Showing posts with label Cleveland Buckeyes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cleveland Buckeyes. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Documents reveal the accounting behind Negro League baseball

Negro League teams barnstormed the country not only in search of the next game to play, but the next paycheck as well. Clubs would routinely play multiple games per day to maximize their earning potential while the sun was still shining. Recently, due to the finds of collector and memorabilia dealer Jim Stinson, individual game ledgers have surfaced showing how each club split the gate at games.

Joe Black - Baltimore Elite Giants
In one document dated July 18, 1950, the carefully calculated accounting for a game between the Birmingham Black Barons and the Baltimore Elite Giants showed not only the attendance, but the divisions for taxes, the league's percentage, as well as what was paid to both the home club and visitors. The visiting Elite Giants split $164.29, which amounted to approximately $10 per man, furthering their impetus to play as often as possible. Baseball fans might recognize the signature of the Elite Giants representative Joe Black, who won the 1952 Rookie of the Year Award with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

1950 Ledger with Joe Black

1950 Ledger with Ted "Double Duty" Radcliffe
1942 Black Barons vs Memphis Red Sox Ledger

1942 Black Barons vs Memphis Red Sox Ledger

1950 Black Barons vs Houston Eagles Ledger signed by Bob Harvey

1950 Black Barons vs Buckeyes Ledger signed by George Jefferson

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Hank Presswood, 93, veteran of five Negro League seasons

Another ballplayer has taken his stories of the playing in the segregated Negro Leagues to the grave. On Monday, I was informed by Bob Kendrick, Director of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum that Hank Presswood, a former shortstop in the Negro Leagues with the Cleveland Buckeyes and the Kansas City Monarchs, passed away on December 27, 2014 in Chicago at the age of 93.

Born October 7, 1921 in Electric Mills, Mississippi, Presswood cut his teeth playing for sandlot clubs in his hometown. Content with playing locally, it wasn’t until after he returned from serving in the Army during World War II that the professional leagues snatched him up … literally.

“Willie Grace went to the Buckeyes and he was the one who told them about me,” Presswood said to me during a 2010 phone interview. “He was from Laurel, Mississippi. One day I was working and who was at my job, Grace and the foreman! He asked me about going, and I wanted to go you know. … I said, ‘What in the world are you doing here, I thought you were with the Buckeyes?’ He said, ‘I am with the Buckeyes, but I told them about you. I came after you.’ I was really surprised. I accepted and went on up there.”

Presswood as a member of the 1948 Cleveland Buckeyes
Presswood left for Cleveland in 1948 and immediately he was installed as their shortstop, playing alongside such greats as Sam Jethroe and Sam “Toothpick” Jones. It was a big step for a first-year player to crack the lineup of the defending champs of the Negro American League.

“Cleveland had won the championship the year before I came in there, but I was their shortstop!” he said. “I ain't braggin', I could play any position, but my regular position was shortstop.”

At 27, Presswood was at the peak of his career physically. He said that his gifts on the field helped carry him through the game as he learned his way around the league.

“At that time I was fast,” he said. “I could do what I wanted to do because I was fast. I had a good throwing arm too. I used to play deep shortstop. As I learned the hitters, I might move over towards second or third, or come in; it depended on the hitter. As you learn the fundamentals of how to play your position, it helps out. Sometimes you see different hitters which way they hit the ball.”

Presswood played with Buckeyes until they folded in 1950. He was picked up by the Kansas City Monarchs, who were coached by the legendary Buck O’Neil. The skipper gave him the nickname of “Baby,” which stuck with him well after his career was over.

"I played two years with the Monarchs,” he said. “That's when I got my nickname. Buck O'Neil called me 'Baby'. Everyone calls me now Hank 'Baby' Presswood, and I'm two years younger than Santa Claus!"

Preswood held the late ambassador of the Negro Leagues with the highest esteem. O’Neil was his mentor both on and off the field.

"He was the greatest,” he said. “He was a good ballplayer himself. He was something else. When he passed, that really hurt because he was like a father to me."

He remained active by playing fast-pitch softball after stepping away from the Monarchs in 1952. His experience as a professional ballplayer in the Negro Leagues made him a standout on the softball diamond.

“I went to the Steel Mills and played fast pitch softball,” he said. “I have trophies on top of trophies. They couldn't fool me being an old ballplayer.”

The old ballplayer received his due recognition as an octogenarian, when in 2008, he was “drafted” by the Chicago White Sox in an honorary Negro Leagues draft. Two years later in 2010, Topps honored him with a baseball card in their Allen and Ginter set. At the age of 88, he remarked about finally having a “rookie” card.
Presswood's 2010 Topps Card

"I was really grateful for it,” he said. “It was really nice man. They even have when I played softball on that card. They had everything about my ball playing."

The set, which is popular with collectors, kept Presswood busy answering his mail. He enjoyed obliging the fans.

"I get a pile of letters every day,” he said. “Sometimes I can get them right in the mail, other days, it takes a day or so. I'm enjoying it. I'm proud that people are interested."

The increased popularity of the Negro Leagues allowed Presswood to experience the adulation of the younger generation. He just returned from an appearance at a local high school when we caught up on the phone.

"Seeing the kids is the best thing that ever happened,” he said. “I feel really proud when we talk to the kids. It's really exciting. They get a big bang out of us being there. We're gone all the time, at different places and ball games."

Well removed from his playing days, Presswood remained passionate about the game that consumed him. Once baseball season came around, he was back to doing what he loved, watching baseball.

"I'll tell you what,” he said, “I just love the game. When the Cubs and the White Sox are playing, I don't care what I have to do, I finish what I have to do, get my seat and watch the game."

Funeral services will be held Saturday January 3, 2015 at True Believers Baptist Church, 7801 S. Walcott, Chicago, Illinois, 60620.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Marvin Price, 81, youngest to play in the Negro Leagues

Marvin Price, a feared hitter in the Negro Leagues, who was regarded as the youngest player ever to suit up in an official Negro League game, passed away July 31, 2013 in Chicago. His niece Maria Stimpson confirmed his death on Thursday that came after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease. He was 81.

Price was born in Chicago on April 5, 1932, the second youngest child to Mary Emma Anderson Price and Porter Earl Price. As a youngster, he developed a passionate appetite for the sport.

"One day, Marvin couldn't come out to play [baseball] because he was sick,” said his sister Gloria Price Stimpson. “The other boys would look up to Marvin, who would be standing in the window, and they'd ask him to make the call – ‘out, safe, foul ball, or fair ball’. He always imagined that baseball would play a huge role in his life.”

Marvin Price - 1995 On-Field Pre-Game Ceremony - M. Stimpson
At the tender age of 14, professional baseball soon became a reality for Price when he was spotted playing baseball in Washington Park by legendary Chicago American Giants outfielder Jimmie Crutchfield. A tryout was soon arranged with owner J.B. Martin at Comiskey Park, where manager Quincy Trouppe initially thought he was the new batboy. It didn’t take long for him to show he wasn’t there to distribute the equipment.

“Dr. J.B. Martin and my family was out there before batting practice at Comiskey Park and I put on a show for ‘em,” said Price in Brent P. Kelley’s, “The Negro Leagues Revisited".

The American Giants decided to take Price on a trip down South, where he could play without jeopardizing his amateur status back in Chicago. Facing the hardened veterans of the black leagues, Price’s mettle was immediately tested after a strong display of hitting.

“I doubled and got hit in the side of the face and got right back in there and doubled again. He told me I had a lot of nerve and guts, so just keep playing,” he said.

After a week, Price returned home to Englewood High School for fear of getting caught playing in the league. He graduated high school in 1949, and caught on as a first baseman with Cleveland Buckeyes. This started a four-year run for Price in the league, playing with the New Orleans Eagles in 1950 and for his hometown Giants from 1951-52. While playing in Chicago, he batted an incredible .390 in 1951, according to the Chicago Defender.

Just as it looked like Price was on the path to major league stardom, his career was interrupted when he enlisted into the military in 1952, where he served four years for the United States Coast Guard.

With the Negro Leagues on the decline after his return, Price played in semi-pro leagues, never losing his love for the game. He used his experience in the Negro Leagues to share with the high school athletes coached by his brother-in-law.

“When my dad started coaching high school baseball, Marvin would frequently show up to teach the boys how to play shortstop -- and they loved it,” said Maria Stimpson. “Even when Marvin wasn't on the field, he was known to just jump up out of the blue and punctuate his conversations with all sorts of animated baseball moves.”

Price went on to work as a supervisor in the Chicago post office for 30 years. Still drawn to the game, he continued to work part-time with the Chicago Park District, where he drew the admiration of the local youth, teaching them the finer points of baseball at Jackson Park Field House.

“Kids have a lot of respect for me ‘cause they know I tell ‘em the truth. I’ve been a lucky man,” Price said.

He is survived by a son and daughter, two granddaughters, two sisters, four nieces, five nephews, and a host of friends throughout the United States. A memorial service will be announced at a later date.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Remembering Negro League pitching ace Ross 'Satchel' Davis, 94

I had the opportunity to speak with Ross "Satchel" Davis in 2008 for an hour about baseball. I wish that I had recorded the interview, as it was extremely spirited and informative. Around the same time I spoke with him, another writer went and visited him at his home in Garwood, Texas, and posted a wonderful article about their meeting.

This tribute below captures the essence of what I remember about Ross "Satchel" Davis from the encounter I had with him on the phone. He was kind enough to send a bunch of photos and custom baseball cards with a stamped signature, as he couldn't sign his name at that time.

Ross “Satchel” Davis, former pitcher for the Cleveland Buckeyes of the Negro Leagues, passed away at the age of 94 from complications due to pneumonia early in the morning on January 1st, 2013 at the DeBakey VA hospital in Houston, Texas according to his close friend Sarah Perry. Perry is the daughter of Melinda Ramsey, the family whom Davis lived with during the past few years in the Houston suburb of Garwood.

Ross 'Satchel' Davis signed photo
Davis was born on July 28, 1918 in Greenville, Mississippi. He pitched in the Negro Leagues from 1940-47 with the Baltimore Elite Giants, Cleveland Buckeyes, New York Black Yankees, and Boston Blues. His career highlights included pitching a no-hitter with Roy Campanella as his catcher as a member of the Baltimore Elite Giants against a potent Newark Eagles lineup that included Hall of Famers Biz Mackey, Monte Irvin, and Willie Wells in 1940, and pitching in the 1947 Negro World Series as a member of the Negro American League champion Cleveland Buckeyes.

His career was interrupted due to his military service in World War II from November 1943 through the end of the 1945 season. During his Army service, he was awarded a Bronze Star. Despite receiving a discharge that forbade him from playing baseball due to a bout with hepatitis in the service, Davis signed with Boston Blues of Branch Rickey’s United States League in 1946. Eventually he made his way back to the Buckeyes the following year, posting a 5-1 record during their run to the Negro World Series. At the end of the season due to persistent health problems, he called it quits at the age of 29. Despite his early exit from the game, in a 2006 interview with the Long Beach Telegram, he looked back with fond admiration at his playing days.

"No doubt those seasons were some of the best times of my life," he said. "Of course, like I said, those also were hard years, and when it became a job rather than a game I quit. I can thank the good Lord that all that segregation we faced is past now. Still, I think I'd rather have played then because even with all we had to deal with, the game was only about the game. We didn't do all the posturing you see now. If we hit a home run, we'd run around the bases like we were trying to turn a single into a double, not stand there and look at the ball like some guys do now. We'd call that showboating, and that just wasn't done in our day.”

Davis’ signature pitch was his fastball, which earned him the respect of the mighty Josh Gibson, and praise from the man whom he shared the same nickname, Satchel Paige. In an interview with author Brent P. Kelley in the 2003 book, “I Will Never Forget,” he explained how he earned his moniker.
“Satchel gave me that name when he came through St. Louis,” he said. “I was warming up getting’ ready to go in the fourth, and he came down and wanted to know who was this young fella throwin’ these salt tablets. They said, ‘That’s Ross Davis.’ He [Satchel] said, ‘Well, he throws the ball harder’n me.’ Of course, the guys didn’t have any idea they were gonna hit Satchel, so they knew that we were comin’ behind Satchel. They started grittin’ their teeth, taking their vicious practice swings, and Satchel with his big mouth said, ‘No need for you so-and-so’s diggin’ in. That’s my son out there. He throws the ball harder’n I do.’ The news papers took it up, started to call me ‘Satchel Paige’ Davis, and then they reduced it to ‘Satchel’ Davis.”
Davis was living in Long Beach, Calif., when he met Melinda Ramsey and her husband through the Internet. They formed a special bond, and invited him to live in an apartment in their home. Davis accepted, and Perry said his presence was more than they ever imagined.

“He took us in,” Perry said. “He was the best friend you could ever have. He had lots of stories, lots of advice ... just a perfect friend.” 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Joe Caffie Indians outfielder who started in the Negro Leagues, dies at 80

Joe Caffie, the Cleveland Indians an outfielder who started with the Cleveland Buckeyes of the Negro Leagues in 1950, passed away at his home in Warren, Ohio, on August 1st, 2011. He was 80.

"I have seen a lot of fast ones, but Caffie is the fastest, and that includes guys like Sam Jethroe," the legendary Luke Easter said in Moffi & Kronstadt’s Crossing the Line.

Caffie had his start as an outfielder with the Cleveland Buckeyes of the Negro Leagues in 1950, before being signed by the Indians in 1951. He died at his home in Warren, Ohio, on August 1st, 2011. He was 80.

Speed was his trademark, which was evident when he led Class-C Duluth with 18 triples and a .342 batting average in 1952. He led the league in six batting categories en route to winning the MVP award for the Northern League, which earned him a promotion to AAA Indianapolis.

Caffie continued to perform well at the AAA level, swiping bases, legging out extra-base hits and covering much ground in the outfield. Finally, Caffie was brought up to the Cleveland Indians in September, 1956. He hit .342 in 12 games and played without making an error on defense.

Unfortunately for Caffie, he did not make the club out of spring training in 1957. With the emergence of young stars Roger Maris and Rocky Colavito, as well as the veteran presence of Al Smith and Gene Woodling, manager Kerby Farrell could not find a spot for Caffie in the crowded Indians outfield.

Determined to find his way back to the major leagues, Caffie batted .330 for AAA Buffalo, making the International League All-Star team. When the Tribe optioned catcher Dick Brown in early August, Caffie was summoned from Buffalo. Only a few weeks later against the New York Yankees, Caffie would have what was his best game in his major league career, going 4-5, while swatting his first major league home run. He finished the season with three round-trippers in only 89 at-bats.

He spent the next three seasons at the AAA level, never receiving the call to return to the majors. He ended his playing career in 1961 with Charlotte. He returned to Warren, where he worked as a laborer at Thomas Steel for 37 years before retiring.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Hank Presswood is honored with Topps baseball card

Former Negro League shortstop Hank "Baby" Presswood has finally received his first official baseball card 62 years after his debut. Presswood played with the Cleveland Buckeyes and Kansas City Monarchs between 1948 and 1952. He was honored with a card in the 2010 Topps Allen and Ginter set. This honor has been part of an ongoing attempt since 2007 by Topps to recognize the living Negro League greats that did not have the opportunity to be featured during their playing careers.

In a July 2010 phone interview with Presswood, he remarked about the excitement of having his "rookie" card at the age of 88.  The fan response has been overwhelming.

"I was really grateful for it," Presswood said. "It was really nice man. They even have when I played softball on that card. They had everything about my ballplaying. I get a pile of letters every day! Sometimes I can get them right in the mail, other days, it takes a day or so. I'm enjoying it. I'm proud that people are interested."

Hank Presswood / Topps
The increased popularity of the Negro Leagues has allowed Presswood to experience the adulation of the younger generation. He had just returned from giving an apperance at a local high school when we caught up on the phone.

"We get invited to these things," he said. "We were at Stevenson on the North Side today. I just got back from there. Seeing the kids is the best thing that ever happened. I feel really proud when we talk to the kids. It's really exciting. They get a big bang out of us being there. We're gone all the time, at different places and ball games."

While Presswood has outlived most of his peers, his nickname "Baby" still sticks. He explained how the legendary Buck O'Neil bestowed the youthful moniker upon him.

"I played two years with the Monarchs," he explained. "That's when I got my nickname. Buck O'Neil called me "Baby". Everyone calls me now Hank "Baby" Presswood and I'm two years younger than Santa Claus! He was the greatest. He was a good ballplayer himself. He was something else. When he passed, that really hurt because he was like a father to me."

Presswood continues to have the passion for the game of a wide eyed youngster, even after being far removed from his playing days.

"I'll tell you what, I just love the game," he said. "When the Cubs and the White Sox are playing, I don't care what I have to do, I finish what I have to do, get my seat and watch the game."