Posts Tagged ‘Dick Redding’

The Lincolns

February 16, 2017
Lincoln Giants jersey from 1910

Lincoln Giants jersey from 1910

When we think of Negro League teams, most think of the later Negro League teams such as the Crawfords, the Grays, or the Eagles. But way back before the founding of the first of the famous Negro Leagues, the Negro National League of the 1920s, there were other leagues and other teams. One of the more dominant of the early 20th Century teams was the Lincoln Giants of New York.

There is a bit of question about their origins. Their Wikipedia page indicates that an ancestry can be traced back to Nebraska in the 1890s, but doesn’t indicate how they got to New York. More conventional sources indicate that Jess McMahon (of the current WWE wrestling McMahon’s) was a prominent sports promoter in New York with extensive interests in Harlem. In 1911 he joined with Sol White to form the Lincoln Giants. It was a formidable team that immediately began to dominate black baseball in New York. With Hall of Famers John Henry Lloyd, Louis Santop, Smokey Joe Williams, and the likes of Spottswood Poles, Bill Pettus, and Cannonball Dick Redding (God, I love old-time nicknames) they dominated Eastern black baseball into 1914. In 1913 they played an unofficial black championship against the pride of the Midwestern black leagues, the Chicago American Giants, led by Rube Foster. The exact number of games and wins in the series is in some question, but there is agreement that the Lincolns won the series.

the 1911 Lincoln Giants

the 1911 Lincoln Giants

By 1914, McMahon was in financial trouble. He sold the Lincoln Giants, but retained the contracts of several of the big stars. He formed a new team, the Lincoln Stars, and competed directly with his old team. The Stars lasted to 1917, folded, and most of the remaining former Giants went back to their old club.

According to the Seamheads website, the Lincoln Giants were still doing well in the 1914-17 period, but fell off some due to the loss of many of their stars. By this point Smokey Joe Williams was doubling as ace pitcher and manager. It was the height of his Hall of Fame career. But the team ran up against a formidable foe off the diamond. Nat Strong (see my post “The Schedule Man” of 20 August 2015) controlled scheduling for black baseball in New York at the time and the Lincolns wanted to play more games than Strong was willing to schedule. They attempted to schedule some games without going through Strong, and were thrown out of the existing league structure in New York. Barnstorming followed.

With the founding Foster’s Negro National League, the eastern teams found it to their advantage to form their own league, the Eastern Colored League, in 1923. The Lincolns were a significant member of the league. They never won a league championship, finishing as high as third in 1924. By 1928 the ECL was on life support. A changing economy, weak teams, chaos at the top of the league (again another story for another time), and the dominance of Foster’s NNL, caused it to collapse.

The remnants of the ECL formed a new league, the American Negro League in 1929. It lasted one year. The Lincoln Giants held on one more year in a declining economy and finally folded after the 1930 season.

During their existence, the New York Lincoln Giants were dominant in the East. They won unofficial championships most of the decade of the 19-teens and led Strong’s New York league most years (which is why they thought they could challenge him). They provided Eastern black baseball with some of the greatest players of the era in Lloyd, Wood, Santop, Redding, and later Hall of Famer Turkey Stearnes. Not a bad legacy.

the 1911 version of the Lincoln Giants cap

the 1911 version of the Lincoln Giants cap

The Bacharachs

February 19, 2015
Bacharach Giants Logo

Bacharach Giants Logo

If you ask most people to name a Negro League team, odds are you’ll get the Monarchs or the Grays or the Crawfords. A few might know the American Giants or the Eagles. One of the better teams that’s mostly unknown today was the Bacharach Giants.

Originally the Duval Giants of Jacksonville, Florida, the Giants’ owners Henry Tucker and Tom Jackson moved the team to Atlantic City in 1916. Atlantic City mayor Harry Bacharach (who is a character on television’s “Boardwalk Empire”)  was looking for ways to improve the city economy and Tucker and Jackson agreed to move the team. In honor of the mayor, the team was renamed the Bacharach Giants, a name it kept until its demise. As far as I can tell, Bacharach never owned any part of the team but was supportive of them. They made money initially, but by 1918 were in trouble as World War I took away fans and money.

In 1919 they relocated to New York becoming the New York Bacharach Giants. By then they were so well-known as “Bacharach Giants” that they retained the team nickname despite have left both New Jersey and Harry Bacharach. They did poorly in New York and by 1922 were back in Atlantic City (and the name stayed around despite Bacharach no longer being mayor). They became associated members of the Negro National League, meaning that they could play sanctioned games against the NNL teams, but were not eligible for the pennant. This worked well by allowing the Bacharach Giants to both play the premier teams of the era but to also barnstorm around the East Coast making money.

In 1923 the Eastern Colored League was formed with the Bacharach Giants as a charter member. They finished fourth in both 1923 and 1924. Finishing fourth again in 1925 led to major overhaul of the team. Manager John Henry Lloyd was traded and shortstop Dick Lundy took over the team. A line up featuring Oliver Marcell at third, Red Ferrell in the outfield, and pitchers Arthur “Rats” Henderson, and Red Grier led the Bacharachs to the ECL title in 1926.

After two successful Colored World Series (renamed Negro World Series in 1942) matchups, the NNL and ECL hosted a best of nine series in 1926. The Bacharachs faced the Chicago American Giants (Rube Foster’s old team). The Series last 11 games (two ties) and Grier, in game three, tossed the first no-hitter in postseason play, but the American Giants won game 11 by a run. It was Grier’s second no-hitter of the season (the other against the Elite Giants).

The Bacharach Giants repeated as ECL champs again in 1927 and again faced the American Giants in the postseason series. This time they lost in eight games, but again a Bacharach pitcher, this time Ferrell (who now pitched more than he played the outfield), tossed a no-hitter. In 1928 they were in second when the ECL folded due to financial difficulties.

In 1929 a number of Eastern clubs formed the American Negro League. It lasted one season and the Bacharachs again became a barnstorming independent team. By 1930 they were in deep trouble and there is debate about what happened next. One source says they folded, another that they were sold. Either way the team resurfaced in Philadelphia in 1931. Still called the Bacharach Giants they remained independent until 1934 when they joined the newly revived Negro National League. They stayed two seasons then returned to independent play. They hung on into 1942 when they finally disbanded.

Over the life of the team some truly great players wandered through the Bacharachs. Hall of Famer John Henry Lloyd played short and managed the team. Dick Lundy and Oliver Marcell spent most of the 1920s in Atlantic City (and both have solid cases to join the Hall of Fame).  “Cannonball” Dick Redding pitched for them before they joined the Eastern Colored League.

For a very short time the Bacharach’s were a top-notch Negro League team. They produced great players, but were never able to stand at the top of the Negro Leagues. They are, in short, a fairly typical Negro League team.

 

Who Got Left Out?

February 28, 2014
"Cannonball" Dick Redding

“Cannonball” Dick Redding

Back in 2006 the Hall of Fame created a special “Veteran’s Committee” to look at Negro League baseball and determine if there were players, owners, managers, executives, and/or others that had been ignored by Cooperstown. A great deal of research went into the files handed to the committee. For the layman, the most important bits of the research was published as Shades of Glory. A panel of baseball historians eventually came up with a list of 94 African-Americans involved with baseball prior to 1946 for the committee (now called the Committee on African-American Baseball) to look over and pass judgment on. Of that list, 39 made the initial cut. The committee then selected 17 for enshrinement in Cooperstown. After all the hoopla of induction and fuss and feathers about who got in and who didn’t, a great stillness settled over the Hall. It was as if they were saying, “OK, team, we’ve done our bit. We put in a bunch of people, so now that’s all. There won’t be anymore.” Of course they never really said that, but any push to add further Negro League players or executives has come more from fans than the powers that be.

So it’s a fair question to ask what about the 77 nominees who didn’t make the cut in 2006? Are they now relegated to the dustbin of history or do they have a chance to make the Hall at a later time? Another question that needs to be asked is this, have we truly reached the end of those Negro League players who should be commemorated in Cooperstown?

If you look over the list of 77 non-inductees (and it’s available on Wikipedia under “Baseball Hall of Fame Balloting, 2006”) there are some really fine players being pushed to the sidelines. Where, for instance, are Bud Fowler and George Stovey, arguably two of the three finest black players of the 19th Century (Frank Grant, who made it, being the other)? Spottswood Poles was an excellent fielding, but not great hitting middle infielder in the early part of the 20th Century. Between 1911 and 1919 “Cannonball” Dick Redding was 40-20 in documented games, a .667 winning percentage. In the formal Negro Leagues of the 1920s through 1940s Newt Allen played middle infield, managed, and eventually moved to third base for the Kansas City Monarchs in a career that saw him play in the 1924 Negro World Series and the 1942 Negro World Series. John Donaldson was a crack pitcher for years, then became the first fulltime black scout in MLB when the White Sox signed him in 1949. And then there is Buck O’Neil, manager, first baseman, scout, coach, batting champion, and spokesman for the Negro Leagues.

It seems appropriate to end Black History Month (and my yearly journey through black baseball) by asking what do we make of these men being left out of the Hall of Fame? Perhaps nothing. Their stats are blurred, they are in many cases more legend than fact. But they were real players and they played at the highest level they were allowed. Maybe none of them are Hall of Fame quality players. In O’Neil’s case he is more than worthy as a contributor and ambassador, but maybe some of them are of sufficient quality as players. What I don’t want to see is the Hall of Fame now grow complacent and say “Well, we’ve got enough of these guys. Close the door.” I hope that the Veteran’s Committee that reviews the “Segregation Era” (pre-1947) will continue to look at Negro League players and eventually induct a few more.