What We Missed

Roy Campanella in gear

As I’ve mentioned a couple of times recently Seamheads takes its players and runs their statistics out to a 162 game schedule. That gives us some idea what we missed by segregating the great Negro League players. It also gives us a rough look at the totality of the career of those players who made the transition from the Negro Leagues to the Major Leagues.

Let me give you two sets of numbers:

Triple Slash Line A: .327/.385/.488/.872

Triple Slash Line B: .276/.360/.500/.860

OPS+ A: 145; OPS+: 123

Hits A: 183; Hits B: 155

Runs A: 107; Runs B: 84

HR A: 14; HR B: 32

RBI A: 124; RBI B: 114

WAR A: 5.0; WAR B: 3.4

Two good sets of numbers, right? Well, they belong to the same player, Roy Campanella (The picture above gave it away, right?). “A” represents Seamheads interpretation of Campanella’s career over a 162 game schedule in the Negro Leagues (1937-1945). “B” represents the BaseballReference interpretation of Campanella’s career over a 162 game schedule in the Major Leagues (1948-1957).

So what do we make of these numbers? Well, there’s a lot of things we can try to make of them, but let’s start by acknowledging that the first set of numbers begin at age 15 while the last set begin at age 26. Part of the Negro League numbers include a rather steep learning curve as Campy begins his career in his mid-teens. The second set of numbers deal with him as a mature player. Also recall that Roy Campanella is a catcher and catcher’s tend to age poorly. And while we’re at it, remember that the Negro League stats are based on significantly fewer documented games.

Having said that, we can note that he’s a very good player in both leagues. It really can’t tell us the quality of play in the Negro Leagues, because of the age differences and the number of games involved, but it’s one way to give us a taste of the quality of play available in the Negro Leagues.

Sadly, it’s only a taste. Fans of baseball, both black and white, were robbed by the Jim Crow system of the ability to see some of the best players available in the period prior to 1950. Sure, a white person could buy a ticket to a black game, but they weren’t encouraged to do so and the same is true of black people. I finish this yearly look at the Negro Leagues with a bit of wistfulness, because I know a number of baseball fans, almost all of which are gone now, never got to see all the great players of their era.



One Response to “What We Missed”

  1. wkkortas Says:

    Well stated–one can only imagine the numbers of an Oscar Charleston or Josh Gibson, and even the numbers of a Monte Irvin, a Larry Doby, a Minnie Minoso all have that air of “What if?”

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