Thursday, May 13, 2010

Monarchs Hang Black Barons Out To Dry In Twin Bill

The Monarchs almost surely played some games between Sunday the 6th and Sunday the 13th, but I've found no record of them. Sunday was the day in the Negro Leagues; teams often barnstormed through smaller towns through the week in games that didn't count in the standings, but come Sunday, the crowds came out in their Sunday best, usually for a doubleheader (though game two was usually a seven inning contest). Not surprisingly, Sunday games also got the best coverage in the press.

One week after opening the season at home, the Monarchs were right back on their home turf, Ruppert Stadium, to meet the Birmingham Black Barons, on Sunday May 13th. (Every modern resource says the stadium was renamed Blues Stadium in 1943, but the Kansas City Call and Monarchs advertisements all refer to it as Ruppert in 1945, so I'll call it Ruppert too.) The Barons were reigning AL champions. The Complete Book of Baseball's Negro Leagues credits the '44 Barons with a 48-22 record. The World War II years were relative lean ones for the Monarchs; their '44 record is given as 23-42. But this day early in the '45 season belonged to KC. Hilton Smith commanded both the mound and the batter's box in the first game, pitching a complete game and allowing three runs, plus going 2-for-3 at the plate with a double, run scored and three RBI. Jackie went 1-for-3 with two RBI and an error. For the second straight Sunday, Herbert Souell tripled for the Monarchs. KC took the first game 7-3.

Booker McDaniels took the mound in game two, and allowed two runs in a complete game, though this was a seven inning affair. The Monarchs again scored seven runs. Second games of doubleheaders were usually not reported on as well as the first. As seen below in the Call's coverage, a box would often be reported for game one but just a line score and a brief mention in the summary for game two. The Chicago Defender report provided a little more detail about game two: "Booker McDaniels, ace Monarch right hander, although a wee bit wild during the early innings, settled to hold the Barons to seven well scattered hits to win the nightcap...The Monarchs hit the ball hard in their half of the fifth inning to sew the game up. Souell made three hits, driving in two runs and scoring two himself. He had a perfect day at bat."

There was a new face on the Monarchs this day as Ted "Double Duty" Radcliffe made his Monarchs debut behind the plate in game one. The Chicago Defender reported that the Monarchs secured Radcliffe "from Birmingham in a cash settlement" (May 19). 44 year old catcher/manager Frank Duncan's knees must have been creaking pretty good by this point. Willie Bea Harmon of the Call wrote, "The addition of Radcliffe will release Frank Duncan for managerial duties and bolster the Monarch hitting power" (May 18). (The catcher position would actually prove to be a bit of a revolving door between four or five guys over the season, including Duncan.)

Here's the report from the May 18 Kansas City Call:

Elsewhere in the same issue, Willie Bea Harmon was effusive about what the Monarchs had shown so far:

RAMPAGING MONARCHS: The Monarchs have a hustling team and after seeing them defeat the Birmingham Black Barons, last year's pennant winners, we're willing to say that all things being equal the Monarchs have a top-heavy chance to win the pennant in the American league this year...From here the Monarchs will go to Columbus, Ohio, where they take on the Chicago American Giants for another series beginning on Sunday, May 20. The following Sunday the Giants and the Monarchs will play in Chicago for the first time this season. The Kansas Citians will return home on June 10, Sunday.
Harmon had this to say about Hilton Smith in the May 25th Call:

Hilton Smith, Monarch hurler who three years ago seemed likely to fill the pitching shoes of Leroy (Satchel) Paige as the Monarch's number one pitcher, is coming back into his own this year. Last season Smith suffered with his arm and was on the top-heavy Monarch sick list, which found Jesse Williams, shortstop suffering a broken arm. Smith did not seem to be able to get into the groove. His 1945 story, however, begins differently. He looks like the Hilton Smith of old which showed him to be a hitter as well as a pitcher. Frank Duncan, Monarch manager, always relied upon Hilton as his pinch hitter. Smith's game against the Birmingham Barons here points to brighter days. He held the mighty Barons' bats to five hits while getting a two-bagger and a single for himself.
Before the Monarchs and American Giants met in Columbus on the 20th, the Monarchs and Black Barons were to play games in Muskogee, OK on the 14th and Oklahoma City on the 15th. Negro Leagues researcher Wayne Stivers reports that the Monarchs won on the 14th by a score of 8-3; results for the Oklahoma City game have not been found.

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