In this page you will find a Player Biographies Roster for twenty-one players from the “Black Ball Era” or the Negro Leagues. For the four “free agent” pitchers that augment the Black Ball Stars roster, there is a highlight of their pitching accomplishments during their “Best Season” in the Major Leagues. Many great biography sources are available. I am going to keep my black ball bios focused on a few areas for these twenty-one Black Ball Era players.
- Where ranked in the Top 100 ballplayers (source – Bill James’ Historical Baseball Abstract, 2001) –
- Years played and years managed (source – National Baseball Hall of Fame website)
- Primary Negro League teams
- Two or three interesting facts about the player
Listed below are the best ballplayers of all time at each position, based on Bill James’ Historical Baseball Abstract, 2001, and their rank in the Top 100. This list will consist of the best players by position (includes two pitchers). Three Negro League Players are highlighted in green.
- Outfielders (OF) – Babe Ruth (1); Willie Mays (3); Oscar Charleston (4)
- Shortstop (SS) – Honus Wagner (2)
- Third Base (3B) – Mike Schmidt (21)
- Second Base (2B) – Joe Morgan (15)
- First Base (1B) – Lou Gehrig (14)
- Catcher – Josh Gibson (9)
- Pitchers – Walter Johnson (8) and Satchel Paige (17)
As you can see, three of the ten players listed above are from the Negro Leagues (30%). The bios of the 21 black ball stars will start with the Negro League players in the Top 100 Players of Baseball History, per baseball historian Bill James.
Eleven of the twenty one Black Ball Stars are in the Top 100 ranking.
The Black Ball Stars 25 man roster is included as a tab under BB Stars bios. The players statistical data is based on a 162 game season (comparable with today’s Major League schedule).
Oscar Charleston Rank – 4 DOB – October 4, 1896 Died – October 6, 1954 Years Played – 1920-1942 Years Managed – 1924-1954 (some years) Position – OF Primary Teams – Indianapolis ABCs; Harrisburg Giants; Pittsburgh Crawfords
Notes –Charleston was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame (HOF) in 1976. He is recognized by most baseball historians as the greatest all-around player in Negro League history. He was a great left-handed power hitter. He had great speed and was a very good base stealer and a great defensive outfielder with a very good throwing arm. He was known to have a mean streak. In fact, Charleston was a factor in the race riots in Indiana during the 1920s. After a disputed call, Charleston punched a white umpire in the face. The KKK had a strong presence in the state of Indiana during the 1920s.
Josh Gibson Rank – 9 DOB – December 21, 1911 Died – January 20, 1947 Years Played – 1930-1946 Years Managed – None Position – Catcher Primary Teams – Homestead Grays; Pittsburgh Crawfords
Notes – Gibson was inducted into the Baseball HOF in 1972. Baseball historian Bill James ranks Gibson as the greatest catcher in baseball history. He was a right-handed hitter and had tremendous power. He hit over 900 home runs. It is believed he is the only player to ever hit a home run over the roof and out of Yankee Stadium. Gibson died prematurely. Gibson died (thirty-five years old) from a suspected brain tumor.
Leroy “Satchel” Paige Rank – 17 DOB – July 7, 1906 Died – June 8, 1982 Years Played – 1926-1948 Years Managed – None Position – Pitcher Primary Teams – Pittsburgh Crawfords; Kansas City Monarchs
Notes – Paige was inducted into the Baseball HOF in 1971. He is recognized by most baseball historians as the premier pitcher in Negro League history. According to baseball historian Bill James, Walter “Big Train” Johnson was the only pitcher better than Paige. He was considered the first free agent in baseball history. Paige had no problem leaving his team for a weekend, weeks, or months if he could make more money. He drove his teammates, manager, owner, and fans crazy with his free spirit. In 1948, at the age of 42, he was signed by the Cleveland Indians in July. He posted a 6-1 record to help the Indians clinch the American League title and proceed to the World Series. This was the last World Series the Indians won.
Norman “Turkey” Stearnes Rank – 25 DOB – May 8, 1901 Died – September 4, 1979 Years Played – 1921-1940 Years Managed – None Position – OF Primary Teams – Detroit Stars; Chicago American Giants; Philadelphia Stars
Notes – Stearnes was inducted into the Baseball HOF in 2002. He won four batting titles in the 1920s. He was a left-handed power hitter. He was also an excellent outfielder, with great range and a strong arm. When he was with the Chicago American Giants, he was selected to four East-West All-Star Games. Turkey had an odd batting stance whereby he looked off balance, but pitchers had a hard time throwing the ball past him.
John “Pop” Lloyd Rank – 27 DOB – April 25, 1884 Died – March 19, 1965 Years Played – 1906-1932 Years Managed – Ten years Position – SS Primary Teams – Cuban X Giants; New York Lincoln Giants
Notes – Lloyd was inducted into the Baseball HOF in 1977. He was the best SS of his era and the top run producer. He was a switch hitter who had a consistently high on-base-percentage. A keen strategist, he was excellent on the bases and was among the top managers in black baseball. “I am honored to have John Lloyd called the Black Wagner. It is a privilege to have been compared to him.” Honus Wagner quote.
George “Mule” Suttles Rank – 43 DOB – March 2, 1901 Died – July 9, 1966 Years Played – 1923-1944 Years Managed – 1943-1944 Position – 1B, OF Primary Teams – St. Louis Stars; Newark Eagles
Notes – Suttles was inducted into the Baseball HOF in 2006 and played in five East-West All-Star contests. With his great range and strong arm, he was a great defensive player (1B, OF). He was one of the most feared right-handed sluggers in Negro League history.
Walter “Buck” Leonard Rank – 65 DOB – September 8, 1907 Died – November 27, 1997 Years Played – 1923-1948 Years Managed – None Position – 1B Primary Teams – Homestead Grays
Notes – Leonard was inducted into the Baseball HOF in 1972. Josh Gibson and the left-handed hitting Buck Leonard formed the most feared batting twosome in Negro League history. The Grays won the Negro National League pennant nine years in a row (1937-1945). He was a smooth-fielding first baseman.
Cristobal Torriente Rank – 67 DOB – November 16, 1893 Died – April 11, 1938 Years Played – 1913-1932 Years Managed – None Position – OF Primary Team – Chicago American Giants
Notes – Torriente was inducted into the Baseball HOF in 2006 and led the Chicago American Giants to three NNL Championships in a row (1920-1922). His clutch home run won the deciding game in the 1921 Championship. The notorious bad-ball hitting left-handed hitter excelled in the field, and he had an excellent throwing arm.
James “Cool Papa” Bell Rank – 76 DOB
– May 17, 1903 Died – March 7, 1991 Years Played – 1922-1946 Years Managed – None Position – OF Primary Teams – St. Louis Stars; Pittsburgh Crawfords; Homestead Grays
Notes – Bell was inducted into the Baseball HOF in 1974. A switch hitter, he was noted for his speed on the base paths. He had great ability as a lead-off hitter, and his defensive skills in the outfield were superb. Satchel Paige said, “Bell was so fast that he could shut the light off in the hotel room and be in bed before the light was out!”
Willie “El Diablo” Wells Rank – 86 DOB – August 10, 1905 Died – January 22, 1989 Years Played – 1924-1954 Years Managed – 1942, ‘45, ‘47, ‘54. Position – SS Primar Teams – St. Louis Stars; Newark Eagles
Notes – Wells was inducted into the Baseball HOF in 1997. Willie Wells hit right-handed, and he was the first shortstop to show dazzling skills in the field combined with home run power. He had great success in the Mexican League. As a manager, he was a great teacher and helped Monte Irvin and Don Newcombe when they were young players in the Negro Leagues.
Martin Dihigo Rank – 96 DOB – May 24, 1905 Died – May 20, 1971 Years Played – 1923-1936 Years Managed – 1935 Position – All Primary Teams – Cuban Stars; New York Cubans
Notes – Dihigo was inducted into the Baseball HOF in 1977. A native Cuban, Dihigo embarked upon his baseball career with the Cuban Stars in 1923. For thirteen years he remained one of black baseball’s stars, proving himself to be not only competent but exceptional at every position on the field. In the Best Season competition, Dihigo is a pitcher. Dihigo spent the off-season playing winter ball in his native Cuba. In his later years, he played ball all over Latin America.
Leon Day DOB – October 30, 1916 Died – March 13, 1995 Years Played – 1934-1950 Years Managed – None Position – Pitcher Primary Team – Newark Eagles
Notes – Day was inducted into the Baseball HOF in 1995. Day was a right-handed pitcher. Day had a great fast ball and a wicked curve ball. In 1937, his won and loss record with the Eagles was 13-0.
William Foster DOB – June 12, 1904 Died – September 16, 1978 Years Played – 1923-1937 Years Managed – None Position – Pitcher Primary Team – Chicago American Giants
Notes – Foster was inducted into the Baseball HOF in 1996. The side-armed left-hander had a great fastball, a devastating curve ball, and pinpoint control. His winning percentage in the Negro Leagues was over .700. In competition against Major League players, such as barnstorming exhibitions, his winning percentage was over .600. He led the Chicago American Giants to four Negro League World Series.
Wilber “Bullet Joe” Rogan DOB – July 28, 1889 Died – March 4, 1967 Years Played – 1917-1938 Years Managed – None Position – Pitcher Primary Team – Kansas City Monarchs
Notes – Rogan was inducted into the Baseball HOF in 1998. Though the right-handed Rogan was a small man, he threw a blazing fast ball and an assortment of other pitches, such as fork balls, palm balls, curves, and a spitter. He threw all these pitches from a quick, no wind-up delivery. He led the Kansas City Monarchs to four Negro League Titles.
Hilton Smith DOB – February 27, 1912 Died – November 18, 1983 Years Played – 1932-1948 Years Managed – None Position – Pitcher Primary Team – Kansas City Monarchs
Notes – Smith was inducted into the Baseball HOF in 2001. He was a stand-out right-handed pitcher who won twenty or more games for twelve years with the Monarchs, including an imposing record of 93-11 (1939-1942). He had a great fast ball and a sweeping curve ball. He played in six consecutive East-West All-Star Games (1937-1942) and was a member of seven Monarch pennant-winners and one World Series Championship team.
Raleigh “Biz” Mackey DOB – July 27, 1897 Died – September 22, 1965 Years Played – 1920-1947 Years Managed – 1941, 1946-1947 Position – Catcher Primary Teams – Hilldale Daisies; Philadelphia Stars: Newark Eagles
Notes – Mackey was inducted into the Baseball HOF in 2006. A switch hitter, he hit line drives all over the ball park. He was a mentor for Roy Campanella while Campy was in the Negro Leagues. A great leader and successful manager, he was also probably the best defensive catcher in Negro League history.
Judy Johnson DOB – October 26, 1899 Died – June 15, 1989 Years Played – 1918-1936 Years Managed – None Position – 3B Primary Teams – Hilldale Daisies; Pittsburgh Crawfords
Notes – Johnson was inducted into the Baseball HOF in 1975. He was a sure-gloved third baseman and a dependable .300 hitter with little power. He played in the first Negro League World Series in 1924.
Ray Dandridge DOB – August 31, 1913 Died – February 12, 1994 Years Played – 1933-1949 Years Managed – 1949 Position – 3B Primary Team – Newark Eagles
Notes – Dandridge was inducted into the Baseball HOF in 1987. He was a very good defensive third baseman. A right-handed contact hitter, he consistently hit over .300.
Monte Irvin DOB – February 25, 1919 Died – January 12, 2016 Years Played – 1937-1948 Years Managed – None Position – OF Primary Team – Newark Eagles
Notes – Irvin was inducted into the Baseball HOF in 1973. He was a high average right-handed hitter with good power, an above-average outfielder with a very good throwing arm, and a very successful Major League player with the New York Giants. He played in two World Series. He was the Giants hitting star (.458 average) in a losing cause (1951) and played on the World Championship team in 1954. In July 2011, my grandson, Caleb and I had the honor of spending 20-25 minutes with Monte Irvin. He was a very gracious and humble man.
Newt Allen DOB – May 19, 1901 Died – June 11, 1988 Years Played – 1922-1942 Years Managed – 1937 Position – 2B Primary Team – Kansas City Monarchs
Notes – The diminutive 5’7” Allen was a great second baseman. He was a switch hitter who could bunt and slap the ball to all fields. A successful base-stealer, he had great speed. He was a team leader who guided the Monarchs in their dominating years (1937-1942).
Frankie Warfield DOB – 1895 Died – July 24, 1932 Years Played – 1915-1932 Years Managed – 1924-1925, 1929 Position – 2B Primary Teams – Detroit Stars; Hilldale Daisies; Baltimore Elite Giants
Notes – A contact hitter, the right-handed Warfield was a great second baseman.
Special Note – In 1993 when our Pursue the Pennant Hall of Fame/All Star Card Set was created, nine of the above twenty-one players were in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. We created twenty-one Negro League player cards in the set to provide the minimum number of players that could provide a team with enough players by position. We wanted our customers to be able to play these black ball stars in competition as a team, if they so desired. Nineteen of these twenty-one players are now in the National Baseball HOF. The two second basemen, Newt Allen and Frankie Warfield are not in the National Baseball HOF. As of 2011, I believe there are now thirty-nine players from the Negro Leagues who are enshrined in the National Baseball HOF. Below are notes on four free agent pitchers, which increases the black ball roster to 25 players. The data is from Total Baseball (1993 edition)5.
Don Newcombe Free Agent – Pitcher Best Season – 1956 Dodgers
Notes – Newcombe led the league in wins (27); winning percentage (.794); and opponents batting average (.221). He also led in Total Pitching Index (3.9). Newcombe began his baseball career in the Negro Leagues.
Luis Tiant Free Agent – Pitcher Best Season – 1968 Indians
Notes – Tiant led the league in shutouts (9); fewest hits/game (5.3); opponents batting average (.168); and ERA (1.60). He was third in Total Pitching Index (4.0). Tiant’s dad, Lefty Tiant, had a 10-0 record on the 1947 New York Cubans, the Negro League champs.
R. Richard Free Agent – Pitcher Best Season – 1979 Astros
Notes – Richard led the league in fewest hits/game (6.77); strikeouts (strikeouts/game (9.64); opponents batting average (.209); and ERA (2.71). He was second in Total Pitching Index (2.7). Richard’s career was cut short because of heart problems.
Donnie Moore Free Agent – Pitcher Best Season – 1985 Angels
Notes – Moore led the league in Relief Ranking (51.9), and he was third in Saves (31). Moore committed suicide one year after retiring from Major League Baseball in 1989.
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Bob, The Baseball Man