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12/01/2005 Archived Entry: "Negro League News: JUD, RAY, AND MULE: “COOPERSTOWN, HERE WE COME”"
Negro League News: JUD, RAY, AND MULE: “COOPERSTOWN, HERE WE COME”
by John B. Holway
As you probably know, a special SABR committee named 39 Negro Leaguers to
a ballot to be voted on in February and then inducted en masse in August.
Its a source of great joy to me and also great disappoint.
First the joy.
At long last, Jud Wilson, the black Ty Cobb, will get the plaque he
has deserved for so long. He batted over .400 four tickets, and his lifetime
.370 leads his nearest competitors, Josh Gibson and John Beckwith, by 20
points. His nickname, Boojum, comes from they sound of his line drives banging
against the fences. Jud should have been elected among the first four or
five men 30 years ago.
(I am quoting my own 30-year study of Negro League statistics. The Hall
commissioned a $250,000 study by SABR members, which has not been released
yet. Presumably their study and mine should reinforce each other, though
they probably have games I don't, and I believe I have games they dont.
But the results should be similar, since Dick Clark worked on both.)
Mule Suttles, the black Jimmie Foxx, ranks #3 as a home run hitter,
behind Turkey Stearns and Gibson. Fans yelled Kick, Mule! whenever
he came to bat. In Havana he walloped one drive a measured at 598 feet. His
11th-inning home run against Martin Dihigo into the upper deck of Comiskey
won the 1935 East-West (all star) game, presaging Ted Williams by six years.
Mule and Josh dueled each other through the 30s, when both probably
would have broken Babe Ruths 60-homer mark if they'd been in the white
majors. Mule topped .400 several times, even in huge Rickwood Park, Birmingham.
His totals would have been much higher, except for a beaning in 1927.
Ray Brown is #3 in lifetime wins, and his won-lost percent tops both
Satchel Paige and Bullet Rogan in fact, it tops everyone in the Negro
Leagues. Brown and Gibson formed the best battery in black baseball; Grove
and Cochrane would be their closest rivals in white baseball. Ray went 15-0
one year. He was also a hard-hitting pinch-hitter.
Biz Mackey is considered by everyone the best receiver in black baseball
maybe in all bb. Pitchers loved to pitch to him. And he averaged .320
as a line-drive hitter from both sides of the plate. Led the league with
.434 in 1924. Biz and Nip Winters on the Philadelphia Hilldales may have
been as great as Gibson and Brown of the Grays.
Dick Lundy (King Richard) was a smooth-fielding .337-hitting
shortstop, who many old-timers claimed was better than Pop Lloyd or Willie
Wells. Also led the Bacharach Giants and Baltimore Black Sox to three pennants.
Cristobal Torriente was, in my opinion, the best player to come out
of Cuba, better than Dihigo. A lifetime .340 hitter, Torri would
have done even better if he hadn't played in Chicago, with its huge
pitcher-friendly playing field. The only slugger on Rube Fosters team
of race horses, when he came up with men on base, hed shake the bracelets
on his wrist, and say, Me get em.
John Beckwith not only batted .352, he is among the top home run hitters
in black history. A surly Albert Belle personality, he played shortstop and
Willard Brown also might have busted Babes mark in 1946. Had
a cup of coffee with the St Louis Browns at the age of 30-plus, then tore
up the Texas League. Holds the Puerto Rico record for homers; far behind
in second place -- Reggie Jackson.
Alejandro Oms actually topped Beckwith in batting, though with less
Dobey Moore was another terrific hitter (.368), and old-timers say
he was also a star at shortstop. His career was only seven years; he spent
his early years in the Army, then was cut down in his prime when shot in
the leg. But he had ample at bats to deserve his nomination. He and Rogan
were the backbone of the great Monarchs teams of the 20s.
J.L. Wilkinson and Cum Posey were the two top owners in black
baseball. They built the Kansas City Monarchs and Homestead Grays into the
most renowned dynasties in the black game. Wilkie also pioneered night baseball,
beating the white minors by a few days and the majors by five years. His
idea saved Negro League ball -- and white minor league ball during
Bill Byrd and Andy Cooper ranked up with Brown and Bill Foster
in lifetime wins. Coop was also the Negro League leader in saves. Byrd was
a fine hitter as well. They form a close statistical group with Foster and
Nip Winters in lifetime wins.
Newt Allen was the best black second base until Joe Morgan and should
be the first one elected to the Hall from the Negro Leagues. A mainstay of
two great Monarch teams in the 1920s and40s, with good stolen base
George Scales was a great curve-ball hitter with fair power, who could
play almost anywhere in the infield. Also a great teacher, he gave Joe Black
and Jim Gilliam the tools they needed to make the Dodgers.
All these men would have been in Cooperstown decades ago if theyd been
white. They'll be rich enhancements to the hallowed walls, and I applaud
the committee for nominating them. Their elections in February should be
I wish the Hall would change its mind about electing them in one fell swoop.
If Jud Wilson is one of 39 names, who will even notice him, let alone remember
him? Parcel them out, one a year. Get a lot of debate: Who will be next?
The Hall ought to be a great teaching tool. Cooperstown is squandering a
terrific public relations opportunity.
Next: Hit a few and miss a few. Where the committee stumbled