Thursday, May 6, 2010

Opening Day

Your 1945 Kansas City Monarchs in their home whites. Jackie is in the lower right; note his bandaged hand.

The 1945 Negro American League season, featuring the Cleveland Buckeyes, Birmingham Black Barons, Chicago American Giants, Cincinnati-Indianapolis Clowns, Memphis Red Sox and Kansas City Monarchs, got underway on Sunday, May 6. The Monarchs opened up at home against Chicago. The festivities at the ballpark got under way at 2:00, with the first pitch scheduled for 3:00. According to the May 11 Kansas City Call, the pre-game ceremony “began with a parade led by the Wayne Minor American Legion drum corps and Arthur E. Toney, president of the Monarchs Boosters’ club. A detail of the Kansas State Guard…drilled. Dr. J.B. Martin, league president, was introduced from the pitcher’s mound. James H. Herbert, attorney, pitched the first ball to Eddie Dwight, a member of the Monarchs when 'Bullet' Rogan was manager.”

Starting lineup for Chicago:

Ralph Wyatt, SS
Jesse Douglas, 2B
Dolly King, RF
Art Pennington, 1B
Clyde Nelson, 3B
Jimmie Crutchfield, CF
Johnny Bissant, LF
Herb Barnhill, C
Gentry Jessup, P
Gentry Jessup

And for the Monarchs:

Jesse Williams, 2B
Walter Thomas, RF
Jackie Robinson, SS
John Scott, CF
Herbert Souell, 3B
Othello Renfro, LF
Lee Moody, 1B
Frank Duncan, C
Booker McDaniels, P

Booker McDaniels

Jackie had impressed manager Frank Duncan in spring training enough to be slotted in the three hole for his first regular season game. The Chicago Defender reported a crowd of 12,000, the Pittsburgh Courier said 15,000, and the Call only said a “record breaking crowd filled the Ruppert Stadium.” (Capacity was around 17,000 in the single deck days of Muehlebach/Ruppert/Blues/Municipal Stadium.)

The American Giants got on the board first in top of the second after Crutchfield was brought home after tripling. The Monarchs came right back with the tying run in the bottom of the inning thanks to a triple from Souell and a double by Moody. The Monarchs took the lead for good in the third “when three bases on balls, Souell’s second hit of the day, a double to right, a stolen base and an infield hit produced three runs” (May 12 Pittsburgh Courier). Jackie plated a run in the sixth inning with a double, and the Monarchs prevailed 6-2. He was also credited with a stolen base and a run scored for the game. Booker McDaniels went the distance for KC, allowing 4 or 5 hits (depending which paper’s box score you’re looking at) with 3 or 4 strikeouts and 1 walk. According to the Call, McDaniels “appeared jittery during the second inning, settled down…and turn(ed) them back in one-two-three order in five of the nine innings.”

Here’s the box from the Pittsburgh Courier:

Willie Bea Harmon, sports editor of the Call, liked what he saw from the Monarchs:

The Kansas City Monarchs have it. They’ve got the hustle, the spirit and they want to win. The Monarchs looked greater on the field Sunday than they have looked since their World Championship days. The outfield looks good, although it did not have an opportunity to demonstrate it. The infield seems to be a ‘stonewall of defense,’ as Hayward Jackson says. However, Moody has been shifted onto the first…Moody makes up in hits for any possible loss of defense. Booker McDaniels was never better than he was Sunday. The Monarchs have a great chance to win the league championship and know it. The Monarchs battle with the Birmingham Black Barons next Sunday should prove just how good the Monarchs are.


  1. Very nice work, Aaron! I'm the father of Erin Moore, Laura's high school pal. I'm a huge baseball fan and I love what you're doing. Here's a blog post with some things I've written about the Minnesota Twins:

    Keep up the great work!

  2. Phil, Thanks so much for the kind words! I read your Twins post and enjoyed it very much. Must have been a lot of work sticking to the strict template of those poems! Well done. I hope I'll get to experience a Royals team some day that is half as inspiring as those Twins teams were!

  3. Hi Aaron,
    Here's a mystery I'm hoping you can solve. The Monarchs team photo in your blog seems to be the 1946 version, not 1945. I know this seems impossible, since Robinson is in the picture, but many of the other players were only with the team in 1946. I have an original copy of the photo, obtained by Phil Dixon from the K.C. Call newspaper, and here are the players as identified by Hilton Smith on the back: Top Row: H. Smith, Serral, Johnson, Paige, Duncan, LaMarque, Brown, Green, & Strong. Bottom Row: Souel, ?, Sims, Williams, Scott, O'Neil, F. Smith, Thompson, Renfro, ?. You'll notice he doesn't I.D. Jackie, but's it's clearly him. Seven of those players weren't with the Monarchs in '45, and many of the guys from your box scores aren't in the photo, so it has to a 1946 photo even though Robinson is included and he was doing other things that year. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.

    1. Hello, I think the explanation is that Hilton's eyesight and/or memory was more than a little off when he ID'd the photo. The players marked as Willard Brown and Buck O'Neil are clearly not those two men. That he couldn't recognize Jackie is another red flag. Here is what seems like much more likely IDs from Larry Lester's book Black Baseball in Kansas City:

      back row: Hilton Smith, Ensloe Wylie, Lee Davis, Satchel Paige, Frank Duncan, Jack Matchett, Sammie Haynes, and Booker McDaniels. (That's one person short-I'm thinking Lefty LaMarque might have been accidentally skipped between Duncan and Matchett, but not sure.)

      front row: Lee Moody, Eddie Locke, Emory Long, Jesse Williams, John Scott, Dave Harper, Walter Thomas, Herb Souell, Chico Renfroe, and Jackie Robinson

    2. Hi Aaron,
      Did your picture come from Lester's book also, and if so, is there a credit? Yours is the only image of that photo that pops up on Google, and I'm wondering if there are any other originals out there?

  4. Thanks so much, Aaron. Naturally, I assumed that to be the case so I asked John Holway to look at it. When I got this response from him I was back at square one facing the impossibility of a 1946 Monarchs team with Jackie:
    "This is a rare and interesting photo of the 1946 team, which lost a seven-game world series to the Newark Eagles. It includes several Army vets, who were not on the '45 team, including Willard Brown. Jackie's name is not among them, because he was with Montreal then. It was still one of the great teams of blackball history, much better than Jack's war-time '45 squad. This may be the only photo of that team. You can query the Hall of Fame to see if they have a picture of the club. The photo includes three Hall of Famers - Satch, Brown, Hilton Smith."
    I'm guessing John never looked at the faces, but went by the names on the back as identified by Hilton Smith. Either that, or his eyesight is as bad as Smith's. Thanks so much for the correct IDs. One last question: Is that Blues Stadium? Thanks for your help, much appreciated.

    1. Glad I could help. I believe that to be Blues Stadium, yes. What little you can see of the stadium in the pic matches up pretty well, plus those are the home uniforms they're wearing.