September 9-17, 1922: Turkey Stearnes and Memphis Red Sox defeat Dallas Black Giants in Dixie Series
In September 1922, the Memphis Red Sox of the Negro Southern League played a nine-game “Dixie Series” with the Dallas Black Giants of the Texas Colored League to determine the Negro champion of the South. It was patterned after the white Dixie Series, which pitted the pennant winners of the Southern Association and Texas League.
In 1920 Memphis, Tennessee, had 162,351 residents, of whom 61,181 (38 percent) were characterized as “Negro,” according to US census figures. Among the many Black baseball teams in Memphis were the “Lucille Stars, Turtles, Curve Wonders, Black Devils, Orange Mound, Rosebuds, [and] Rangers.”1
One team rose to prominence. Formed in 1920 to represent the A.P. Martin Barber College of Memphis, it was then known as “A.P. Martin’s Barber Boys.”2 After admission to the Negro Southern League in 1921, the team became the Memphis Red Sox. Standings published in September 1921 show the Red Sox in sixth place in the eight-team league.3
Under the leadership of manager J.W. Miller, the Red Sox got off to a fast start in 1922. Through games of June 25, the team was atop the league standings with a 28-10 record.4 The team’s greatest strength was pitching, and its aces were Carl Glass and Darltie Cooper.
On May 1 Lefty Glass went the distance in a 12-inning, 2-1 victory over the Birmingham Black Barons. He struck out 22 batters, allowed five hits, and walked one. Birmingham’s Mule Suttles, a future Hall of Famer, played in left field that day and went hitless in five at-bats.5 Glass, “the strikeout king of the Red Sox,”6 fanned 13 Louisville Stars on June 7 and 13 Chicago Giants on August 6.7
Cooper delivered a trio of three-hitters in beating the New Orleans Ads on May 29, the Nashville Elite Giants on June 3, and the St. Louis Stars on July 27.8 In a doubleheader against the Knoxville Black Giants on June 17, he was an “iron man,” pitching two complete games and winning both.9 The year before, he had thrown two no-hitters as a member of the Elite Giants.10
The Negro Southern League disbanded abruptly in mid-July of 1922. Final standings were not reported, and several teams could make the case for having won the pennant. But it was the Red Sox who were invited to play the Dallas Black Giants in a Dixie Series.
Dallas, Texas, with 158,976 residents in 1920, was about the same size as Memphis, though it had fewer “Negro” residents: 24,023 (15 percent). In 1921 the Dallas Black Giants won the pennant in the six-team Texas Colored League.11 For the 1922 season, a splendid ballpark was built, financed by a group of 20 Black businessmen.12 Riverside Park, the new home of the Giants, could seat 6,000 fans.13
In 1922 the Giants again captured the Texas Colored League pennant. The Dallas Express, a Black weekly, called them “a well balanced and well disciplined machine” that has “defeated every so-called first class club in this neck of the woods.”14 The team was led by outfielder and manager Bobby Sloan; second baseman and captain Jerry Williams; and outfielder Reuben Jones. The Express called Williams “one of the game’s greatest stars” and Jones “the most dangerous slugger” in the league.15
Midseason acquisitions bolstered the Red Sox and Giants in 1922. From the Montgomery Grey Sox, Memphis obtained catcher Red Charleston and 21-year-old outfielder Turkey Stearnes, a future Hall of Famer.16 Dallas acquired outfielder and pitcher Walter “Steel Arm” Davis from the Galveston Black Sand Crabs and first baseman Lowery Jones from the Fort Worth Black Panthers.17
The Dixie Series was shaping up as a clash of titans. Nine games were scheduled for Riverside Park – one per day starting at 3:00 P.M. from September 9 to 17.18 If the Red Sox won the majority of these, they would be declared champions. If the Giants won the majority, the series would move to Memphis for eight more games.19
Game One was a duel between Cooper and Byrd Long, a submarine-style pitcher.20 Long was replaced by Fred Daniels in the seventh inning. Memphis scored four runs off Daniels in the top of the ninth and prevailed, 6-2. Cooper helped his own cause by slugging two doubles. Charleston and Stearnes contributed two hits apiece.
Dallas evened the series in Game Two as Lefty Bell21 outdueled Lefty Glass in a 1-0 nailbiter. Lowery Jones scored the sole run. Glass allowed only three hits and struck out 10 but took the loss.
Giants pitcher Jesse Ming was nicknamed Bullet Proof,22 but he was hardly that in Game Three, as the Red Sox pounded his offerings in a 12-4 rout. Stearnes led the Memphis attack with three hits. Young and Bobo pitched for the visitors.
The onslaught continued for the next three games, all Red Sox victories: 9-2 in Game Four, 7-2 in Game Five, and 11-3 in Game Six. The Memphis hitters drubbed the pitching of Daniels, Long, Davis, Miller, and a fellow identified only as “Big John.” The Dallas offense was stymied by Moore and Cooper in Game Four, William Billings in Game Five, and Young in Game Six.
Having clinched the series leading five games to one, the Red Sox may have let up in Game Seven. Bobo was hit hard and Stearnes came in to pitch at the end of a 10-1 Giants victory. Miller pitched well for Dallas, allowing only three hits.
The Giants possibly felt revived after their 2-1 triumph in Game Eight. Long pitched for Dallas, Billings and Glass for Memphis. But the Red Sox wrapped up the series emphatically, winning Game Nine, 14-4. Glass and Cooper, the two aces, worked for Memphis, and Bell went the distance for Dallas. Bell was not to blame for the trouncing, said the Express. The Giants committed 11 errors in the debacle.
And so the Dixie Series was done, the Memphis Red Sox defeating the Dallas Black Giants, six games to three. In total, the visitors outscored the home team 61-30. In the seven games for which complete box scores were published by the Express,23 Stearnes led Memphis with nine hits and Lowery Jones led Dallas with 10.
The Memphis infield, composed of Cunningham at first base, Griffin at second, Lowe at short, and John Henry Russell at third, provided outstanding defense, noted the Express. And Charleston “was about the best looking catcher [that] ever graced” Riverside Park. “A scrappy, fighting youngster always in the game – and full of fire. Could murder any kind of pitching.”24
“More than ten thousand fans saw the series,” said the Express. “All races white, black and Mexican. The series was well advertised and Dallas fans took full advantage of the offerings.”25
Series coverage in the September 9, 16, and 23, 1922, issues of the Dallas Express.
Plott, William J. The Negro Southern League: A Baseball History, 1920-1951 (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 2015).
Riley, James A. The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues (New York: Carroll & Graf, 1994).
Left image: Turkey Stearnes, Helmar Art Card.
Right image: Dixie Series photo, Dallas Express, September 23, 1922: 7.
1 “Benefit Ball Game,” Memphis Commercial Appeal, August 15, 1922: 14.
2 “Base Ball,” Memphis Commercial Appeal, April 17, 1921: 50.
3 “Flag Series in the Negro League Opens,” Nashville Banner, September 14, 1921: 10.
4 “Memphis Red Sox and New Orleans at Russwood Today,” Memphis Commercial Appeal, May 8, 1922: 12; “Memphis Red Sox Play Knoxville at Russwood Today,” Memphis Commercial Appeal, June 26, 1922: 9.
5 “Black Barons Lose to Red Sox in Twelfth, 2-1,” Birmingham (Alabama) News, May 2, 1922: 16. Early in his career, Mule Suttles appeared in box scores as “Sellers,” and that is how he appears in this one.
6 “Memphis Red Sox Play Knoxville at Russwood Today,” Memphis Commercial Appeal, June 16, 1922: 16.
7 “Memphis Red Sox Beat Louisville; At Russwood Today,” Memphis Commercial Appeal, June 8, 1922: 17; “Memphis Red Sox Make Sweep of Chicago Series,” Memphis Commercial Appeal, August 7, 1922: 10. The opponent in the August 6 game was not the Negro National League’s Chicago American Giants; it also does not appear to have been the Chicago Giants who competed in the NNL in 1920 and 1921 before becoming an affiliated NNL member in 1922.
8 “Memphis Red Sox Win,” Memphis Commercial Appeal, May 30, 1922: 12; “Memphis Red Sox Defeat Nashville, Play Fields’ Park,” Memphis Commercial Appeal, June 4, 1922: 30; “Local Negro Team Defeats St. Louis; Play at Russwood,” Memphis Commercial Appeal, July 28, 1922: 17. The opponent in the July 27 game does not appear to have been the NNL’s St. Louis Stars.
9 “Red Sox Win Two; Play Knoxville at Field’s Park Today,” Memphis Commercial Appeal, June 18, 1922: 30.
10 William J. Plott, The Negro Southern League: A Baseball History, 1920-1951 (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 2015), 32.
11 “New Base Ball Champions Suffered Many Casualties,” Dallas Express, September 17, 1921: 2.
12 “It Pays to Patronize Your Own Concerns,” Dallas Express, May 6, 1922: 4.
13 “Diamond Splashes Caught on a Fly,” Dallas Express, May 20, 1922: 7. Riverside Park was located on the site of the current Eloise Lundy Park in Dallas. It is beside the Trinity River.
14 “Little ‘World Series’ for Dallas, Memphis May Battle with Gaints [sic] for Dixie Honors,” Dallas Express, August 12, 1922: 7.
15 “New Base Ball Champions Suffered Many Casualties,” Dallas Express, September 17, 1921: 2.
16 “Memphis Red Sox and Orleans Play Two at Russwood,” Memphis Commercial Appeal, July 15, 1922: 12.
17 “Little ‘World Series’ for Dallas, Memphis May Battle with Gaints [sic] for Dixie Honors,” Dallas Express, August 12, 1922: 7.
18 Advertisement in the Dallas Express, September 2, 1922: 7.
19 “‘Little World Series,’ Talk Waxing Warm,” Dallas Express, August 19, 1922: 7.
20 “Wrecking Crew Issue Crushing Blow to Visiting Pitchers,” Dallas Express, June 24, 1922: 2. Byrd Long is described as a “veteran under-hand chunker.”
21 Lefty Bell of the Dallas Black Giants may have been Abe Bell, who pitched for the Washington Potomacs in 1924. Two other members of the 1922 Giants played for the 1924 Potomacs: Joe Goodrich and John Hamilton.
22 “Monroe Drops Three in a Row,” Dallas Express, July 8, 1922: 2.
23 Complete box scores were published in the Dallas Express, September 16 and 23, 1922, for each game of the series except Games Four and Five.
24 “Diamond Splashes,” Dallas Express, September 23, 1922: 7.
25 “Series Largely Attended,” Dallas Express, September 23, 1922: 7. The Memphis Red Sox began the 1923 season in the Negro Southern League, which re-formed in the spring of 1923, but in midseason the league again fell apart as Memphis and Birmingham applied for membership in the Negro National League. The Red Sox may have been “associate members” of the NNL in the second half of the 1923 season. Plott, 43-46. The Dallas Black Giants played in the Texas Colored League in 1923, but the author found little information about the team and league for that season.
Memphis Red Sox vs.
Dallas Black Giants
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