Films on Friday: Visits to the NLBM

To close out African American History Month, check out the video below of the president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum discussing players who have visited the museum:

Happy Friday!

~ baseballrebecca




Stat-urday, 2/22/2020

Forty-one Negro League players, managers, and executives are in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Below is a list of all 41, including links to their Negro League and/or Major League stats.

Year  Name Voted by Birth-Death Role
1962 Jackie Robinson Baseball Writers Assn. of American (BBWAA) 1919-72 Player
1960 Roy Campanella BBWAA 1921-93 Player
1971 Satchel Paige Negro Leagues Committee (NLC) 1906-82 Player
1972 Buck Leonard NLC 1907-97 Player
1972 Josh Gibson NLC 1911-47 Player
1973 Monte Irvin NLC 1919-2016 Player
1974 Cool Papa Bell NLC 1903-91 Player
1975 Judy Johnson NLC 1899-1989 Player
1976 Oscar Charleston NLC 1896-1954 Player
1977 Martin Dihigo NLC 1905-71 Player
1977 Pop Lloyd NLC 1884-1964 Player
1977 Ernie Banks BBWAA 1931-2015 Player
1979 Willie Mays BBWAA 1931-51 Player
1981 Rube Foster Veterans Committee (VC) 1888-1976 Player/Manager/Executive
1982 Hank Aaron BBWAA 1934- Player
1987 Ray Dandridge VC 1913-94 Player
1995 Leon Day VC 1916-95 Player
1996 Willie Foster VC 1904-78 Player
1997 Willie Wells VC 1905-89 Player
1998 Larry Doby VC 1923-2003 Player
1998 Bullet Rogan VC 1893-1967 Player
1999 Smokey Joe Williams VC 1885-1951 Player
2000 Turkey Stearnes VC 1901-79 Player
2001 Hilton Smith VC 1907-83 Player
2006 Alex Pompez NLC 1890-1974 Pioneer/Executive
2006 Andy Cooper NLC 1898-1941 Player
2006 Ben Taylor NLC 1888-1953 Player
2006 Biz Mackey NLC 1897-1965 Player
2006 Cristobal Torriente NLC 1893-1938 Player
2006 Cum Posey NLC 1890-1946 Pioneer/Executive
2006 Effa Manley NLC 1897-1981 Pioneer/Executive
2006 Frank Grant NLC 1865-1937 Player
2006 J.L. Wilkinson NLC 1878-1964 Pioneer/Executive
2006 Jose Mendez NLC 1885-1928 Player
2006 Jud Wilson NLC 1896-1963 Player
2006 Louis Santop NLC 1889-1942 Player
2006 Mule Suttles NLC 1901-66 Player
2006 Pete Hill NLC 1882-1951 Player
2006 Ray Brown NLC 1908-65 Player
2006 Sol White NLC 1868-1955 Pioneer/Executive
2006 Willard Brown NLC 1915-96 Player


Laymon Yokely, the Mysterious Shadow

Laymon Yokely. Photograph courtesy of Baseball Reference.

One of the more interesting things about studying the Negro Leagues is that one thread leads to another and another and another and so on. However, the frustrating part is that often there is not a lot information about these threads. For example, when I was reading about Bert Simmons, I learned of Yokely’s All-Stars, the independent team Simmons played for after his time with the Baltimore Elite Giants.

So who were Yokely’s All-Stars? And who was Yokely, for that matter?

Laymon Samuel Yokely, sometimes referred to as Norman Yokely, was a star pitcher for the Baltimore Black Sox, who he played for from 1926 to 1933. During his time with the Black Sox, Yokely pitched six no-hitters, including one during the second game of a double-header after pitching game 1. In 1929, he won 17 games to help the Black Sox win the American Negro League pennant. Yokely was the ace of the team and was often pitched just to boost attendance. Even other players came to see him pitch. In an interview with the Baltimore Sun, Bert Simmons said of Yokely: “‘He was a legend. Anyone who had played ball in Baltimore would always come back to see Yokely. I was there one day when Roy Campanella, who had played for him, dropped in for a visit.’”

The Hardball Times wrote the following about Yokely, in a 2018 article about Leon Day:

“It came pretty easy to Laymon Yokely; rolling out of bed to pitch nine innings for a living. So easily, in fact, he probably could have just stayed there: the massive, six-and-a-half-foot tall hurler could often be found snoozing under the bench between innings, to the point that some believed he suffered from narcolepsy.
The pitching came easy. With a cracking whip of an arm motion, Yokely’s delivery started with his hand low behind his back, a move they say gave him an extra bit of hellfire on every heater. It was good enough to flummox the likes of Jimmie Foxx, Lefty Grove, Hack Wilson, and all of the legendary white players Yokely would occasionally face as a Negro Leagues pitcher for the Baltimore Black Sox from 1926-31.”

According to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum’s eMuseum, Yokely:

“was so popular with fans that he was called a matinee idol, and in 1926 he acquired the nicknames ‘Corner Pocket’ Yokely and ‘The Mysterious Shadow.’ A downside to his popularity was that because so many fans wanted to see him pitch, he may have been overworked, shortening his career. After a few seasons of throwing his fastball at too-frequent intervals, his arm started to go bad. Initially the problem was manifested by an inability to pitch complete games, but soon progressed to a point where he began to lose effectiveness. Beginning in 1930, his decline in effectiveness accelerated, and within two years his arm was so bad that he was benched.”

While benched, Yokely continued to play with the Baltimore Red Sox, a semi-pro team. He returned to the Black Sox in 1932. He went on to play for the Atlantic City Bacharach Giants (1932), the Philadelphia Stars (1934-37, 1939), the Washington Black Senators (1938), the Edgewater Giants (1940-43), and the Baltimore Elite Giants (1944).

In 1945, he established his own team, Yokely’s All-Stars, a barnstorming semi pro team. The All-Stars continued to operate until 1959. It was with Yokely’s team that Leon Day got his start in baseball.

Of course, now I need to learn more about teams like the Baltimore Red Sox and the Edgewater Giants… and maybe some day I’ll discover more information about The Mysterious Shadow.

~ baseballrebecca




Bert Simmons

IMG_4768Yesterday I wrote about the Hubert V. Simmons Museum of Negro Leagues Baseball. Today, I write about Bert Simmons, himself.

Hubert Van Wyke Simmons was born on May 19, 1924, in Tarboro, North Carolina. He grew up watching the Tarboro Serpents of the Class-D Coastal Plain League. Unfortunately, the stadium was part of the segregated South. Simmons said that if you caught a foul ball outside the ballpark, they would let you in for free, but he had to sit in the segregated section. Later, the groundskeeper recognized Simmons’ interest in baseball and gave him a job shining baseball shoes and doing various cleaning jobs, which Simmons said, “‘allowed me to watch a whole lot of Class D ball’” and made him realize that he wanted to play professional baseball.

Since his high school did not have a baseball team, he played baseball with the local sandlot and Boy Scout teams as a teenager. After high school he joined the Civilian Conservation Corps in Raleigh, North Carolina, where he also played for the semipro Raleigh Tigers. In 1943, he joined the Army, serving in the Quartermaster Corps in Europe. He arrived in Normandy in June 1944, 12 days after D-Day.

After the war, Simmons attended North Carolina A&T University, earning a degree in business administration in 1950. While at A&T, he was on the baseball team and made the all-conference team twice. The team won the championship three times. In 1978, he was inducted into the North Carolina A&T State University Sports Hall of Fame.

File:Hubert Simmons.jpg

Bert Simmons. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

During the summers, he played for the Greensboro Redwings and Asheville Blues of the Negro Southern League. While playing in Atlantic City for the Farley Stars (previously called the Bacharach Giants), Simmons was signed by the Baltimore Elite Giants for $200 a month. Of his salary he would later say, “‘It doesn’t sound like much, $200 a month. It’s ridiculous by today’s standards. But, you know, you played ball, you saw a little bit of the country, you figured you were living a pretty good life.’”

Simmons played for one season with the Elite Giants. However, when the moved to Nashville, Tennessee, in 1951, Simmons decided to stay in Baltimore. From 1951 to 1952, he played for the Yokely Stars, and independent Negro League team in Baltimore.

In 1952, Simmons retired from baseball. He worked for the Social Security Administration and the U.S. Postal Service before becoming a schoolteacher at Northwestern High School in Baltimore. He also coached Little League baseball and at the high school and college levels.

Simmons served on the Board of Directors of the Negro League Baseball Players Association; participated in events hosted by the Baltimore Orioles, including their annual FanFest; and founded the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum of Maryland, which was later renamed in his honor. In 2008, the Orioles selected him in the Negro Leagues Player Draft.

Bert Simmons passed away at the age of 85 on July 8, 2009. He was the last surviving member of the Baltimore Elite Giants.

~ baseballrebecca





Hubert V. Simmons Museum of Negro Leagues Baseball

IMG_4766This past weekend I made a pilgrimage to the Hubert V. Simmons Museum of Negro Leagues Baseball. The Museum is located in the Owings Mills Branch of the Baltimore County Public Library in Owings Mills, Maryland, just outside of Baltimore. Simmons, a former Negro Leagues pitcher and outfielder, launched the idea in 2008.

By 2009, the Museum was opened in a temporary location in the annex of the Lochearn Presbyterian Church. In November 2013, the Baltimore County Executive announced that the Museum would be give a permanent location as part of the Owings Mills library. The Museum celebrated its grand opening in  2014.

Check out the pictures below, and if you’re ever in Maryland, check out the Museum!

~ baseballrebecca





Stat-urday, 2/15/2020

The 1920 Detroit Stars

Due to lost records, poor record-keeping, and lack of media coverage, statistics are often incomplete for the Negro Leagues. Modern day sources often provide contradictory information. However, below are some stats from 1920, the inaugural year of the Negro National League (from The Negro Leagues Book, by Dick Clark and Larry Lester, as reported on Baseball Reference):

NNL Teams Wins Losses Win %
Chicago American Giants 32 13 0.711
Detroit Stars 35 23 0.603
Kansas City Monarchs 41 29 0.586
Indianapolis ABCs 39 35 0.527
St. Louis Giants 25 32 0.439
Cuban Stars 21 24 0.467
Dayton Marcos 8 18 0.308
Chicago Giants 4 24 0.143

Although there wasn’t another formal Negro League to compete against, the NNL teams often played independent teams, including those in the table below (stats from The Complete Book of Baseball’s Negro Leagues, by John Holway, as reported by Baseball Reference):

Independent Teams Wins Losses Win %
Brooklyn Royal Giants 5 4 .556
Philadelphia Hilldales 7 6 .538
Bacharach Giants 12 12 .500
Baltimore Black Sox 3 8 .273
Cuban Stars 1 4 .200
New York Lincoln Giants 0 4 .000

Also founded in 1920 was the Negro Southern League, a loosely organized Negro minor league (these stats also are from John Holway’s The Complete Book of Baseball’s Negro Leagues, as reported by Baseball Reference):

Negro Southern League Teams Wins Losses Win %
Knoxville 55 21 0.724
Montgomery 47 39 0.547
Atlanta Black Crackers 45 39 0.536
Birmingham Black Barons 43 39 0.524
New Orleans Black Pelicans 43 39 0.524
Nashville Giants 40 40 0.500
Jacksonville Red Caps 18 26 0.409

Happy Stat-urday!

~ baseballrebecca





The Negro Leagues Centennial

The 1919 Chicago American Giants, owned by Andrew “Rube” Foster (top row, Center), founder of the Negro National League

Tomorrow celebrate the centennial of the Negro Leagues in baseball. On February 13, 1920, owners of African American baseball teams met in Kansas City to discuss the prospect of starting their own league. The main proponent of the idea was Rube Foster, former pitcher and owner of the Chicago American Giants. Foster had been advocating for a league comprised of African American teams owned by African Americans for some time, stating, “The wild, reckless scramble under the guise of baseball is keeping us down and we will always be the underdog until we can successfully employ the methods that have brought success to the great powers that be in baseball of the present era: organization.” In 1919, he wrote in the Chicago Defender of the need to “create a profession that would equal the earning capacity of any other profession… keep Colored baseball from the control of whites (and) do something concrete for the loyalty of the Race.”

At the conclusion of the meetings on February 14, the Negro National League was born; its slogan was, “We Are the Ship, All Else the Sea.” The original members of the league were the Chicago American Giants, Detroit Stars, Kansas City Monarchs, Indianapolis ABCs, St. Louis Giants, Cuban Stars, Dayton Marcos, and Chicago Giants. Opening Day was May 2, 1920, with the home team Indianapolis ABCs beating the Chicago American Giants 4-2.

Several teams entered and exited the Negro National League throughout its 11-year history. Unfortunately, the league folded after the 1931 season in the wake of the Great Depression. Other leagues were formed to take its place. These included the East-West League, which was founded in 1932, and a new Negro National League, established in 1933. Four years later, in 1937, the Negro America League was created. Some of the Negro minor leagues were: the Negro Southern League, the Negro American Association, the East Texas Negro League, and the Arkansas-Louisiana-Texas League.

After Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball in 1947, the Negro Leagues began a second decline. By 1949, the Negro American League was the only major Negro League still in operation. It became a minor league a couple years later and folded in 1958. A few teams survived after that, but were no longer organized into leagues. The Indianapolis Clowns continued to play exhibition games in to the 1980s, but mostly as an entertaining sideshow similar to their roots as the Ethiopian Clowns, who have often been likened to the Harlem Globetrotters.

Born in a time of segregation and disbanded due to integration, the Negro Leagues played an important role in U.S. history. Stay tuned throughout this year’s celebration of the Negro Leagues Centennial for more about the Negro Leagues.

~ baseballrebecca


The 1924 Colored World Series



Leon Ruffin

Leon Ruffin, photo courtesy of

Happy Birthday to Leon Ruffin, who was born on this date in 1912. Ruffin was a catcher in the Negro Leagues and the Mexican League in the 1930s and 1940s.

Charles Leon Ruffin was born on February 11, 1912, in Portsmouth, Virginia. He began his Negro League career in 1935 at the age of 23 with the Brooklyn Eagles. When the team was purchased in 1936 and merged with the Newark Eagles, he became a member of the Newark team. Ruffin was traded to the Pittsburgh Crawfords, where he played in 1937, 1938, and the beginning of 1939 before being traded back to the Eagles in May 1939. Later that year he was traded to the Philadelphia Stars, where he also played in 1940 before joining the Mexican League. Ruffin played for the Algodoneros de Union Laguna in Torreon through 1941.

Ruffin returned to the Eagles for the 1942 through 1944 seasons. However, he played only a few games in 1944 as he had enlisted in the Navy in 1943, serving from 1943 to 1945. Ruffin returned to the Eagles in 1946. That year he was named to the East All-Star team (along with Larry Doby, Monte Irvin, and Leon Day, among others) and played in the all-star game in Washington and the East-West Classic in Chicago. He also caught all seven games of the 1946 Negro League World Series. In his 10 years in the Negro Leagues Ruffin had 478 at-bats with a batting average of .201. He had 96 hits, four of which were home runs.

Ruffin returned to the Mexican League in 1947, playing for the Diablos Rojos del Mexico. According to one Baseball-Reference page, Ruffin played in St. Jean, Quebec, Canada, for the St. Jean Braves of the independent Provincial League in 1948. He played his last two seasons with the Houston Eagles in 1949 and 1950.

After his career, Ruffin worked as a presser at a dry cleaners in his hometown of Portsmouth, Virginia. He also was a manager and occasional player for local semipro teams. Ruffin suffered a stroke and died on August 14, 1970.

~ baseballrebecca