Posts Tagged ‘Negro Leagues’

Michael Hogue’s Portrait of Jackie Robinson

October 12, 2011

All good things come to some kind of end. Today’s Michael Hogue Portrait of Jackie Robinson only ends in the sense that it runs the table here on all the figures originally featured in his look at stars of the Negro Leagues in an earlier united presentation in The Dallas Morning News. For the past several weeks, those same stars have been shown here in The Pecan Park Eagle by written permission from Michael Hogue.

Today’s final portrait in this series appropriately features a look at the first man from the Negro Leagues to break the 20th century color line in the big leagues back in 1947, the one and only Jackie Robinson. Robinson broke into the major with the 1947 Brooklyn Dodgers. He played ten years with Brooklyn, batting .311 overall, and helping to lead the Dodgers to seven pennants and their only Brooklyn-based World Series title in 1955.

Jackie Robinson is our “Offering # 14″ and the last feature in this series on this fine Texas artist’s work, Portraits of the Negro Leagues. It has been nothing less than a beautiful trip. – Thank you one more time, Michael Hogue, for allowing The Pecan Park Eagle to further share the beauty and joy of your work with those readers who care about the Negro Leagues and their place in baseball history.

For more on Michael Hogue’s work, check out his website:

Jackie Robinson, Infielder, Negro Leagues, 1945, Major Leagues, 1947-1956, Baseball Hall of Fame, 1962, Robinson's uniform #42 was retired in honor of his place as the man who broke the color line in 20th century organized baseball.


Jackie Robinson by Michael Hogue of The Dallas Morning News.

“The man who broke the color line in modern baseball began his career in the Negro Leagues.

“Before playing the 1945 season with the Kansas City Monarchs, Robinson was a four-sport star at UCLA, were he excelled in baseball, basketball, track and field, and football.

“Baseball was considered to be his worst sport.”


Michael Hogue’s Portrait of Oscar Charleston

September 27, 2011

The following art and text by Michael Hogue of The Dallas Morning News is reproduced here in The Pecan Park Eagle by written permission from Michael Hogue. Today’s portrait features a look at the reputedly best player in the history of the Negro Leagues, Oscar Charleston.

Oscar Charleston is our “Offering 7″ in this series and a continuation of this fine Texas artist’s work, Portraits of the Negro Leagues. Thank you again, Michael, for allowing The Pecan Park Eagle to further share the beauty and joy of your work with those who care about the Negro Leagues and their place in baseball history.

For more on Michael Hogue’s work, check out his website:

Oscar Charleston, Center Fielder, Negro Leagues, 1915-1944, Baseball Hall of Fame, 1976.

Oscar Charleston by Michael Hogue of The Dallas Morning News

In a 1952 Pittsburgh Courier poll, sports writers voted Charleston the greatest Negro Leagues player of all time. A 2000 poll of former Negro League players reached the same conclusion.

He was a versatile player who batted over .300 most years. He combined speed, a strong arm and fielding instincts to become a standout center fielder. He also managed several teams during his 40-year career in black baseball.


Monte Irvin’s Few and Chosen

February 18, 2011

The Giants Retired Monte Irvin's #20 in 2010.

A couple of days ago, I received my mailed copy of “Few and Chosen: Defining Negro Leagues Greatness” by Monte Irvin with Phil Pepe. Triumph Books was the publisher in 2007 and the book is still available over Amazon.Com.

I’ve only had a few hours to quickly read through Monte’s picks as the greatest players by position in the Negro Leagues, but a few entries have really jumped out at me: (1) Yes, Monte truly does pick Ray Dandridge as the greatest third baseman in Negro Leagues history; (2) No, Monte Irvin does not pick Oscar Charleston over Willie Mays as his number one guy in centerfield; (3) There’s the great former Houston Buff Bob Boyd listed as Irvin’s number five choice at first base, and (4) Short-time Houston Buff Willard Brown hit Monte’s list as his number five pick in left field.

Here are Monte’s picks at each position, five players deep:

Monte Irvin’s Few and Chosen Greatest Negros Leaguers By Position:

Catcher: (1) Josh Gibson, (2) Roy Campanella, (3) Biz Mackey, (4) Louis Santiago, (5) Elston Howard.

First Base: (1) Buck Leonard, (2) George Giles, (3) Mule Suttles, (4) Luke Easter, (5) Bob Boyd.

Second Base: (1) Jackie Robinson, (2) Sammy T. Hughes, (3) Newt Allen, (4) Jim Gilliam, (5) Piper Davis.

Third Base: (1) Ray Dandridge, (2) Judy Johnson, (3) Oliver Marcelle, (4) Jud Wilson, (5) Henry Thompson.

Shortstop: (1) Willie Wells, (2) Pop Lloyd, (3) Ernie Banks, (4) Dick Lundy, (5) John Beckwith.

Left Field: (1) Neil Robinson, (2) Minnie Minoso, (3) Vic Harris, (4) Sandy Amoros, (5) Willard Brown.

Center Field: (1) Willie Mays, (2) Oscar Charleston, (3) Cool Papa Bell, (4) Larry Doby, (5) Turkey Stearnes.

Right Field: (1) Henry Aaron, (2) Cristobal Torriente, (3) Bill Wright, (4) Sam Jethroe, (5) Jimmie Crutchfield.

Right-Handed Pitcher: “Smokey” Joe Williams, (2) Satchel Paige, (3) Leon Day, (4) “Bullet” Joe Rogan, (5) Martin Dihigo.

Left-Handed Pitcher: (1) Willie Foster, (2) Slim Jones, (3) Roy Partlow, (4) John Donaldson, (5) Barney Brown.

Manager: (1) C.I. Taylor, (2) Candy Taylor, (3) Buck O’Neil, (4) Vic Harris, (5) Dave Malarcher.

Owner/Organizer/Pioneer: (1) Rube Foster, (2) Gus Greenlee, (3) Cum Posey, (4) Effa Manley, (5) Alex Pompez.

Greatest Negro Leagues Teams: (1) Pittsburgh Crawfords, (2) Homestead Grays, (3) Kansas City Monarchs, (4) Newark Eagles, (5) New York Cubans,

Each chapter goes into some detail on the reasons behind Monte’s choices for the aforementioned rank orders – and that’s good. Any lineup that doesn’t include Satchel Paige, Oscar Charleston, Cool Papa Bell, or the great multi-talented Martin Dihigo as starters is deserving of some close explanation, but Monte Irvin takes on that task pretty well in a book that is only 207 pages in length.

Monte Irvin owns two of the last pair of living eyes on the talent that flowed through the old Negro Leagues. We need to listen to Monte as well as we can, while we are able. Monte Irvin turns 92 years old a week from today, Friday, February 25, 2011, and he remains as sharp as a tack on the subjects of life in general and baseball in particular.

Thank you for making your home among us in Houston, Monte Irvin; thank you for this wonderful book on the “Few and Chosen;” and, however you may choose to spend it, have a very happy 92nd birthday celebration next Friday. The world is a better place because of you.

Oscar Charleston: One of the Greatest

February 16, 2011


Played CF like a Tris Speaker.

Handled the bat like a Babe Ruth.














Consult with sabermetrics genius Bill James and Oscar Charleston rises to number four on the list of best players of all time. Check with 92-year old Monte Irvin, and the old bats left throws left star of the Negro League also rises all the way to the apex as a serious candidate for the forever arguable title, “the greatest of them all.” According to Monte Irvin in a brief conversation we had on our drive together to this year’s National SABR Day celebration in Houston, Oscar Charleston in his own say-hey-day had to have been the ultimate personification of what we think of today as the five tool guy. That’s not exactly what Monte said. What Monte said was, “Oscar Charleston! Oh my! He may have been the greatest! He could do it all! From what I heard, there just wasn’t anybody else like him for all the things he could do better than most.”

That translates to me that Oscar Charleston could hit for average and power. He could throw hard with accuracy. He could run like a deer. And he could catch anything that he could get his glove on. And I have to trust Monte’s judgment on this one. After all, Monte Irvin was there to see him, and in time to know those players personally who saw him performing at his earlier best.

Monte Irvin only saw Oscar Charleston play once, and that was late in his career, after age had forced him to move from center field to first base, but that ravage had not stopped the outpouring of legend that occurred even then. Older players and fans regaled in retelling stories of how Charleston could take a fly ball in medium deep center field and then throw a strike to the catcher at home plate. We’re not talking one-bounce here; we are talking on-the-fly and through the strike zone on throws from the healthy hits region of center field.

Oscar’s hey-days range was so great that the left and right fielders basically guarded the lines and tended long foul balls. Charleston covered the rest of the ground. When Willie Mays came along, people compared his fielding ability to that of Oscar Charleston. Oscar Charleston actually started with comparisons as the “black Tris Speaker,”  but, as Willie Mays achieved fame in his own right, people began to shift comparisons to the newst star light, and Oscar Charleston’s legend lived on as the old-school version of Willie Mays.

The world forgets most of us and whatever we do, but the world remembers forever the truly great at things we care about. And that list of forever famous American investments definitely includes baseball. And a center fielder named Oscar Charleston.

Oscar Charleston was born on October 14, 1896 in Indianapolis, Indiana. He joined the Army at age 15 and served out most of his enlistment time in The Philippines. After the service, he immediately began his baseball career with the Indianapolis ABC’s in 1915. Over time, Charleston served as a center fielder, fist baseman, and manager for the ABC’s, the Chicago American Giants, the Lincoln Stars, the St. Louis Giants, the Harrisburg Giants, the Philadelphia Hilldales, the Homestead Grays, and the Pittsburgh Crawfords. His career batting average was .348, but like most of the other great Negro Leaguers, integration came too late for Oscar Charleston against “official” major league pitching.

Oscar Charleston was an intelligent, fiery leader who once pulled the hood off a KKK buffoon in a down South confrontation with racists that threatened to grow ugly until Oscar made his bold move. Ignorance and evil backed off under the exposure to light and all further ugliness was avoided.

Sadly, death came early for oscar Charleston. He passed away on October 6, 1954 at the age of 57.

Oscar Charleston was later posthumously inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1976.





Martin Dihigo: Virtuoso in a Vacuum.

January 14, 2010

He was born of humble circumstances in Matanzas, Cuba on May 25, 1905. He grew up to be a 6’4″, 190 lb. professional baseball player who, batting and throwing right,  handled all nine field positions with exceptional skill. Most of those who saw him seem to agree that pitcher and second base were his best positions.

Dihigo never had a chance to play in the old white big leagues because of the color line, but he eventually earned his way into the baseball halls of fame of the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Mexico, Cuba, and Cooperstown by 1977, or by six years after his death at age 66 on May 20, 1971 in Cienfuegos, Cuba.

He was Martin Dihigo. He played baseball so well that stars like Buck Leonard, Johnny Mize, and Monte Irvin hint that he may have been the greatest baseball player that ever lived.

Dihigo was the consummate five-tool, do-it-all guy. He hit for power and average – and “they” say he could run, throw and catch with the best of the rest in the white majors and Negro leagues.

Here’s where it always gets tough when it comes to making an objective case for greatness based upon performance records of Negro leaguers. Record-keeping in the Negro leagues was often spotty and, because of segregation, it’s impossible to use data that shows how Negro leaguers have performed in direct competition with the white major leaguers of that their era over the long season. We are left with the testimonials of others as to their greatness and to the statistics we can find for the sake of drawing our own conclusions.

In the matter of Martin Dihigo, all I know is that I’ve never run across anything in writing that ever came close to describing him as anything less than phenomenal in all phases of the game. I decided to place my trust in these massive anecdotal references and to select Martin Dihigo as my all time third baseman. I only placed him on third base because I had the other bases covered well. Dihigo probably could have made the team at virtually any position. That’s how good these testimonial remarks imply that he was.

Martin Dihigo posted a .307 batting average and a .511 slugging average over the course of his twelve season career in the Negro League. His greatest year as a pitcher, however, came as a 1938 Mexican Leaguer when he won 18, lost 2, and posted a 0.90 earned run average, From the early 1920s through 1950. Martin Dihigo performed in the Negro American League and every baseball league that existed in Latin America, gathering all-star and MVP awards as though they were a bag of sunflower seeds. He may as well have performed in a vacuüm tube. Few observers of any credible power in the white media saw him play and, as we know, there is little moving film material and no electronic tape or digital moving photo record of Negro League action from back in the day.

Fortunately for Martin Dihigo, the few who did see or play with or against Martin Dihigo never forgot what they saw. To them, his eye-witness advocates, we say thank you for telling us all about a guy who may have been the greatest all round baseball player of all time.