Lately, as the television lingers on movies of old-time baseball, more-and-more is being told of the Negro League top-stars of the 1920s-1940s. In baseball, everything is tradition... 'I saw you on television last night'... is a common refrain spoken among the players of the Negro League... and: - 'You guys were as good as many that played in the then all-white major leagues.' Baseball changed dramatically after portable lights were brought to night games featuring the barnstorming Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro League. Night baseball then followed in the minor leagues. Of course, radio broadcasts of baseball - often-times in recreation grew in the major leagues during the 1930s - bringing a whole new audience to the national past-time. Lights were added to major league stadiums after it was figured out that quick revenue could be added to the owners' pockets.
The Old Ballpark
Playing for the Love of the Game
In 1923, Kansas City entrepreneur J. Leslie Wilkinson built the Blues Stadium on a lot containing an ash site and a small pond laced with lily pads and frogs... which many veteran area residents say: - was their 'old swimming hole.'
The Kansas City Blues of the American Association, a minor league Triple-A team, played all its home games in the newly built stadium. Wilkinson decided to put portable lights on the field and have the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro League play at night. Even though the poor lighting in use in this time-frame made it difficult for batters to hit pitches and fielders to see the batted ball, the Monarchs drew enough dollars from ticket sales to help Wilkinson survive the Great Depression.
Some historians claim this was the first lights in baseball???
The Blues Stadium lasted until 1972 before being torn down... baseballhistorian.com
Pitcher, Right-handed... Negro Leagues - Austin Senators 1931; Monroe Monarchs 1932-1935; Kansas City Monarchs 1936-1947
A member of baseball's Hall of Fame, Hilton Smith was one of the top pitchers in professional baseball history. He won at least 20 games in each of his 12 season with the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro American League, and compiled an amazing record of 93 wins and just 11 loses from 1939-42, including a sterling 25-1 record in 1941.
Possessing a blazing fastball and a wicked curveball, Smith tossed a perfect game against the power-hitting Chicago American Giants in 1937. He appeared in six All-Star Games, 1937-42, and helped the Monarchs Capture seven pennants during his big-league tenure. And, against white barnstorming major league players, Hilton Smith posted a 6-1 WL record.
Second Baseman & Pitcher; Kansas City Monarchs; New York Cubans; Indianapolis Clowns Giants 1940s-1950s... Negro Leagues
One of the top players of the Negro Leagues, Sherwood Brewer was an outstanding all-around second baseman. He was voted an All-Star most every season, and as a veteran later in his career he helped teach infield fielding techniques to teammates Jackie Robinson and Ernie Banks. Brewer also briefly managed the Kansas City Monarchs.
Banks, a Hall of Fame power-hitting shortstop, often said in interviews: -when I was homesick on road trips while playing with the Monarchs, Sherwood Brewer made him feel better and helped him stayed in the game.
Raised in Centralia, Illinois, Brewer also played military baseball while proudly serving in both World War II and the Korean War.
In 1996, at age 72, Brewer founded an organization called Yesterday's Negro League Baseball Players Foundation.
Pitcher, Left-handed - Chicago American Giants 1923-1938 - Negro League... Elected to the Hall of Fame in 1996
A star pitcher, Bill Foster was the Negro League's 'money pitcher.' He once beat legend Satchel Paige 5-0 and 1-0 in a doubleheader in Pittsburgh, and he won more career games than any other pitcher in the Negro Leagues. His lifetime record of 137-62 tops Paige's 129-79. To give credit to Paige though, Satchel rang up loads of wins in barnstorming games not counted in official Negro League records.
In 1926, the Chicago American Giants were trailing by one game going into the final two games of the regular season, and, Bill Foster, with a 9-4 WL record, pitched both games of a doubleheader and beat arch-rival Bullet Joe Rogan twice, knocking out the Kansas City Monarchs from the upcoming Championship.
Two days later, after catching a train to Atlanta City, Foster was on the mound again in the Negro League World Series, this time against Arthur 'Rats' Henderson of the Bacharach Giants. That game ended in a 3-3 tie - called because of darkness after 10 innings. Foster started and won two more games, including the Series final 1-0.
The next season (1927), Foster compiled a resounding 21-4 record and won two games in the playoffs over Satchel Paige's Birmingham Black Barons and then won two more in the Negro World Series.
Bill Foster was the younger brother of Hall of Famer Rube Foster.
First Baseman, OF, LH - Chicago American Giants; Detroit Stars; Philadelphia Hilldales; New York Black Yankees - 1926-1936 - Negro Leagues... Mexican League 1937-1940
One of the finest all-around players in Negro Baseball History, Lou Dials, a standout defensive first baseman, carried a lifetime batting average of over .300 in his 13 seasons in the Negro League.
He broke into black professional ball in 1926 at age 21 with the Chicago American Giants, and finally retired for good at age 46 in 1950, playing in organized ball in the Sunset League's with the Tijuana Potros of Class C... 'I was hitting .300,' Dials said. 'But my legs were hurting so bad. I was just too old.'
For more facts of Negro Leagues please see Pages 203-204 of American Heroes
A member of baseball's Hall of Fame, Leon Day was one of the greatest pitchers in the history of baseball
Pitcher, Second Baseman, Outfielder, Right-handed - Baltimore Silver Moons; Baltimore Black Sox; Newark Eagles 1934-1950... Negro League - US Military World War II
In 1937 with the Newark Eagles he posted a 13-0 pitching record, and batted .320 while playing second base on days he wasn't pitching. Day pitched in a record seven Negro League All-Star games, and set a Negro League record by striking out 18 would-be hitters in one game.
Born in Alexandria, Virginia in 1916, Leon Day proudly served in the military during World War... and went ashore at Normandy shortly after D-day. After returning to civilian life in 1946, he tossed a no-hitter on Opening Day...
Leon Day died one week after being named to baseballs Hall of Fame in 1995... baseballhistorian.com - The History of Negro League Baseball