Ashwill: The 1939 St. Louis Stars

From SABR member Gary Ashwill at Agate Type on May 21, 2018:

Few teams have suffered quite as much at the hands of an incomplete historical record as the 1939 St. Louis Stars. They were a pretty good team—the second half champions of the Negro American League, in fact, losing the pennant in a five-game series to the first-half champion Monarchs. But scouring the newspapers at the time reveals a paltry 15-16 record* for the Stars in the Negro American League regular season (along with three losses to NNL teams). Clearly a large number of games were not reported, at least in the newspapers that have been found so far, and a lot remains to be uncovered.

Moreover, this edition of the St. Louis Stars had a somewhat confusing history, one that’s largely concealed when you just look at the standings. They actually bear no organizational connection to the original St. Louis Stars, which folded when the original NNL folded in 1931. Neither are they connected to the second St. Louis Stars club, which was founded by Henry L. Moore in 1936 and joined the Negro American League as a charter member in 1937. That team dissolved after the 1937 season.

This is actually the third distinct version of the St. Louis Stars. But it took them a few years to get to St. Louis. They were founded in the mid-1930s in Mounds, Illinois, by a numbers operator, real estate investor, and night club owner named Allen Johnson. As the Mounds Blues they built up a reputation as a strong independent outfit, managed by the veteran pitcher George Mitchell. In 1938 Johnson took over the Negro American League’s franchise in Indianapolis, and the Mounds Blues played that season as the Indianapolis ABCs. The next season they moved to St. Louis to assume the mantle of another traditional blackball power, the St. Louis Stars.

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Originally published: May 22, 2018. Last Updated: May 22, 2018.