Over the past several months, a small team from Chop’s Guide has been compiling information to ensure that one of the most under-reported parts of major American sports doesn’t die soon. It is a daunting task, compiling names and stats and teams and fields of a time when most playing weren’t even known outside of their teammates or family.
The Negro Leagues spanned decades, from somewhere around 1887 to shortly after the mass integration of Major League Baseball in 1947. The fact that Jackie Robinson is the answer 96% of the time to the question “what is the first name you think of when asked about the Negro Leagues” is the reason that this research is needed.
Teams and players soon to be completely forgotten by time, players such as William Bell of Arkansas, a thin man who played quality outfield for several teams over the course of 20 years in the Negro Minor Leagues.
With only one arm. Barely a nub.
Players that worked a full day in the mines, or the fields, or on a roof, sweating the day away only to play 9 innings that night in a game they loved to play.
A game that was predominately white.
With white fans and white superstars.
White sponsor money and air time and advertisements.
Players who endured lengthy road trips on broken down buses and played three to four games a day just to make enough money to buy a cheeseburger meal, but only if they went out back to be served away from the whites enjoying the inside amenities of ceiling fans and bug screens and shade.
A time when blacks played for the love of the game, well before they ever had hope of playing with the whites in the Majors.
It wasn’t the fact that they couldn’t compete, it was the fact that they weren’t allowed.
Although much better than most in the Majors, they were forced to find circuits of their own, channels that catered to blacks, both fans, and players.
I love baseball.
To me, it is America’s game.
It’s just as American as apple pie and the Tuskegee Airmen.
My hope, and the hope of the team, is to preserve the actual history of the lost leagues so that future generations know of people like George “Mule” Suttles, a 6’6″ 230-pound coal miner that some say swung a 60-ounce bat.
Almost five pounds of wood, twice that of most people who have ever played the game. Like swinging a pine tree.
And the fact that Suttles cranked out 11 home runs in 72 career at bats against white major league opponents proved that most would have not only held their own in the majors, they would have excelled beyond even the superstars of the day.
The Babe Ruth’s, the Joe Dimaggio’s, the Christy Mathewson’s.
Over the next few years, we will share stories that we find on the road to saving The Negro Leagues as we try to centralize stats, names, and all information associated with not only the Negro Majors but all minor league teams as well.
We hope you enjoy our journey.