The Negro Leagues / Cuban Connection 5     

Some players went back to the Negro Leagues in the late 50s.  Ned Powers, writing in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix (August 22, 1959) noted:

"Big Bob Herron, who will be remembered as one of the greatest sluggers to grace prairie semi-pro baseball during the last 10 years, has spend a highly productive season in the ranks of the Kansas City Monarchs.

The Monarchs won the American Negro league championship this summer and Herron was selected to play in the East-West all-star game at Comiskey Park.   The West won the game 8-7, but the box score published in the Chicago Sun-Times shows Herron with two hits in three trips.  He started at third base and then moved to left field.

Herron wound up the league with a .343 average, including 87 hits.  He had 24 home runs, 12 triples, 22 doubles and 106 runs batted in.  Although he worked the outfield mostly, Bob took an occasional whirl on the hill and won four out of five starts.

Bob is back in this country now, appearing on tour with the Monarchs.  He'd like to be remembered to his many friends.  He especially recalls his first season in Saskatoon, a most memorable day being a 16-strikeout, one-hit performance against the California Mohawks in 1950.  In later years, Herron did Saskatoon clubs considerable harm with a booming bat on behalf of the North Battleford Beavers but he was always well respected for his ability."


Perfect game!John Donaldson (Radville, 1925) (In the Moose Jaw Optimist tournament of 1925, Donaldson pitched a perfect game, striking out 19.  Radville, however, was beaten in the final by Scobey, Montana which featured Swede Risberg and Oscar Happy Felsch, two of the players banned for life in the infamous Black Sox scandal of 1919.


In the west, Seattle had an oh so brief look at Negro League ball after the Second World War. The following from John Reeves history of baseball in Seattle :

In 1946 the new West Coast Negro League formed to expand professional black baseball out west. The Seattle franchise, the Steelheads, was actually The Harlem Globetrotters. Originally formed in 1944 as a barnstorming team, moved to Seattle in 1946 to join the West Coast Baseball Association. Not to be confused with the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team, they played straight baseball. The Negro League team that most resembled the basketball team was the Indianapolis Clowns.

To gain local support they changed their name to the Seattle Steelhead, after the salmon runs. Other teams in the League included: Portland Rosebuds (owned by Jesse Owens), Oakland Larks, San Diego Tigers, Los Angels White Sox, and San Francisco Sea Lions. The League was set up so they would play in the PCL parks while their white counterparts were on the road. For the 1946 season, the teams were scheduled to play 110 games. Not only did they play in Seattle, but the Steelhead played games in Tacoma, Bremerton, Spokane, and Bellingham, to display professional black baseball to the region. As a result of manager/catcher Paul Hardy signing a contract before he was released by the Chicago American Giants, a ban against Negro American League teams playing in Seattle was instituted. 

Sherwood BrewerSherwood BrewerUnfortunately, the only teams that earned money to stay in business were Seattle and Oakland. As best that can be determined, when the League folded Oakland was in first and Seattle in second. The association ended in July of 1946, but the Steelheads played through September and once again became the Harlem Globetrotters.

Paul Hardy Catcher- Manager, Everett Marcel Catcher, Johnny Cogdell RHP, Frank Saylor RHP, Mike Berry RHP, Al Jones RHP, Rogers Pierre RHP, Lafayette Washington RHP, Nap Gulley LHP, Herb Simpson 1B, Sherwood Brewer 2B (left & right in a photo from the 1990s), Joe Spencer 2B, Ulysses Redd SS, Robbie Robinson 3B, Bruce Wright 3B, Eugene Harden Utility, Jack Johnson Utility, Howard Gay OF, Stamp Holly O,F Zell Miles OF, Leo Rivers OF, John Bissant OF, Collins Jones OF. 

Oakland Larks

Above, the starting staff of the Oakland Larks (left to right - Wade James, Wee Willie Jones, Charles "Speck" Roberts, Marion Sugar Cain).  Later, from 1951 to 1957, Cain became one of the top hurlers in the ManDak League.  (Photo courtesy of the Oakland Museum of California, Catalog ID: H99.29.42)

Below, three key members of the 1946-47 Oakland Larks  (left to right - Charles Roberts, Marion Cain, Ira Wells).  (Photo courtesy of the Oakland Museum of California, Catalog ID: H99.29.36)

Oakland trio

Willie Cathey            Leonard Pigg               Ira McKnight

Left - Willie Cathey signs with Indianapolis Clowns in July of 1949 shortly after Cathey had beaten the Clowns in a double header. 

Centre - catcher Leonard Pigg seen in a 1951 promotion for the Clowns. The caption on the blurb reads:

"POUNDIN' PIGG - Leonard Pigg, Oklahoma born, and now residing at Seattle, Wash., who led the entire Negro American League in batting in 1949, and last season pounded the pill for a .410 mark at Roblin, Manitoba, Canada, is again whacking the ball solidly for the Indianapolis Clowns this season, with a .378 average, and doing most of the receiving in the Funmakers' drive to retain their first place position in the NAL.  Pigg and his full 240 pounds, will be seen in action ... against the mighty Kansas City Monarchs baseball club."

Right - Catcher Ira McKnight was among the players to join the league in the declining years of the Negro circuits.  McKnight, who would later play with Saskatoon and North Battleford in Canada, suited up in 1956 with the Kansas City Monarchs. 

KC Monarchs 1951John KennedyBritton & Newberry in Japan

Above left - A pair of Kansas City Monarchs model the latest in uniforms. From "A" to "Z", the Monarchs again lead in innovation with "names" on the back of their jerseys.  Pitcher Gene Collins is "A".  Catcher Isaiah "Ike" Jackson is "Z".  Monarchs' owner Tom Baird is in the middle, barely visible in this version of the 1951 photograph.  Above middle - John Kennedy with the Kansas City Monarchs in 1956. Above right - Johnny Britton (right) and Jim Newberry (centre) meet their new manager Hiroshi Hamazaki.  The players were farmed out to Japan by the St. Louis Browns in 1952, the first American players to go to the Japanese League.  Hamazaki directs the Hankyu Braves.  (The Baltimore Afro-American, May 27, 1952)

Homestead infieldLeft - Homestead Grays infield, 1948.  Luis Marquez, utility; Walter "Buck" Leonard, first base; Charles Gary, "sensational new rookie third-baseman"; Clarence "Mr. Second Baseman" Bruce, second base; and Sam Bankhead, oldest of the famous ball playing brothers, shortstop.  The News-Palladium, Benton Harbor, Michigan, August 17, 1948.

Bill PowellBill Powell (right), who played in the Negro League with the Birmingham Black Barons after military service in the Second World War, pitched in two East-West All-Star games. He entered organized pro ball in 1951 with a 14-8 record with Colorado Springs of the Western League and a few games in the Pacific Coast League. After a 14-9 season in Triple-A with Charleston Senators in 1953, Powell (listed at 31 years of age at the time) was sold by the Senators to the Cincinnati Redlegs.  The Reds had hopes he would become the first Negro to make their major league pitching staff.  After mixed results in Spring Training with the Reds in 1954, Powell was sent to the International League.  He continued to pitch until 1961, including brief stints in Canada with Medicine Hat and Lloydminster in 1959.  (Photo from the Charleston Daily Mail, December 11, 1953)

Peanuts Davis (Negro Leagues)
Key Pitch: Knuckleball
Description: “We had a pitcher named Peanuts Nyasses Davis, a knuckleball pitcher, and you couldn’t even play catch with him unless you had a mask on. The ball’d hit you in the mouth. He could throw it with control and throw it hard!”  Raydell Maddix in The Negro Leagues Revisited (Brent Kelley, 2000)

Photo Credits :

Photos of Herbert Barnhill, Chet Brewer, John Britton, Willard Brown, Allen Lefty Bryant, Pee Wee Butts, Spoon Carter, Bill Cash, Doc Dennis, Jesse Douglas, Willie Hutchinson, Gentry Jessup, Rufus Ligon, Lester Lockett, Wyman Red Longley, Gready McKinnis, Satchel Paige, Art Pennington, Andy Porter, Double Duty Radcliffe, Othello Renfroe, Harry Rhodes, Frazier Robinson, Herb Souell, Ted Strong from The Negro Baseball Leagues, A Photographic History

Photos of Lloyd Pepper Bassett, Lyman Bostock, Ray Dandridge, Wilmer Fields, Cowan Hyde from When the Game Was Black and White

Barney Brown (1936 &1944), Spoon Carter, Alonzo Perry from The Negro Leagues Book

Acie Griggs from Negro League Baseball Players Association, www.nlbpa.com

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