 1920; and throughout the decade, he not only covered many NNL games, but he also covered the league meetings, keeping his readers informed about what the owners and executives were doing.

As a baseball writer, Young’s main focus was on his home team, the Chicago American Giants; he even served as the de facto publicist for team owner, and NNL executive, Rube Foster, a man whom Young deeply admired and to whom, even years later, he referred as “the brains of Negro baseball.” Young also sometimes worked as the official scorer for the Giants, while he was also covering the team’s exploits for the Defender.

Russ Cowans (NEWSPAPERS.COM)Russell J. “Russ” Cowans was known in Detroit as the “Dean of Black Sportswriters.” During the 1920s and 1930s, he was that city’s only full-time Black sports reporter. The Detroit Tribune, the newspaper for which he wrote during that era, was located on St. Antoine Street, and because he was so knowledgeable about sports, some of his colleagues referred to him as “The Sage of St. Antoine.”

Cowans covered a wide range of college and professional sports during his career, but he especially loved boxing and Negro Leagues baseball, and he became a major booster of golf — a sport that the Black community was just beginning to embrace. Early in his career, he was one of the first Black reporters to cover the crime beat, focusing on news of the police department and the courts. And he also was a photographer, whose news photos often appeared in the newspapers where he worked. During a reporting career that lasted more than four decades, his sports articles appeared in many of the best-known Black newspapers; his work also appeared in national publications like The Sporting News.

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