Ray Dandridge: The Greatest 3B, All Time


Color Line Quota System Robbed Ray Dandridge of Big League Time.

Two days ago, while I was transporting the nearly age 92 years old Hall of Famer Monte Irvin to the National SABR Day program at the Houston Sports Museum at Finger Furniture, things were going calmly in our discussions until I brought up the name of Ray Dandridge. I told Monte that I always wondered and felt sad about the fact that a great former Negro Leaguer like Ray Dandridge never got his chance to play in a single major league game.

I could sense the change in Monte’s passenger-seat posture as I spoke these words, but Irvin’s own voice soon enough took control of the floor.

“Oh my,” Monte sighed. “That was so wrong that Ray Dandridge never got his chance. We (The New York Giants) could have won it a lot easier in ’51 had we been able to bring up Dandridge from Minneapolis to play third base early enough. Heck! We could won the pennant in 1950, had we been allowed bring him up from the same Millers club, but it just never happened.”

And why not? Why didn’t the Giants ever call up Dandridge? They controlled his contract from 1949 through 1952 – and all he did in that time was tear up AAA with a .362 average in ’49, a .311 mark with 11 homers in ’50, a .324 BA in ’51 and a final .291 in ’52, when he was then age 39.

Did the Giant consider Dandridge too old for the big league jump?

“That wasn’t it,” Monte Irvin says. “I pled with (manager) Leo (Durocher) to call up Ray in 1951. He’d always just fumble around for an answer as to why we were standing pat, but I felt I already knew the answer. You see, we may have broken the color line in 1947, but there was still an unspoken quota system in place in the late ’40s and early ’50s. The Giants already had me and infielder Hank Thompson as their black players and they were reluctant to add more.”

As one result of this color cautious culture, the great Ray Dandridge was denied his performance-earned twilight shot at big league playing time while he was still performing better than most others between ages 36 and 39. Dandridge crossed the age 40 mark late in the 1953 season, finishing out his last season as an active player by hitting .268 with Oakland and Sacramento of the Pacific Coast League.

Ray Dandridge broke into the Negro Leagues with the 1933 Detroit Stars. He spent the next five seasons with clubs in Newark (1934-38) before jumping to the Mexican League for nine of the next ten seasons, returning only in 1944 for another year at Newark. He returned to the States to take over as the playing manager of the New York Cubans before signing with the Giants and a minor league assignment in 1949.

Ray Dandridge, Hall of Fame, 1987.

After his playing career, Dandridge did some scouting for the San Francisco Giants and he also ran some other businesses outside of baseball. He retired in Florida and passed away there in early 1994 at the age of 80. Before he died, Ray Dandridge enjoyed one day for hollow redemption when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1987. How much sweeter could that moment have been had Ray Dandridge been allowed to help the New York Giants win a pennant or two or three in his talented twilight years?

A short time ago, I picked Judy Johnson as my All Negro League Third Baseman, but Monte Irvin has now dented that choice for me in favor of Ray Dandridge. “He was simply the greatest there ever was,” Irvin says. “Ray could out-field and out-hit any other third baseman I ever saw in the Negro Leagues – and the New York Giants really missed out by not bringing him up while he was at Minneapolis.”

I can’t argue with Monte Irvin. I always liked the guy, anyway, but now I’m a full-blown Ray Dandridge fan. Move over, Judy Johnson. My eyesight for greater talent just received a major boost from somebody who ought to know.

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2 Responses to “Ray Dandridge: The Greatest 3B, All Time”

  1. Dick "Lefty" O'Neal Says:

    I agree with Monti.
    Ray was always the guy the black players talked about to me as the best on 3rd base.
    Lefty O’Neal

  2. Fred Davis Says:

    Darn it, Bill, I TOLD you when you first circulated your all-Nedgro League team that SRay Dandridge should have been yours third baseman. I noted that Tom Lasorda called Ray the greatest third baseman he had ever seen – in ANY league! Itx is gratifying to see that Monte Irvin – and now, you – agree with Lasorda and I. You’re in good company, old buddy.
    Fred Davis

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