February is Black History Month in the US and I generally spend the entire month looking at black baseball. This month I wanted to finish the posts on the 1948-50 Boston Red Sox, so I’m starting this year’s look just a little late.
I’m in a Fantasy Baseball league. Kevin, our commissioner, wanted to add in Negro League players (we’re replaying the 1911 season) and because the statistics were really sparse, he had to jury rig a system that would allow the black players to function within the rules of the league but not tip play balance either for against them. As neither he nor I (nor anyone else for that matter) knew if what he’d done would work, I ended up with an experimental all black team. The idea was to find out how well each player functioned without teams (other than mine) having to figure out how to work with experimental statistical information. So far I’m in first place with about a dozen games to play which says a lot more about the quality of the work our commissioner did and the quality of the players than it does about my managerial and general managerial abilities.
I’m telling you this because it reinforces one of the primary problems when dealing with black baseball before 1950. The statistical information is spotty. In the case of my fantasy team John Henry Lloyd only has enough information available to get him into about 50 games of a 154 game season. Pete Hill gets about 75 games. Louis Santop can make about 100 games. All three are Hall of Famers. And some of the statistics are quite simply a best guess (or at least close to it–Kevin did a great job figuring out how to add the player’s information in to the existing system). And this brings up one of the greatest problems with trying to deal with the black leagues of the era.
Exactly how good were these guys? Frankly I don’t know and neither does anyone else. I, and everyone else, can make educated guesses and the working around of stats in something as unimportant in the grand scheme of things like a fantasy league can provide a glimpse of what almost all of our parents and grandparents missed. But ultimately, it is only a glimpse.
And that’s what I can provide here; a mere glimpse. I hope you’ll enjoy this year’s glimpses (many of which are short biographies of players on my fantasy team).