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Legends On Deck

The Cream of the Crop: Negro Leagues 100 Best Players (60-51)

After this list we will be halfway through this labor of love with only 50 more players to go. There have been many instances where certain players could either be on the list or if they were on the list they could be higher, however these players are the ones who in my mind are the top 100 in Black Baseball/Negro Leagues. One of the problems with researching and writing about Black Baseball/Negro Leagues is that the data and statistics were not as well kept as the information for the major leagues. I have encountered some discrepancies in birth dates and dates of deaths for some of these great men. I have used the valuable resources of baseballreference.com, the Negro Leagues Museum of Kansas State University as well as the biographical Negro Leagues Encyclopedia written by James Riley. If there is more than one birth date or death date to list I will list them all so that there is no thinking that anything was written incorrectly.

Also, there are some great stars from major league baseball that also played in the Negro Leagues, but their mark in baseball was made in the majors so that is why they are not listed as being Negro League/Black Baseball greats. These players will be listed later along with brief bios on their careers before they went into the majors.

So without any further delay, it is time to take a look who in my mind are the players listed from 60 to 51 on this list.

60-Theodore Roosevelt “Ted” Page
Born: 1903 (April 22,1903) Glasgow Kentucky
Died: December 1, 1984 Pittsburgh Pennsylvania
Right Field/First Base
Bats Left/Throws Right
Toledo Tigers (1923), Buffalo Giants (1924-1925), Newark Stars (1926), Chappie Johnson All Stars (1927-1928), Mohawk Giants (1928), Brooklyn Royal Giants (1929-1930), Baltimore Black Sox (1929-1930), Homestead Grays (1930-1931), NY Black Yankees (1932), Pittsburgh Crawfords (1932-1934), Newark Eagles (1935), Philadelphia Stars (1935-1937)

He went by the nicknames of “Ted” or Terrible Ted” and was a tough competitor for his career in the world of black baseball and the Negro Leagues, that lasted from 1923 to 1937. He was a rightfielder and a first baseman and he could beat a team any number of ways in a ballgame whether it be as a hitter, base runner or a fielder.

Besides the attributes mentioned he could bunt and use his speed as a dangerous baserunner. Page was in the game to win and whether it be rough language or the use of his spikes, Page would intimidate his opponents on the diamond. He was lucky enough to play on two of the greatest ever Negro League teams, the 1931 Homestead Grays who also had Oscar Charleston, Josh Gibson, Jud “BooJum” Wilson, Ted “Double Duty” Radcliffe, Willie Foster, Joe Williams and Satchel Paige. Then on the 1932 Pittsburgh Crawfords he was a teammate of Charleston, Gibson, Rap Dixon, Judy Johnson, Wilson and Paige.

In black baseball, Page had a batting average of .335 and hit .429 in exhibition games against the major leaguers. He was a line drive type hitter who batted anywhere from second to sixth in the batting order. In his last season in the Negro Leagues Page batted .351, not a bad way to end up a career.

59-Walter “Rev” Cannady
Born: March 6, 1902/March 6, 1904 Lake City
Died: December 3, 1981 Fort Myers Florida
Second Base/Third Base/Shortstop/First Base/Pitcher
Bats Right/Throws Right
Columbus Buckeyes (1921), Cleveland Tate Stars (1922), Homestead Grays (1923-1924,1929, 1932.1944), Harrisburg Giants (1925-1927), Dayton Marcos, NY Lincoln Giants (1926-1928,1930), Hilldale Daisies (1928,1931), Pittsburgh Crawfords (1932,1936), NY Black Yankees (1933-1939), Brooklyn Royal Giants (1940), Philadelphia Stars, Chicago American Giants (1942), Cincinnati-Indianapolis Clowns (1943-1944), NY Cubans (1945)

The best position for Cannady was second base but he could also play any of the other infield positions as well. He could pinch hit as well and could also pitch if necessary. He was a good fielder but better known for his hitting. Regardless of the team he was on he usually batted in the heart of the batting order because of his hitting prowess.

Bad ball hitting was his specialty and as a superior curveball hitter it would not take a pitcher long to see that “Rev” did not have may weaknesses at the plate. He was not a great base stealer but a fair to good speed on the bases. As versatile as he was in the field and as good a power hitter as he was in 1926 he batted fourth in the lineup as protection for Oscar Charleston who batted third when both men were on the Harrisburg Giants. Then in the next year a pitcher had to navigate a Harrisburg lineup that included Charleston, Cannady, and noted slugger John Beckwith.

Cannady also played with other great besides Charleston and Beckwith like Candy Jim Taylor, Buck Ewing, Fats Jenkins, Ben Taylor, Judy Johnson, Martin Dihigo, Biz Mackey, Nip Winters, George Scales and Ted Radcliffe.

58-George Walter “Tubby” Scales
Born: August 16, 1900, Talladega Alabama
Died: April 15,1976, Carson California April 1976
Second Base/Third Base/First Base/Shortstop/Outfield
Bats Right/Throws Right
Montgomery Grey Sox (1919-1920), Pittsburgh Keystones (1921), St Louis Giants (1921), St Louis Stars (1922-1923), NY Lincoln Giants (1923-1929), Homestead Grays (1925-1926, 1929-1931, 1935), Newark Stars (1926), Baltimore Elite Giants (1938,1940-1944,1946-1948), NY Black Yankees (1932-1934,1936,1939-1940,1945), Philadelphia Stars (1940), Birmingham Black Barons (1952)

Scales played both the infield and the outfield during his career with his best position being second base. He hit from the right side of the plate and could hit for average as well as power. He was fast for a big man, but his range was only fair. However, what he would do is study the hitters and then position himself accordingly. He was a shortstop at Talladega College before he signed with the Montgomery Grey Sox in 1919 and then a shortstop in Pittsburgh with the Keystones. He then signed with the St Louis team in 1921 and between 1923 and1929 when he was with the NY Lincoln Giants he hit in the heart of the order with the following batting averages: .429 (1923), .367 (1924), .361 (1925, .222 (1926), .446 (1927, .338 (1928) and .387 (1929). This while playing three different infield positions.

In his first two years with the Homestead Grays, he hit behind Judy Johnson in the batting order (.303-1930) and Josh Gibson (.393-1931) and was regarded as a very smart ballplayer. After the NY Black Yankees were organized in 1932 it was Scales who became the team’s first manager. In 1938 he succeeded the great Biz Mackey as manager of the Baltimore Elite Giants.

In the end over a 25-year career in the Negro Leagues Scales had a .313 lifetime batting average. He was tough as a manager, but he certainly knew his baseball and he helped many young players become stars.

Playing over such a long period of time he was the teammate of many of the game’s greats like Oscar Charleston, Olive Marcelle, Joe Williams, Josh Gibson, Jud Wilson, Vic Harris, Ted Radcliffe, Willie Foster and Satchel Paige.

57-Lester “Buck” or “Lou” Lockett
Born: March 25, March 26, 1912 Princeton Indiana
Died: October 4, 2005
Second Base/Third Base/Shortstop/Outfield
Bats Right/Throws Right
St Louis Stars (1937), Birmingham Black Barons (1938, 1941-1946), Philadelphia Stars (1941,1947), Cincinnati Buckeyes (1940), Chicago American Giants (1942,1950), Indianapolis Clowns (1946), Baltimore Elite Giants (1947-1949), Farham Pirates (1951), Canadian League (1951), minor leagues (1952-1953), Mexican Leagues (1953)

Lester Lockett played second and third base as well as shortstop and the outfield in a career that lasted from 1938 until 1950 in the Negro Leagues. He also played in the Canadian and Mexican Leagues as well as the minor leagues (1952-1953) before finally hanging up his spikes in 1953.

He was born in Princeton Indiana and the outfield was where he seemed to play the best. Lockett was on the pennant winning squads of the Birmingham Black Barons in 1943-1944 as well as the Baltimore Elite Giants. In his years with Birmingham he hit .328, .315, .408, .249 and .300 while hitting in the heart of the lineup. Then for 1947 and 1948 with Baltimore he would hit .313/.386 for the Giants.

Depending on the situation Lockett could steal a base or he could hit with power. He also played in Venezuela and Panama. He was a member of three all-star teams and was a member of the 1943 Negro American League Champion Black Barons. In 1998 Lockett was elected to the Milwaukee Brewers Wall of Fame.

A partial list of the great teammates he played alongside included Dan Bankhead, Goose Tatum, Sug Cornelius, Ted Radcliffe, Joe Black, Pee Wee Butts and Jim Gilliam.

56-Wiliam “Dizzy” Dismukes
Born: March 15, 1890 Birmingham Alabama
Died: June 30, 1961 Campbell Ohio
Pitcher/Manager
Bats Right/Throws Right
West Baden Sprudels (1910-1913), St Louis Giants (1912), Philadelphia Giants(1913), Brooklyn Royal Giants (1913-1914), Lincoln Stars (1914-1915), Indianapolis ABCs (1914-1918,1920-1924),French Lick Pilots (1916), Mohawk Giants (1916), Chicago American Giants (1916), Dayton Marcos (1918-1919), Pittsburgh Keystones (1921-1923), Birmingham Black Barons (1924,1938), Memphis Red Sox (1925,1942), St Louis Stars (1926-1929,1936-1937), Chicago American Giants (1930,1935), Cincinnati Dismukes (1932), Detroit Wolves (1932), Columbus Blue Birds (1933-1934), Atlanta Black Crackers (1939), Homestead Grays (1940), Kansas City Monarchs (1941-1951). This also includes the teams he managed for as well.

Dismukes had a career as a player that lasted from 1910 until 1930 ad he also managed from 1931 until 1951. He began his playing career with the Imperials of East St. Louis in 1908 before moving on to the Kentucky Unions in 1909 and then the Minnesota Keystones at the beginning of 1910. Part way through the 1910 season his career in black baseball began with the West Baden Sprudels.

He was a right-handed submarine pitcher who was regarded as one of the best in black baseball during the 1910’s and the early 1920’s. He went to college and used his fantastic memory for pitching strategies. He would remember what a batter’s tendencies were and without fault position his fielders according to how he was pitching to that batter. He had many breaking pitches and it was said he taught Negro Leaguer Webster McDonald and Major Leaguer Carl Mays the art of submarine style pitching.

Dismukes was winning between 15 and 18 games per year before World War I interrupted his career as it did many others. After returning from the service he pitched with the Indianapolis ABCs as well as teams from Birmingham, Memphis and St. Louis. He moved to the front office of the Kansas City Monarch and was a key man in acquiring Jackie Robinson for Kansas City. Dismukes and “Cool Papa” Bell convinced Robinson that he would be better off not playing shortstop and the rest is history.

During his 20-year playing career he played alongside of Jimmie Lyons, Chappie Johnson, Walter Ball, Ben Taylor, Oscar Charleston, Bingo DeMoss, Biz Mackey, Dicta Johnson, C.I. Taylor, Cool Papa Bell, Willie Wells, Mules Suttles and Vic Harris.

55-William “Bill” Monroe
Born 1876, 1877 Knox City Tennessee
Died: March 16, 1915 Chattanooga Tennessee/March 16, 191 Chicago Illinois
Second Base/Third Base/Shortstop/First Base
Bats Right/Throws Right
Chicago Unions (1890-1900), Cuban X Giants (1900), Philadelphia Giants (1903-1906), Brooklyn Royal Giants (1907-1910), Quaker Giants of New York (1908), Chicago American Giants (1911-1914), Chicago Giants (1913)

Monroe was born in Tennessee somewhere between 1876 and 1878 and began his career in black baseball as an infielder in the 1890’s and was regarded as one of the first great players in black baseball in the late 19th century. He was adept as a fielder and versatile when it came to the position or positions he could play. Bill Monroe was blessed with great hands, great speed and a gracefulness that followed him to whatever infield position he was playing.

At third base he was thought to be a better hitter and a better fielder than Jimmy Collins of the Boston Major League team who was thought to be the best third baseman in baseball. But second base was his position and where he become most well-known. He was a both of a showman as he would catch fly balls behind his back or kick ground balls with his toes and then pick the ball out of the air.

In 1896, his career began in earnest and then for the years 1899-1900 he was with the Chicago Unions. From there he went to the Cuban X Giants, one of the top teams of the era. After the X Giants he went with Sol White and the Philadelphia Giants. In 1911 after joining Rube Foster and the Chicago American Giants he hit in the cleanup spot behind Preston “Pete” Hill another of the early great.

Monroe played with the likes of Frank Grant, Henry Buckner, Sol White, Grant Johnson, Chappie Johnson, Candy Jim Taylor, Bruce Petway, Pete Hill, Ben Taylor, Bill Gatewood, Rube Foster and Bingo DeMoss.

54-Henry Allen Kimbro also called “Kimmie”, “Jimbo”, “Scooter” or “Montoneta”
Born: February 10, 1912 or February 19,1912 Nashville Tennessee
Died: July 11, 1999
Center Field/Left Field
Bats Left/Throws Right
Washington Elite Giants (1937), Baltimore Elite Giants (1938-1940, 1942-1951), New York Black Yankees (1941), Birmingham Black Barons (1952-1953)

Henry Kimbro’s career in the Negro Leagues lasted from 1937 until 1952. He was not a big man at 5’8”, but he was a compact blend of power and speed. He spent most of his career with the Baltimore Elite Giants. He excelled at the plate when hitting, on the bases running and on the field with the glove. He was a great defensive center fielder with fantastic range and a pretty good arm. For the time frame of 1937 to 1950 he was thought to be the best center fielder in the Negro Leagues.

He was a line drive hitter, who hit for both power and average. He was a threat to steal whenever he was on base as well as a perfect leadoff hitter who used his speed to turn singles into extra base hits. Consistently he was among the league leaders in various offensive categories. In 1944 he hit .329 and was the league leader in stolen bases. 1946 would see him hit .371 and lead the league in runs scored. In 1947, he hit .353 and again led the league in runs scored and tied for the league lead in doubles.

Kimbro was a star as well in the winter leagues in the Caribbean where in 1947-1948 he was the league leader with a .396 batting average playing for Havana. He then led the Caribbean League in doubles the next year

During his career he was on the field with he likes of Roy Campanella, Biz Mackey, Dickie Seay, Mule Suttles, Joe Black, Pee Wee Butts and George Scales.

53- Samuel Thomas “Sammy” Hughes
Born: October 20, 1910 Louisville Kentucky
Died: August 9, 1981 Los Angeles California
Second Base/Shortstop/First Base
Bats Right/Throws right
Louisville White Sox (1929-1931), Washington Pilots (1932), Nashville Elite Giants (1933-1934), Columbus Elite Giants (1935), Washington Elite Giants (1936-1937), Baltimore Elite Giants (1938-1940, 1942,1946), Mexican League (1941)

Sammy Hughes’ career in the Negro Leagues lasted from 1931 until 1946. He dropped out of school in Louisville after the eighth grade and learned how to play baseball around the Louisville area. In 1929 he made his professional debut with the Louisville White Sox. He was a tall and graceful player, who was thought to be one of the better players in the Negro League. In the field he was superb with the glove and could cover a lot of ground so that he could use his very strong arm to throw out baserunners. He could just do it all and really did not have a weakness on the diamond. He was a steady hitter and baserunner who hit in the number two spot in the order because he was so adept at handling a bat in a bunting situation.

During his 16-year career he was selected for the East West All Star game more than any other second baseman. He had power and was a great doubles hitter. In his six prime seasons with the Baltimore Elite Giants he averaged .321 with a high of .355 in 1936.

His career was interrupted by World War II as he was with the 196th Army Support Battalion during the invasion of New Guinea. He retired after the 1946 season with a .296 career batting average in the Negro Leagues. Hughes played on teams with Sam Bankhead, Ray Dandridge, Biz Mackey, Roy Campanella, Henry Kimbro, George Scales, Joe Black, Jim Gilliam and Willie Wells.

52-John Jordan “Buck” O’Neil
Born: November 13, 1911 Carrabelle Florida
Died October 6, 2006 Kansas City Missouri
First Base/Outfield
Bats Right, throws right-Miami Giants (1934), New York Tigers (1935), Shreveport Acme Giants (1936), Memphis Red Sox (1937), Zulu Cannibal Giant (1937), Kansas City Monarchs (1938-1943,1946-1955)

“Buck” O’Neil was a youth in Florida working in the celery fields and then the family moved to the Sarasota area where O’Neil’s father told him he should pursue his dream of playing baseball. He played at Edward Waters College in Jacksonville where his large hands and feet earned him the nickname “Foots”. He began his professional career after college, playing with the Miami Giants. He also played with the New York Tigers and the Shreveport Acme Giants before signing with the Memphis Red Sox in 1937.

He was primarily a first baseman, but also played the outfield. He was smooth with the glove and was the first baseman with the Kansas City Monarchs when they won four Negro American League pennants in a row from 1939 to 1942. Before going into the service for World War II he made the first of his three appearances in the East West All Star game and then after his time in the military he won the Negro American League batting title with a .353 average for the Monarchs.

Except for his years in the United States Navy, O’Neil played with the Monarchs from 1938-1943 and 1946-1955. He was a consistent hitter with extra base power. He had only average speed but was a smart baserunner and graceful fielder. O’Neil never had the chance to play in the major leagues, but he was the first black coach in the majors when he went to work for the Chicago Cubs in 1962. As a scout he had a hand in signing both Ernie Banks and Lou Brock to contracts with the Cubs. He was a good will ambassador for the Negro Leagues and acted as the perfect spokesman, paying back baseball for all the joy it had provided him with over the years.

O’Neil’s list of players he played alongside lists like a who’ who in Negro League baseball history. Men like Willard Brown, Andy Cooper, Hilton Smith, Norman “Turkey” Stearnes, Newt Allen, Chet Brewer, Connie Johnson, Satchel Paige, Hank Thompson and Elston Howard.

51-Elwood “Bingo” DeMoss
Born: Topeka Kansas September 5, 1889
Died: Chicago Illinois January 25 or January 26, 1965
Second Base/Shortstop/Outfield/Pitcher
Bats Right/Throws Right
Topeka Giants (1905), Kansas City Kansas Giants (1910), Oklahoma Giants, West Baden Sprudels (1912-1914), Chicago Giants (1913), Indianapolis ABCs (1915-1916, 1926), Bowser’s ABCs (1916), Chicago American Giants (1913, 1917-1925), Detroit Stars (1927-1930), All Cubans (1933), Cleveland Giants (1933), Chicago Brown Bombers (1942-1943), Brooklyn Brown Bombers (1945)

In the first quarter century of black baseball, Elwood “Bingo” DeMoss was the best second baseman to have played the game. He excelled in all phases of the game, as he was fast in the field and on the bases. He could make any play and he was the model of what a player should be as a second baseman. DeMoss would often make a throw to first base under his arm (ala Robinson Cano) without even looking at the first baseman to whom he was throwing the ball. While with the Chicago American Giants he and Bobby Williams formed a great double play combination that was second to none for that era,

Adding to his fielding skills was the fact that he was a very productive hitter and oh so reliable in clutch situations. DeMoss had great bat control and could place the ball wherever he wanted to on the field. His ability to hit made him a strong asset if the manager wanted to put on the hit and run play and DeMoss could also lay down a bunt with the best of them.

“Bingo” played with two of the greatest managers in the history of black baseball and the Negro Leagues, C.I. Taylor and Andrew “Rube” Foster. He absorbed all they taught him and the leadership skills he developed were key to the success of the teams he played on as well as the teams he would later on manage.

As with a lot of the players in black baseball and the Negro Leagues there is not a lot of data and statistics with regards to his career, but without a doubt DeMoss has rightfully earned his spot on this list. From what is available he was a .300+ hitter for his career in both the Negro Leagues and in Cuba.

He played with just about every big-name player of the era he was active. He played with the likes of Ben Taylor, Oscar Charleston, C.I. Taylor, Frank Warfield, Dizzy Dismukes, Pete Hill, Jose Mendez, Bruce Petway, Floyd “Jelly” Gardner, Cristobal Torriente, Dave Malarcher, John Beckwith and Willie Foster.

Kevin Larkin

Kevin Larkin has been going to all kinds of baseball amateur and professional since 1969. When asked he says he is a baseball fan who likes the Yankees. He was a police officer for 24 years in his home town of Barrington Massachusetts and helped on investigating most major crimes including murder, plane crashes and automobile crashes. He was certified as an expert witness in accident reconstruction and investigated almost 90 fatal automobile accidents. After retiring from the police force he renewed a love for baseball and as of now has authored three books on the subject: Baseball in the Bay State, Gehrig:Game by Game and Baseball in the Berkshires. He has authored articles for SABR and helps out there with research whenever possible. He has a coloection of almost 700 baseball books and enjoys pre 1900 and post 1900 baseball as well as the Black Sox Scandal and learning about the Negro Leagues. He also writes a column for CNY Baseball and loves giving back to the sport which has given him so much.