We are pleased to pass along this update from SABR member Gary Ashwill at Seamheads.com on April 28, 2017:
Another wartime season, 1944 saw a large number of the most promising young players, as well as many players in the primes of their careers, off to the war. In the NAL, the Kansas City Monarchs struggled without sluggers Willard Brown and Ted Strong and sank to fourth place. The NNL’s Newark Eagles, missing their core of Monte Irvin, Larry Doby, Leon Day, and Max Manning, finished fifth. In an effort to protect themselves from the draft, the Black Yankees announced an effort to sign players who had been declared 4-F. This plan enabled them to improve from a 4-24 league finish in 1943 to…8-35 in 1944.
The war did open up opportunities for promising young players like Don Newcombe, Sam Hairston, George Jefferson, Clyde Nelson, and Bill Ricks. Teams also brought in Latin American players who had never appeared in the U.S. before: Cubans such as Claro Duany, Héctor Rodríguez, Leovigildo Xiqués (known in the U.S. as Leo Lugo), as well as a contingent of players from Panama: Patricio Scantlebury, Vic Barnett, Archie Brathwaite.
Two of the year’s most noteworthy rookies were shortstops with remarkably parallel careers— the Black Barons’ Artie Wilson and the Philly Stars’ Frank Austin (another Panamanian). Both were Negro league batting champions who didn’t get much of a chance in the majors after integration (Wilson got 22 at bats with the Giants, Austin never went up at all), but went on to play for many years in the Pacific Coast League.
To view the award-winning Seamheads Negro Leagues Database, visit http://www.seamheads.com/NegroLgs/index.php
- Seamheads Negro Leagues Database update: 1925 season (February 4, 2016)
- Seamheads Negro Leagues Database update: 1938 Negro National League stats (January 28, 2016)
- Seamheads Negro Leagues Database update: 1932 East-West League stats (August 13, 2015)
- Little-known players from the Seamheads Negro Leagues Database (February 2, 2012)
- Read our Q&A with Gary Ashwill about the Negro Leagues Database (September 14, 2011)
Originally published: May 1, 2017. Last Updated: July 16, 2020.