P-Bullet Rogan, KCM, 4th MVP
P-Nelson Dean, KCM
P-Andy Cooper, DS
P-Juan Padron, CAG
P-Bill McCall, CAG
P-Bill Drake, KCM
P-Bill Foster, BBB/CAG
P-George Harney, CAG
P-Steel Arm Tyler, MRS
P-William Bell, KCM
C-Poindexter Williams, BBB
C-Mitchell Murray, SLS
1B-Willie Bobo, SLS
1B-Edgar Wesley, DS
2B-Anderson Pryor, DS
3B-Dewey Creacy, SLS
3B-Dave Malarcher, CAG
SS-Willie Wells, SLS
LF-Wilson Redus, SLS
LF-Earl Gurley, MRS/CAG/ABC
CF-Turkey Stearnes, DS
CF-Cool Papa Bell, SLS
RF-Branch Russell, SLS
RF-Clarence Smith, DS
RF-Esteban Montalvo, CSW
155 1/3 IP, 15-2, 1.74 ERA, 96 K, 302 ERA+, 1.011 WHIP
125 AB, .360, 2 HR, 40 RBI, .360/.424/.592, 170 OPS+
Wins Above Replacement-9.3 (1st)
WAR for Pitchers-7.4 (1st)
Cooperstown: Yes (Inducted in 1998)
Ron’s: Yes (Inducted in 1925) 131 Tot/47 P
Kansas City Monarchs
59-23-2, 1st in NNL, Won CS over St. Louis Stars, 4-3; Lost WS to HIlldale Club, 5-1
Manager Jose Mendez
OPS+-99, 3rd in league
ERA+-153, 1st in league
WAR Leader-Bullet Rogan, 9.3
Wins Above Replacement-9.3 (4th Time)
WAR for Pitchers-7.4 (3rd Time)
Strikeouts-96 (2nd Time)
Complete Games-15 (3rd Time)
Shutouts-4 (2nd Time)
Strikeouts/Base On Balls-3.097
Adj. Pitching Runs-59 (4th Time)
Adj. Pitching Wins-6.0 (3rd Time)
5th Time All-Star-The year 1925 was the sixth year of the Negro National League being a Major League and it has its first entrant into my Hall of Fame, this stellar talent, Bullet Rogan. I had written back in his 1921 blurb that I thought it would be between him and Oscar Charleston as to whom would be my first Negro League Hall of Fame inductee and it was none other than the multi-faceted Bullet. Along with making my Hall, I also gave him the NNL Most Valuable Player for the fourth time. I’m also calling this his best season ever.
Then to add to all of that above, he also guided the Monarchs to their third straight NNL title. In the Championship Series against the St. Louis Stars, Rogan started three games and won them all, compiling a 2.42 ERA, and also hit .450 (nine-for-20) as the Monarchs won, 4-3. In the World Series, he didn’t play as Hilldale beat KC, 5-1. Wikipedia explains his absence: “Rogan may have reached his peak in 1925, leading Kansas City to its third straight league championship with a 17–2 record and a .381 batting average. In the playoffs against the St. Louis Stars he hit .450 and won three more games, including one shutout. However, before the World Series rematch with Hilldale, Rogan suffered a knee injury while playing with his young son. Forced to undergo surgery, he missed the series. Without their star, the Monarchs were defeated in six games.” What a difference one man can make, especially if it’s this man!
134 2/3 IP, 11-3, 2.74 ERA, 67 K, 192 ERA+, 1.062 WHIP
56 AB, .196, 0 HR, 2 RBI, .196/.196/.196, 6 OPS+
Wins Above Replacement-5.1 (3rd)
WAR for Pitchers-5.3 (2nd)
Ron’s: No (Would require 21 more All-Star seasons. Impossible)
1st Time All-Star-Nelson Dean was born on February 18, 1899 in Muskogee, Oklahoma. The five-foot-seven righty pitcher had this great rookie year for the best team in the league. In the Championship Series against the Stars, Dean started one game and lost, giving up three runs in four innings. KC still went on to win four games to three. In the World Series versus Hilldale, Dean pitched two games, going 1-0 with a 1.54 ERA. It didn’t help as Hilldale won the Series, 5-1.
There’s not much on Dean out in the Internets, so here’s Wikipedia’s wrap-up of the Monarchs’ season: “Motivated by the Monarchs’ runaway pennant victory, NNL president Rube Foster changed the league schedule to a split-season format for 1925. Kansas City nevertheless took the league title again in 1925, but lost the World Series to Hilldale when Rogan was injured just before the series began and won one game and lost five to Hilldale. Even though Méndez was the manager, it was still possible to see him on the mound during the few years he held the position. Among the team’s regulars during these years were the brilliant-fielding second baseman/shortstop Newt Allen who in the 1924 series alone had an average of .282 and seven doubles and Frank Duncan, one of the best-regarded defensive catchers in Negro league history. Newt Joseph played third base for the Monarchs from 1922 through their NNL years, hitting a composite .284 during that time.”
Before reading this article in Wikipedia, I wasn’t aware there was a split-season.
146 2/3 IP, 12-2, 2.88 ERA, 49 K, 182 ERA+, 1.077 WHIP
54 AB, .241, 1 HR, 5 RBI, .241/.293/.407, 86 OPS+
Wins Above Replacement-4.7 (4th)
WAR for Pitchers-4.3 (4th)
Cooperstown: Yes (Inducted in 2006)
Ron’s: No (Would require eight more All-Star seasons. 50 percent chance)
56-44, 4th in NNL
Manager Bruce Petway
OPS+-114, 2nd in league
ERA+-92, 5th in league
WAR Leader-Turkey Stearnes, 5.4
Saves-4 (2nd Time)
4th Time All-Star-I’ve noted over the years how sorry I feel for Mike Trout, baseball’s best player, who has only made the postseason once and played in just three games. He’s not the first good athlete to whom that happened and won’t be the last. Andy Cooper is one of those players. He will pitch phenomenally for years, but isn’t going to make the playoffs for quite a while. I’m calling his 1925 campaign his best season ever.
Dirk Lammers of nonohitters.com writes, “Today would be the 122nd birthday of Andy Cooper, who threw a Negro National League no-hitter for the Detroit Stars in 1925.
“On Sunday, June 28, 1925, during the second game of a Sunday doubleheader, Cooper no-hit the Indianapolis ABCs for a 1-0 win.
“The 6-foot-2, 220-pound southpaw from Waco, Texas, was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.”
Robert F. Darden writes a long article about the great pitcher in Waco’s Magazine and says of this season: “In June 1925, Cooper threw a no-hitter against the Indianapolis ABCs. That year he won his first nine decisions, but a couple of days after the no-hitter, he broke his leg and was out until September. Cooper finished 11-2 in 1925.”
Here’s another bit from that article: “Because he played and coached in the segregated times of the 1920s through 1940s, Cooper doesn’t have much of a paper trail. He is in baseball’s Hall of Fame mostly because the players who played in the so-called Negro Leagues insisted he was one of the best to ever play (and manage) the grand old game. Due to their efforts and the work of a handful of baseball fans and experts, Cooper was inducted posthumously into the Hall of Fame in 2006, along with 16 other Negro League luminaries.”
Read the whole thing.
122 1/3 IP, 10-5, 3.09 ERA, 60 K, 170 ERA+, 1.136 WHIP
43 AB, .233, 0 HR, 3 RBI, .233/.267/.233, 35 OPS+
Wins Above Replacement-4.5 (6th)
WAR for Pitchers-4.4 (3rd)
Ron’s: No (Would require 16 more All-Star seasons. Impossible)
Chicago American Giants
57-41-2, 3rd in NNL
Manager Rube Foster
OPS+-70, 8th in league
ERA+-140, 2nd in league
WAR Leader-Juan Padron, 4.5
4th Time All-Star-Padron has now made my list four consecutive years, but this is going to be his last. In 1926, he’s going to move to the Indianapolis ABCs and go 2-4 with a 5.95 ERA. Age, along with pitching in a hitter’s park, caught up with him. He was part of the American Giants’ 1922 pennant team, but he never got to pitch in a Negro World Series. Still, for four years, he was one of the Negro National League’s very best.
The Hall of Miller and Eric writes, “Padrón’s record also doesn’t explain much of what happened to him. I can’t either. He pitched at the highest levels from 1915 to 1926, and suddenly, he fell off the map. To be honest, it looks like a classic case of a pitcher’s arm just giving out. He’s cookin’ with gas in 1925 (ERA+ of 170) then disappears after 1926. Riley indicates he began pitching semipro ball a few years later in Michigan, which seems plausible. His arm gave out, a few years later, it comes back a little but not enough to compete at the top level, so he makes his bread where he can. He ended up staying in Michigan.
“One whale of a pitcher. In many ways, he’s Hippo Vaughn with an extra All-Star-level season in there. Vaughn is about one All-Star-level year from being a very serious contender for the Hall of Miller and Eric, so Padrón will clearly be a person of considerable interest to us.”
Padron died on December 7, 1981 at the age of 89 in East Grand Rapids, Michigan.
119 IP, 6-6, 2.95 ERA, 61 K, 178 ERA+, 1.202 WHIP
44 AB, .182, 0 HR, 4 RBI, .182/.234/.205, 19 OPS+
Wins Above Replacement-4.1 (7th)
WAR for Pitchers-4.1 (5th)
Ron’s: No (Would require 27 more All-Star seasons. Impossible)
2nd Time All-Star-After pitching for the Birmingham Black Barons and the Kansas City Monarchs in 1924 and actually pitching (terribly) in the Negro World Series, McCall came to Chi-town and actually pitched his best season ever. It was the only time in his Major League career he had a .500 season. Of course, it always helps to pitch in Chicago which was a notoriously difficult home park for hitters, but he still did well.
There isn’t a lot out there on McCall, so I’m going to post a little bit from Baseball History Daily on Rube Foster, Chicago’s skipper. He believed as far back as 1914 that blacks would be let into the Majors. Unfortunately, he was wrong for way too many years. Here’s part of the article: “At the beginning of the 1914 baseball season, Andrew Bishop “Rube” Foster believed baseball’s color line was on the verge of being broken.
“He talked about it with The Seattle Post-Intelligencer while touring the West Coast with the Chicago American Giants:
“’Before another baseball season rolls around colored ball players, a score of whom are equal in ability to the brightest stars in the big league teams, will be holding down jobs in organized baseball…They’re taking in Cubans now, you notice and they’ll let us in soon.’
“Billy Lewis, a writer for The Indianapolis Freeman did not share Foster’s optimism:
“’It goes without saying it emphatically, that Foster’s opinion sounds mighty good to the “poor down-trodden” colored players who have to do so much “tall” figuring in order to make ends meet. But the plain fact of the matter is that Rube has drawn on his imagination for the better part of his opinion. For as much as I hope and as colored players and people hope for better days for the colored players there’s nothing to warrant what he had to say. Foster is having the time of his life, riding about in special cars out west, and naturally enough with the distinguished consideration paid him and his bunch of players, he feels to give out something worthwhile.’”
Read the whole thing.
123 2/3, 9-6, 3.35 ERA, 57 K, 157 ERA+, 1.156 WHIP
45 AB, .133, 1 HR, 6 RBI, .133/.188/.200, 4 OPS+
Wins Above Replacement-3.7 (10th)
WAR for Pitchers-3.8 (6th)
Ron’s: No (Would require 16 more All-Star seasons. Impossible)
2nd Time All-Star-After Drake made my All-Star team for the St. Louis Stars in 1921, he started 0-4 for the Stars in ’22 before moving on to the Monarchs. With the Monarchs, he started to shine. In the 1924 Negro World Series that Kansas City won over Hilldale, Drake pitched in relief four games, going 0-1, with a 4.61 ERA. This season, he pitched in the Championship Series against his former team, the Stars, and went 0-1 with a 0.75 ERA. In the World Series that the Monarchs lost to Hilldale, he struggled, going 0-2 with a 7.36 ERA.
“Drake played with white semipro teams in North Dakota during his career but refused to play in the Florida Hotel League due to racial conditions in the South. Later in life, he did take a basketball team to Atlanta, GA to play against black college teams. Bill also refused to play in the Caribbean due to the response Cuban batters in the USA had to his tendency to work inside.
“Off the field, Bill had the reputation as a jokester.
“Drake did not plan much for his post-baseball life and did not hold a steady job until the 1940s; from age 52 to 62, he worked for Famous & Barr before retiring. He struggled financially due to his lack of planning and sought aid where available, once claiming war service in a pension appeal.”
Plunk died on October 30, 1977 in St. Louis.
78 IP, 6-0, 1.62 ERA, 49 K, 327 ERA+, 1.000 WHIP
25 AB, .240, 0 HR, 2 RBI, .240/.296/.400, 85 OPS+
Wins Above Replacement-3.7 (9th)
WAR for Pitchers-3.5 (9th)
Cooperstown: Yes (Inducted in 1996)
Ron’s: No (Would require six more All-Star seasons. Sure thing)
Birmingham Black Barons
27-59-1, 7th in NNL
Manager Sam Crawford
OPS+-82, 5th in league
ERA+-80, 7th in league
WAR Leader-Poindexter Williams, 2.1
1925 NNL Pitching Title (2nd Time)
Earned Run Average-1.62 (2nd Time)
Walks & Hits per IP-1.000 (2nd Time)
Hits per 9 IP-6.577 (2nd Time)
Strikeouts per 9 IP-5.654 (2nd Time)
Adjusted ERA+-327 (2nd Time)
1st Time All-Star-William Hendrick “Bill” or “Willie” Foster was born on June 12, 1904 in Calvert, Texas. The six-foot, 190 pound switch-hitting, lefty pitching hurler started with his brother Rube’s team in 1923, pitching just eight innings and allowing seven runs (five earned). In 1924, he started his season with the Memphis Red Sox and then came to Chicago. It was a very good year and he could have made my list. This season, he started his season with the Birmingham Black Barons and then finally came back to his bro’s team where he would pitch for the next 10 seasons. He is going to make my list a lot.
Thomas Kern writes in SABR, “Foster’s first stint with the Chicago American Giants, from 1923 to 1930, witnessed his ascendence to elite status. From 1923 to 1925, he pitched on a limited basis for the American Giants, and was also loaned to Memphis in 1924 and to the Birmingham Black Barons in 1925. However, Rube had no intention of losing Bill and, in fact, indicative of his embracing his brother in his orbit, called on the services of his younger brother to serve as majority shareholder when Rube orchestrated the initial incorporation of the Negro National League in the winter of 1924-1925. Lester notes, however, that later on ‘Willie Foster did not play an active role in the league’s operation, leaving the administrative decision to his older brother Rube.’”
You are going to be absolutely dazzled by some of Willie’s upcoming seasons.
116 2/3 IP, 7-5, 3.63 ERA, 50 K, 145 ERA+, 1.320 WHIP
41 AB, .171, 0 HR, 5 RBI, .171/.209/.171, 3 OPS+
WAR for Pitchers-3.6 (8th)
Ron’s: No (Would require 19 more All-Star seasons. Impossible)
1st Time All-Star-George Arthur Harney was born on June 1, 1890 in Bessemer, Alabama. The five-foot-11, 180 pound righty pitcher and rightfielder started with the American Giants in 1923. He went 11-3 in 1924, but didn’t make my list, but had a good year this season. He probably would have had a chance at Cooperstown had not his Major League career started so late in life.
William McNeil wrote a book entitled The California Winter League: America’s First Integrated Professional Baseball League, a league of which Harney was a participant. McNeil said, “Willie Foster, one of the greatest southpaw pitchers in Negro League history, arrived on the scene midway through the streak, and 6-0 the rest of the way to put the icing on the cake. In his first winter start, on January 16, he shout out Pirrone’s All-Stars 4-0, behind an eleven strikeout masterpiece. A week later, Rube Foster’s little brother chalked up another whitewash job, trouncing the White Kings 11-0, and fanning five in the seven inning nightcap. Stearnes with a homer and sing (sic), Mackey with a homer, and Dixon with three singles led the attack. George Harney got into the act by blanking the kings (sic) in game two, 4-0, scattering seven hits. Turkey Stearnes had a single and a home run.”
I’d like to know more about this California Winter League and maybe sometime I’ll have time to read up more on it, but needless to say it had a lot of stars, including Turkey Stearnes, Biz Mackey, and Bill Foster, Hall of Famers all.
171 2/3 IP, 9-12, 4.14 ERA, 93 K, 127 ERA+, 1.113 WHIP
53 AB, .132, 0 HR, 0 RBI, .132/.179/.132, -15 OPS+
WAR for Pitchers-3.5 (10th)
Ron’s: No (Would require 31 more All-Star seasons. Impossible)
Memphis Red Sox
34-49-1, 6th in NNL
Manager Dizzy Dismukes
OPS+-82, 5th in league
ERA+-80, 7th in league
WAR Leader-Steel Arm Tyler, 3.2
1st Time All-Star-William “Steel Arm” Tyler was born on September 26, 1905 in Evansville, Indiana. The five-foot-eight, 165 pound righty pitcher and outfielder had this impressive rookie year and he’ll be back on this list possibly once more. This would be the last year for the Memphis Red Sox, a team that finished sixth both years of its existence. Teams tended to come and go during these years of the Negro Leagues, unless they were the stalwart franchises like the Chicago American Giants, Detroit Stars, or Kansas City Monarchs.
Now there isn’t much on Tyler, but before him was a player nicknamed “Steel Arm” Taylor, who is written about on the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum page by James A. Riley. He wrote, “Taylor often coached college teams, beginning in the spring of 1899, when he coached the Biddle University team. He returned to that post again in 1905, and also coached the M&I College team of Holly Springs, Mississippi, in 1908, developing players who later went into the professional ranks. This included a battery with the Birmingham Giants- Pinson, a pitcher, and Cobb, who did the brunt of the backstopping in the 1909 season.
“As a coach, Taylor emphasized clean living and hard work, and set an example for his players, abstaining from the use of both alcohol and tobacco in any form. He was a hard worker and possessed a sweet baseball disposition. When his younger brother Ben Taylor was appointed manager of the Washington Potomacs in 1924, Johnny was asked to go with him as the pitching coach.”
112 IP, 10-3, 3.21 ERA, 44 K, 164 ERA+, 1.054 WHIP
47 AB, .043, 0 HR, 0 RBI, .043/.063/.043, -71 OPS+
WAR for Pitchers-3.7 (7th)
Ron’s: No (Would require eight more All-Star seasons. 75 percent chance)
1st Time All-Star-William Bell was born on the same day as my niece Chiara, just many years beforehand. He was born on August 31, 1897 in Hallettsville, Texas. The five-foot-seven, 170 pound righty pitcher and outfielder started his Major League career with the Monarchs in 1923. In 1924, he started three games against Hilldale Club in the Negro Leagues World Series, going 1-0, with a 2.63 ERA. This season, he started two games in the Championship Series against the St. Louis Stars, and went 1-1 with a 1.59 ERA. In the World Series rematch against Hilldale, Bell pitched in three games, starting two and lost his only decision despite a 1.15 ERA. In the postseason, he had terrible luck, giving up 24 runs, but half of those were unearned.
Kevin Larkin and Frederick C. Bush of SABR write, “Bell returned to the Monarchs in 1925 and went 11-5 with a 2.80 ERA over 144⅔ innings in 22 appearances (15 starts) in the regular season and World Series. Mendez managed again, and the team included pitching stalwarts Rogan (15-2) and Nelson Dean (11-3) alongside Bell. The offense continued to be stout as four players hit .300 or better: Rogan (.360), center fielder Hurly McNair (.332), third baseman Newt Joseph (.323), and shortstop Dobie Moore (.312).
“The 1925 Monarchs won the first half of the Negro National League season and finished the year with a record of 62-23. They played against the second-half winner, the St. Louis Stars, for the league championship. The St. Louis lineup included such luminaries as shortstop Willie Wells, center fielder James ‘Cool Papa’ Bell, and the veteran Candy Jim Taylor, who also managed the team. William Bell took the mound in the third game of the seven-game series, losing to the Stars, 3-2. He also started Game Six, facing the Stars’ Roosevelt Davis – another future Pittsburgh Crawfords teammate – and came away with a 9-3 victory that tied the series at three games apiece. Rogan started Game Seven, which the Monarchs won, 4-0, to capture the NNL title.”
242 AB, .335, 6 HR, 49 RBI, .335/.374/.525, 139 OPS+
Ron’s: No (Would require 43 more All-Star seasons. Impossible)
1st Time All-Star-Poindexter Williams was born on September 10, 1897 in Decatur, Alabama. The six-foot-195 pound righty catcher started his Major League career with the Chicago American Giants and Detroit Stars in 1921. He stayed on Detroit the next year. Williams didn’t play in the Majors in 1923 before coming to his home state and playing for Birmingham in 1924. This year, he was the Black Barons’ best player, according to WAR.
The Negro Southern League Museum-Birmingham webpage says of the Barons, “The Birmingham Black Barons were organized in 1920 as the Birmingham Stars, one of the first eight teams of the Negro Southern League. That same year, Rube Foster organized the Negro National League. Frank Perdue paid $200 for the rights to be the first owner of the new team. The Stars nickname was quickly discarded, and the team became the known as the Black Barons – a reference to the name of the white team in the city. In 1923, the Black Barons became associate members of the Negro National League under new owner Joe Rush. They became full members of the league in 1925.
“Several members of the Black Barons during the 1920s had careers that led to their induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Those were pitcher Bill Foster, the legendary Leroy ‘Satchel’ Paige, and George ‘Mules’ Suttles. Paige is considered by many to be the best pitcher in baseball history. Suttles hit 127 known home runs in Negro League competition, a number that may make him the League’s all-time home run king.”
There’s nothing on Williams, who would play quite a while with the Black Barons and died on March 17, 1969 at the age of 71 in Homewood, Alabama.
176 AB, .375, 3 HR, 38 RBI, .375/.439/.483, 147 OPS+
Ron’s: No (Would require 24 more All-Star seasons. Impossible)
St. Louis Stars
59-30-2, 2nd in NNL
Manager Candy Jim Taylor
OPS+-136, 1st in league
ERA+-110, 3rd in league
WAR Leader-Willie Bobo, 4.6
3rd Time All-Star-Murray has made the All-Star list three consecutive times now and will most likely make it four next season. He is part of a fantastic St. Louis team, a squad that has seven players on this list. There are no pitchers, but they have a player at every position except second base. The Negro National League had a split season this year and the Stars won the second half to face the Monarchs in the Championship Series. Unfortunately they lost, 4-3. Murray hit only .091 (two-for-22) with a homer and three RBI.
Cnlbr.org reports about the League Championship series: “The first three games of the series were played in St. Louis. Game one was played on September 19th. The Monarchs took game one by a score of 8-6. Kansas City was paced by three homeruns hit by Newt Allen, Frank Duncan and Dobie Moore. Bullet Rogan picked up the win in game one for the Monarchs and Slap Hensley took the loss for St. Louis. The St. Louis Stars rebounded and took games two and three by the scores of 6-3 and 3-2. The series was moved to Chicago for the final four games. Bullet Rogan opened the series in Chicago on September 26th win a 5-4 victory over the Stars. In the game Rogan collected four hits and drove in the winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning. The St. Louis Stars came back in game five with a tough 2-1 victory to take a one game lead in the series. With a must win situation in game six, William Bell pitched the Monarchs to a 9-3 victory to even the series at three games apiece. Jose Mendez (Manager of the Kansas City Monarchs) sent Bullet Rogan to the mound for his third start of the series. Rogan did not disappoint and pitched a 4-0 shut out for the win and the Negro National League championship title.”
323 AB, .359, 14 HR, 84 RBI, .359/.452/.616, 184 OPS+
Wins Above Replacement-4.6 (5th)
WAR Position Players-4.6 (2nd)
Offensive WAR-4.6 (2nd)
Ron’s: No (Would require 29 more All-Star seasons, Impossible)
Bases on Balls-55
Def. Games as 1B-86
1st Time All-Star-Willie Alphonso Bobo was born in 1902 in Tennessee. The lefty first baseman started with the Monarchs in 1923, playing just one game and going oh-for-four. He went to St. Louis the next year and by this season was the Stars’ best player. It was also his best season ever and chances are this is first and only All-Star year. In the League Championship against Kansas City, Bobo hit .360 (nine-for-25) with a double, but it didn’t help as the Monarchs won the Series.
John Fleming of St. Louis Bullpen put together a list of the 10 greatest players in St. Louis Stars history and ranked Bobo number 10. He wrote of him, “10. Willie Bobo–As is often the case for Negro League players, the biographical information available is somewhat scant. We know he was born in 1902, though we do not have a birth date. He died on February 22, 1931 in San Diego, though I couldn’t find a cause of death from anything approaching a reliable source. But we do know Willie Bobo was a St. Louis Star from 1924 through 1928 and that the first baseman was one of the most feared hitters in the Stars lineup. In 1925, his best season, Bobo had a 1.068 OPS in 391 plate appearances, with his walk rate and solid contact abilities bringing his OPS+ to a staggering 184, heights achieved by Albert Pujols, Mark McGwire, and no other St. Louis first basemen. He never again reached quite those heights, but he remained a solid hitter for the remainder of his Stars career.”
228 AB, .404, 17 HR, 73 RBI, .404/.469/.715, 213 OPS+
Wins Above Replacement-3.9 (8th)
WAR Position Players-3.9 (3rd)
Offensive WAR-3.9 (3rd)
Ron’s: No (Would require 14 more All-Star seasons. Impossible)
1925 NNL Batting Title
On-Base Plus Slugging-1.184
Offensive Win %-.880
AB per HR-13.4 (2nd Time)
3rd Time All-Star-After last making the list in 1923, Wesley moved from the Stars of the Negro National League to the Harrisburg Giants of the Eastern Colored League in 1924 and had an off year. He was back with Detroit again this season and had his best season ever. Turkey Stearns and he (that’s them above) paired up to once again be the early black “Bash Brothers” as Wesley hit 17 homers and Stearnes parked 19. Babe Ruth put homers in vogue and Detroit fans reaped the benefits.
Richard Bak of Vintage Detroit writes, “Wesley returned to Detroit in 1925. That summer, he and Stearnes turned Negro League pitching inside out. Turkey hit .364 while topping the circuit in home runs (19) and RBIs (60). Wesley hit a blistering .413 to win the batting crown while finishing runner-up to Stearnes in homers and ribbies. Wesley would have posted even greater numbers, but his season was cut short by a broken ankle. He played another season and a half with the Stars before being traded to Cleveland in 1927. From there he went on to play ball in Cuba and South America, just one more itinerant ballplayer past his prime and trying to make a living the only way he knew how.
“Wesley quickly faded away. As is the case with so many other Negro Leaguers, not much is known of his life away from the diamond. He was 75 years old when he died in Detroit one July day in 1966. By then Mack Park, the scene of many of his and Stearnes’s greatest hits, had been torn down.”
326 AB, .285, 6 HR, 47 RBI, .285/.379/.439, 119 OPS+
WAR Position Players-2.7 (9th)
Offensive WAR-2.6 (9th)
Defensive WAR-0.3 (8th)
Ron’s: No (Would require 92 more All-Star seasons. Impossible)
Def. Games as 2B-76
2nd Time All-Star-Pryor made the All-Star team for the second consecutive season as the Negro National League’s best second baseman. This was the 24-year-old’s best year ever, but he’s going to decline quickly after this. He’s got three seasons left in the Majors, but he’ll never play over 39 games during any of those years. Still, the little man (5’4”, 146 pounds) made his mark at the beginning of the Negro Major Leagues.
In 1923, Pryor played for the Milwaukee Bears in their only season of existence. Dan Curran of OnMilwaukee writes of this squad, “The Milwaukee Bears faced some other baseball legends during its one season of play. Wilber “Bullet Joe” Rogan was a standout pitcher and hitter for the Kansas City Monarchs. “He may have been the best all-around baseball player of all time, better than Babe Ruth,” says Dixon, referring to players who excel at both pitching and hitting. Rogan was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998.
“Player statistics for the Bears are not available. Based on the batting order of the few box scores published in the Milwaukee papers, some of the top offensive players for the Bears would have been first baseman Percy Wilson and second baseman Anderson Pryor. Shortstop Leroy Stratton was ‘said to be the best looking infielder among the colored leaguers,’ according to the Sentinel. A man named Fulton Strong was likely the team’s top pitcher.”
Since the above article was written, Baseball Reference has now added Major League stats.
331 AB, .323, 14 HR, 72 RBI, .323/.378/.550, 146 OPS+
WAR Position Players-3.6 (6th)
Offensive WAR-3.4 (6th)
Ron’s: No (Would require 16 more All-Star seasons. Impossible)
Def. Games as 3B-83
1st Time All-Star-Albert Dewey Creacy was born on April 13, 1899 in Fort Worth, Texas. The five-foot-nine, 160 pound righty third and second baseman started with St. Louis in 1924, but became the team’s fulltime third sacker this season. He would have a long career and he’ll make a lot of my lists, but he’s going to fall short of making Cooperstown and also my Hall of Fame.
In the Negro National League Championship Series against the Kansas City Monarchs, Creacy hit .261 (six-for-23) with a homer and three RBI. The Stars lost to KC, four games to three.
From cnlbr.org, there is an article about this newfangled invention, the league championship series. It says, “The schedules for most Negro League seasons were played in two halves with a winner being declared for each half of the season. If different teams each won one half of the season or if the season ended in a dispute over who should be crowned the “league” champion, a Play-Off Series was held.
“After the 1925 regular Negro National League season, the Kansas City Monarchs, winners of the first half of the season, met the St. Louis Stars, winners of the second half of the season, in a Play-Off Series to determine which team would be crowned the Negro National League champion.
“The St. Louis Stars finished the season with a record of 71-27 (.724). Candy Jim Taylor (Manager of the St. Louis Stars) had a starting lineup in which all but one of the starters hit over .300 for the season.
“St. Louis Stars (1925)
1B Willie Bobo .352
2B Eddie Watts .314
SS Willie Wells .270
3B Dewey Creacy .394
C Mitch Murray .387
C Fat Barnes .359
OF Frog Redus .381
OF James Bell .348
OF Branch Russell .311”
You’ll notice the stats in this article differ from the stats I have on this page.
315 AB, .324, 2 HR, 35 RBI, .324/.410/.381, 114 OPS+
Defensive WAR-0.3 (8th)
Ron’s: No (Would require 25 more All-Star seasons. Impossible)
3rd Time All-Star-Was Malarcher the best third baseman in the league? On the positive side, this is his third consecutive All-Star list. He didn’t hit too well, though this was his best year at the bat, but how much of that had to do with Chicago playing in a pitcher’s park. He wasn’t the best player at the hot corner this season, falling behind Dewey Creacy. As a matter of fact, in just glancing over the stats, Creacy seems to be a better all-around player.
James A. Riley writes in the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, “Back to full strength in 1923, he hit .295, and in 1924 Foster moved him to the third slot in the batting order for a season, and he responded with another solid season, hitting .293. In 1925 he succeeded Bingo DeMoss as team captain after DeMoss was shipped to the ABCs by Foster to maintain league balance. Leading by example, Malarcher was a model of consistency, hitting for a .330 average during the season, his last under Foster.
“Malarcher overcame many obstacles in life to experience his diamond accomplishments. He was born the youngest of ten children to parents struggling to escape the underside of society. His father was a farm laborer on a sugar plantation and his mother was a former slave, but they instilled positive values in their son that he retained throughout his life.”
Because of the way Rube Foster ran his team and the lack of good offensive stats for Malarcher, it’s tough to tell whether he’s going to be making any more of my lists.
338 AB, .290, 8 HR, 53 RBI, .290/.386/.459, 126 OPS+
WAR Position Players-3.2 (7th)
Offensive WAR-3.2 (7th)
Defensive WAR-0.5 (2nd)
Cooperstown: Yes (Inducted in 1997)
Ron’s: No (Would require four more All-Star seasons. Sure thing)
2nd Time All-Star-I’m going to be writing a lot about Wells over the years, Lord willing, because he was an incredible ballplayer. During this time in the National and American Leagues, there weren’t a lot of great shortstops. I put Dave Bancroft and Glenn Wright on my list for the NL and Joe Sewell for the AL and I think Wells was better than any of them. What I’m saying is it would have been great to see how Wells did against those other Major Leaguers.
In the Negro National League Championship Series, Wells hit .208 (five-for-24) with a double and a homer. The Monarchs beat Wells’ Stars, four games to three.
Kevin Larkin of Legends On Deck lists Wells as the 12th Greatest Negro League player of all-time, writing of him, “‘El Diablo’ Willie Wells played primarily as a shortstop in the Negro Leagues and black baseball from 1924 to 1949. The sand lots of Texas were where Wells learned to play and love the game and in 1923 while with the San Antonio Black Aces, Rube Foster of he Chicago American Giants and Dr George Keys of the St Louis Stars discovered him. Wells opted to sign a contract with the Stars. It took a lot of hard work and perseverance early on in his career but Wells turned himself into a pretty good hitter. He would hit .378 in 1926 and .346 in 1927. Wells also set a home run record in 1926 when he hit 27 home runs in just 88 baseball games.”
He’s already made my list twice and isn’t even close to having his best seasons yet.
258 AB, .372, 12 HR, 62 RBI, .372/.453/.624, 186 OPS+
WAR Position Players-3.6 (5th)
Offensive WAR-3.6 (5th)
Ron’s: No (Would require 22 more All-Star seasons. Impossible)
Def. Games as LF-72
1st Time All-Star-Wilson Robert Redus was born on January 29, 1905 in Tullahassee, Oklahoma. The five-foot-five, 160 pound righty outfielder started his Major League career in 1924 with the Indianapolis ABCs, the Cleveland Browns, and eventually the Stars. He became a regular this year and he’ll have a few good seasons. All three St. Louis outfielders made my list this year. In the League Championship Series, Redus hit .200 (four-for-20) with a triple. St. Louis fell to the Kansas City Monarchs, four games to three.
“Redus broke in as a teenager during 1924 with the Indianapolis ABCs (.074) and Cleveland Browns. In 1925, Frog became a starting outfielder for the St. Louis Stars, joining Cool Papa Bell and Branch Russell; the trio would stay together for 7 years. He hit .381, 4th in the Negro National League behind Mule Suttles, Edgar Wesley and Dewey Creacy. He hit only .217 in a postseason series against the Kansas City Monarchs.”
I’m sure Baseball Reference is still compiling information for the Negro Leagues, but many times it’ll mention nicknames in its Bullpen write-ups, but not mention them on the player page. I’m not sure why Redus has the nickname “Frog.” Maybe that info is out there somewhere and I’ll have a chance to find it later. If any of my readers know, I’d be glad to hear it.
174 AB, .333, 4 HR, 26 RBI, .333/.408/.511, 146 OPS+
65 1/3 IP, 1-4, 5.10 ERA, 19 K, 104 ERA+, 1.485 WHIP
Ron’s: No (Would require 76 more All-Star seasons. Impossible)
17-53, 8th in NNL
Manager Todd Allen
OPS+-74, 6th in league
ERA+-68, 8th in league
WAR Leader-Earl Gurley, 1.4
1st Time All-Star-Earl C. Gurley was born on August 6, 1898 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The five-foot-11, 183 pound lefty outfielder, pitcher, and first baseman started with the St. Louis Stars in 1922-23 before moving to the Memphis Red Sox in ’24. This season, he played for the three teams listed above and made my list as the Indianapolis ABCs best player. He wouldn’t play in the Majors in 1926 and then again play for three teams in 1927 – the Eastern Colored League Harrisburg Giants and the Negro National League’s Birmingham Black Barons and Chicago American Giants. In 1928, he went back to Memphis, then moved again in 1929, back to Birmingham. He didn’t play in the Majors in 1930 or ’31 and finished his MLB career with the Negro Southern League Montgomery Grey Sox.
When the ABCs started in 1920, they had the great Oscar Charleston and finished fourth in the NNL. While Charleston remained with them, which he did through 1923 (except for 1922 when he played for the St. Louis Giants), they were competitive. Without Oscar, they declined in 1924 and then had this miserable season in 1925.
Back to Gurley. Many teams tried to do what the Monarchs did with Bullet Rogan and have players that pitched and played in the field. Gurley mainly played leftfield in his career, but he also pitched in 52 games. The problem for him, and everyone else, is he was no Rogan, either as a pitcher or hitter.
Gurley died at the age of 70 on November 6, 1986 in Buffalo, New York.
367 AB, .371, 19 HR, 126 RBI, .371/.439/.668, 193 OPS+
Wins Above Replacement-5.4 (2nd)
WAR Position Players-5.4 (1st)
Offensive WAR-5.3 (1st)
Cooperstown: Yes (Inducted in 2000)
Ron’s: No (Would require four more All-Star seasons. Sure thing)
WAR Position Players-5.4
Triples-14 (3rd Time)
Home Runs-19 (2nd Time)
Runs Batted In-126
Adj. Batting Runs-48
Adj. Batting Wins-4.5
Extra Base Hits-57
Times On Base-181
Def. Games as CF-94
3rd Time All-Star-What we have here is another incredible season from Turkey Stearnes. If Bullet Rogan wasn’t so dominant, Stearnes might have won a few of my Most Valuable Players. I’m calling this season his best ever, but it’s impossible to tell because he had so many great years. Unfortunately his team, the Stars, couldn’t win either half of the season and weren’t able to make the League Championship Series. He will make a few postseasons in his career, but that’s down the road.
Thomas Kern of SABR writes, “In 1925 his OPS exceeded 1.000 and would stay above that plateau for the remainder of his time with the Stars. In league play over each of the next five years (1926-30), Turkey would hit over .350 (with one exception) with an OPS north of 1.000, and average 18 homers.
“Most ballplayers want to win — white or black — so why was Stearnes satisfied to stay with the Stars rather than seek greener pastures? As noted earlier, players liked Stars owner Blount as well as his successor, Detroit entrepreneur Roesink, who bought the Stars in 1925 and owned them until their 1930 midseason collapse due to the Depression. According to Bak, ‘Although Roesink would later inspire the wrath of many Black Bottom fans, players generally considered the haberdasher a first-class owner. They were well paid and continued to travel by train, even as some NNL teams made the switch to more cost-effective touring cars and buses.’”
You’ll have many more seasons to read about this outstanding player.
380 AB, .347, 10 HR, 58 RBI, .347/.395/.545, 150 OPS+
WAR Position Players-3.7 (4th)
Offensive WAR-3.6 (4th)
Cooperstown: Yes (Inducted in 1974)
Ron’s: No (Would require eight more All-Star seasons. Sure thing)
1st Time All-Star-James Thomas “Cool Papa” Bell was born on May 17, 1903 in Starkville, Mississippi. The six-foot, 155 pound switch-hitting, lefty throwing centerfielder and pitcher started his Major League career with the Stars in 1922, mainly as a pitcher. He switched to centerfield in 1924 and his Hall of Fame career is off and running. He’s going to make my Hall but it’s not as sure of thing as I thought it would be. It helps Bell that he’s going to have a long career.
In the League Championship Series against the Monarchs, Bell hit .276 (eight-for-29) with a double and two stolen bases. St. Louis lost to Kansas City in seven games.
Dave Wilkie of SABR writes, “Bell’s first Negro League appearance most likely took place on May 9, 1922, against the Indianapolis ABCs as a lanky knuckleball pitcher. In regard to his pitching, Bell said, ‘I used to throw the knuckle ball. If I got two strikes on you, I could throw my knuckle ball and it would just do this dart-down. I bet you I could strike anybody out with that knuckle ball. My brother couldn’t catch me. But you know who could catch me with that knuckle ball? My sister.’
“It was around this time that Bell received his legendary moniker. Big Bill Gatewood, manager of the Stars in 1922, who had twirled the Negro Leagues’ first no-hitter during the previous season, is most often credited with bestowing the fabled ‘Cool Papa’ nickname upon Bell. Supposedly, Bell fanned Oscar Charleston during a tight spot in an early-season game and Gatewood commented about how cool under pressure he was. Papa was added later to make it sound better. Gatewood’s influence on Cool Papa’s career didn’t stop there. He also had the foresight to move Bell to the outfield to get his bat in the lineup more often, and persuaded him to bat left-handed to take advantage of his speed heading to first. Bell switch-hit for the remainder of his career.”
278 AB, .306, 8 HR, 63 RBI, .306/.413/.518, 149 OPS+
WAR Position Players-2.8 (8th)
Offensive WAR-2.7 (8th)
Ron’s: No (Would require 13 more All-Star seasons. Impossible)
Def. Games as RF-70
2nd Time All-Star-Russell spent his first few seasons bouncing all over the field but mostly playing in the infield. Once he moved to rightfield in 1924, he started lighting the league up. He’s now made my All-Star list as a rightfielder for the second consecutive year. In the League Championship Series the Stars played against the Monarchs, Russell hit .286 (six-for-21) with three RBI and four walks. Kansas City won the Series, 4-3.
Ellen Knight of Winchester.us writes, “To judge by his later life, Russell also found time during his school years for sports. Since the mid-19th century, baseball had been a popular American and Winchester [, Virginia] pastime. In Russell’s boyhood, there was a new baseball field at Manchester Field, but it is more likely that he would have played in his own neighborhood on the open lot on Cross Street behind the Washington School. The town later purchased this lot, prepared it as a playfield in the 1910s, and dedicated it in 1925 as Leonard Field. By that time Russell had embarked on a career as a professional baseball player.
“On Sept. 27, 1914, Russell enlisted in the army at Ft. Slocum, N.Y. In 1917, the year that the country entered World War I, he was promoted to corporal. He continued in the service through the war years and, after the war ended, re-enlisted in March 1919. He served in Headquarters Co., 25th Infantry, one of the all-black units of the United States Army known as the Buffalo Soldiers.”
381 AB, .344, 5 HR, 82 RBI, .344/.373/.501, 133 OPS+
WAR Position Players-2.6 (10th)
Offensive WAR-2.6 (10th)
Ron’s: No (Would require 25 more All-Star seasons. Impossible)
2nd Time All-Star-When Smith last made this list, he was a leftfielder for the Stars in 1922. He then moved to rightfield in 1923 and now he’s back on the All-Star team this season. He’s the first rightfielder to make this list for the Stars in their short history. This was his best season ever. He didn’t play in the Majors in 1926. In 1927, he played for the Atlantic City Bacharach Giants of the Eastern Colored League. He again didn’t play in the Majors in 1928 before coming back to the Negro National League and playing two seasons with the Birmingham Black Barons. In 1931, Smith played for the Cleveland Cubs and Chicago Columbia Giants. He wasn’t in the Majors in 1932 and then finished his career with the Indianapolis ABCs/Detroit Stars of the Negro National League II in 1933.
Wikipedia says, “The 1925 Detroit Stars baseball team competed in the Negro National League during the 1925 baseball season. The team compiled a 56–44 record (.560) in games against National League opponents. The Stars played their home games at Mack Park located on the east side of Detroit, about four miles from downtown, at the southeast corner of Fairview Ave. and Mack Ave. The team was owned by John A. Roesink and managed on the field by catcher-manager Bruce Petway.
“Other key position players for the 1919 Stars included:
“Right fielder Clarence Smith – Smith compiled a .344 batting average and .501 slugging percentage with 10 triples, 84 runs scored, 82 RBIs in 92 games.”
The trouble with players like Smith is they were overshadowed by the power-hitting duo of Turkey Stearnes and Edgar Wesley, not to mention the speed of Cool Papa Bell.
166 AB, .319, 11 HR, 60 RBI, .319/.402/.620, 171 OPS+
59 IP, 3-3, 5.34 ERA, 23 K, 99 ERA+, 1.322 WHIP
Ron’s: No (Would require 81 more All-Star seasons. Impossible)
Cuban Stars West
20-30, 5th in NNL
OPS+-87, 4th in league
ERA+-83, 6th in league
WAR Leader-Esteban Montalvo, 2.2
1st Time All-Star-Esteban Montalvo was born in 1896 in Matanzas, Cuba. The six-foot, 190 pound lefty hitting, righty tossing rightfielder, pitcher, and first baseman started with Cuban Stars West in 1923 and would play for them through this season. He wouldn’t play in the Majors in 1926 and then in 1927, he’d move to the Eastern Colored League and play for the New York Lincoln Giants. In 1928, his last year in the Majors, he’d be back in the Negro National League and be back with Cuba.
Montalvo is the first Cuban Stars West player to be an All-Star at rightfield.
“A native of Matanzas, Cuba, Montalvo made his Negro leagues debut in 1923 with the Cuban Stars (West). He played four seasons with the club, and also played for the Lincoln Giants in 1927. Montalvo also played for Almendares, Habana, and the Leopardos de Santa Clara of the Cuban League. He died in 1930 at age 33 or 34.”
Nowadays, you could find more information on a minor league benchwarmer than all the info you could dig up on some of these Negro League players. I’m sure Baseball Reference will find more stats and continue to add to its miraculous site, but some of this data are lost forever or was never even recorded. Hopefully, some of what I’m writing will help in the research or, at the very least, point you to those places that have compiled a good portion of it.