Thursday, July 29, 2010

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Jackie Goes Deep, But Monarchs Remain Winless Against Buckeyes

The Monarchs made their lone 1945 appearance in Cleveland on July 24. Their opponent was the formidable Cleveland Buckeyes, first half American League champions. The Monarchs had gone 0-5 against Cleveland in the first half. This game on the 24th is the only time the two teams faced each other in the second half that I'm aware of. Satchel, having pitched a complete game just two days prior, took the hill for KC for the first five innings. He yielded three runs to the powerful Buckeyes lineup.

Eugene Bremer

Eugene Bremer went the distance for Cleveland, and had a shutout through eight innings. In the ninth, trailing 3-0, Jackie launched a pitch beyond the left field wall but a few inches foul. Later in the at-bat, he sent another wallop to left, this time a few inches to the fair side. It was a solo drive, but started a rally that resulted in another run. But Bremer and Cleveland snuck out of the inning to take a 3-2 win and improve to 6-0 against the Monarchs for the '45 season.

Jackie's homer left an impression on Cleveland catcher/manager Quincy Trouppe, who had this to say in his memoir 20 Years Too Soon:
Later that season I played against (Jackie) in Cleveland, and he overpowered my pitcher's curve with a line drive into the left-field stands. I knew then he had the makings of a top pro. When a young player breaks into pro ball hitting the curve with authority, you can expect to see him develop into an excellent hitter.
Although he had the makings of a real good player, I think it came as a surprise when word got out that the Brooklyn Dodgers had signed him to a contract. It was hard to imagine any black player cracking the major leagues, and with Jackie's temper being the way it was, it didn't seem likely that a major-league team would be willing to take a chance with him. The golden dream, the impossible golden dream of sepia players roaming the ball fields of the major leagues, was now crystallizing into reality at last.

July 28 Cleveland Call and Post

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Sweep Of Red Sox In Detroit; Jackie's Base Running On Display

The Monarchs traveled to Detroit's Briggs Stadium (later Tigers Stadium) to take on the Memphis Red Sox in a July 22nd double header. It's the only appearance in Detroit the Monarchs made in 1945, and Detroit fans came out in force; the 25,000 fans were one of the largest crowds the Monarchs would play in front of that season. They were treated to a rare complete game performance from Satchel Paige in the first game. Satchel held the  Red Sox scoreless through eight, then gave up a lone run in the ninth before completing the 3-1 win.

Jackie put on a display of classic Negro Leagues small ball in the sixth. Following a Herb Souell triple, Jackie laid down the squeeze. Souell scored, and Jackie reached first. Then he stole second, then third, and raced home safely on a dropped ball at the plate.

In the second game, Hilton Smith faced off against familiar foe Verdell Mathis; Hilton and the Monarchs came away with a 3-1 win.

July 28 Pittsburgh Courier

Friday, July 16, 2010

Meeting With Semi-Pros In Chester, PA

After getting rained out in New York the day before, the Monarchs made the relatively short hop down to Chester, Pennsylvania, just outside of Philadelphia. Their opponent was a semi-pro club called Lloyd A.C. who had a steady schedule against Negro Leagues clubs. The Monarchs started off the game with three consecutive bunts, the first a hit, the second a sacrifice, and the third, by Jackie, went for a hit. The Monarchs jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first before seldom used pitcher Steve Wylie took the hill for KC. Wylie had pitched a grand total of one inning since spring training that I'm aware of, but he had a 3-2 lead after six innings. Unfortunately for KC, Lloyd A.C. came back with two runs in the seventh to win the game. Jackie kept his average at .500 with a 2-for-4 performance.

July 17 Chester Times summary and box

The Monarchs were slated to meet the Baltimore Elite Giants in Baltimore on the 17th, but I've found no account. On the 19th, they were to meet the New York Cubans at the Polo Grounds, but were once again rained out.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Rained Out At Polo Grounds

The Monarchs spent the week of July 9-14 traveling from KC to NY, no doubt stopping for some games along the way (I haven't uncovered any). After the long trek, they were met with a rainy Sunday the 15th, and the scheduled doubleheader against the New York Cubans at Polo Grounds was called off.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Chester Times On Jackie

The Monarchs were scheduled to meet a non-Negro league team by the name of Lloyd A.C. in Chester, Pennsylvania on July 16. Bill Burk wrote the below preview of Jackie's visit for the Chester Times that appeared on July 14. Interesting how highly regarded Jackie had become by some in such a short amount of time.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Win Over Barons In KC On "Ankle-Deep" Mud

A small crowd of 1,900 braved some nasty weather on July 8 to see the Monarchs host the Birmingham Black Barons. According to the Kansas City Call, the infield mud was "nearly ankle-deep." The Monarchs didn't seem to mind the conditions, and piled up six runs and 15 hits against the visitors. Booker McDaniels continued to shine, throwing a complete game, yielding one meager run and striking out seven. At the plate, he added an RBI double and a run scored for good measure. Jackie continued his tremendous hitting with a 3-for-5 night that included two doubles, two runs scored and three runs batted in. He improved his average to a cool .500 (33-for-66).  

July 13 Kansas City Call

While the Monarchs were playing in Kansas City, Satchel Paige was moonlighting with the East Chicago Giants in East Chicago, Indiana. The Giants faced the Gary Sportsmens Club, who had Dizzy Dean's ravaged  arm pitch the first two innings. The sportsmen were no match for Satch; he struck out the first eight men and allowed one run in his four innings of work. Double Duty Radcliffe had apparently recovered after getting knocked out by a foul tip on July 1st; he caught the game for Satchel. The Giants were victorious, 12-4.

July 14 Afro American

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Jackie Starts Second Half With A Bang

After a disappointing third place finish in the first half of the season, the Monarchs began their run for the second half title on Saturday, July 7 in Muskogee, Oklahoma against the Birmingham Black Barons. Lefty LaMarque twirled a complete game, allowed just one run, and Jackie smashed two home runs on the way to a 6-1 victory. This is only the second game in which Jackie homered that I'm aware of; the first had come way back on April 22, and was an inside-the-parker. Unfortunately the one brief game account for the July 7 game I've found doesn't specify what variety Jackie's two dingers were.

July 13 Kansas City Call

Muskogee was the setting for the most poignant story from Jackie's time with the Monarchs. It comes second hand from Buck O'Neil in his autobiography (Buck was in the Philippines with the Navy in '45):
(Jackie's) electricity wasn't just on the field. He got (the Monarchs) thinking in a different way. Growing up as he did in California, Jackie went to integrated schools and played on integrated teams. So when he got to the all-black Monarchs and saw the things they had to put up with--the Jim Crow laws, the separate drinking fountains and restrooms--he became furious. Othello "Chico" Renfroe, who played left field on that club, later told me that Jackie stormed out of so many places he left behind a fortune in change.
There was an incident in Muskogee, Oklahoma, that year that Hilton (Smith), who was Jackie's roommate, told me about. We had been buying gas for years at a service station there that had just one restroom--and we weren't allowed to use it. We thought nothing of it, and we gave the owner a lot of business anyway. Well, when the bus pulled into Muskogee and stopped at this station, Jackie got out and headed toward the restroom. The owner, who was filling the tank, called after him, "Hey boy! You know you can't go in there." Jackie asked him why. "Because we don't allow no colored people in that restroom."
The guys knew about Jackie's hair-triggered temper, so they just stood around, wondering what he was going to do. Jackie turned to the man very calmly and said, "Take the hose out of the tank." The owner stopped the pump and looked at him. "Take the hose out of the tank," Jackie repeated. Then he turned to his teammates and said, "Let's go. We don't want his gas."
Well, the Monarchs had two fifty-gallon tanks on the bus. That gas station wasn't going to sell a hundred gallons of gas to one customer until the bus came back through a few weeks later. He shoved the hose back into the tank and said, "All right, you boys can use the restroom. But don't stay long."
From then on, the Monarchs could use the restroom whenever they passed through.  But more importantly, they decided never to patronize any gas station or restaurant where they couldn't use the facilities.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

First Half Ends With Two More Losses To Buckeyes

After dropping two to the Cleveland Buckeyes on July 1, the Monarchs had a chance for revenge just three days later in a 4th of July doubleheader in Kansas City...But the first half champion Buckeyes once again took both tilts. Hot-hitting outfielder Sam Jethroe tagged Booker McDaniels for a triple and homer in the second game.

The Monarchs were missing one of their best hitters after first baseman Lee Moody injured his shoulder in batting practice. According to the below summary from the Kansas City Call, Jackie "Robinson, shortstop was moved to first to send Jesse Williams, second baseman back to his former shortstop position. Previously (Johnny) Ray had been sent to third after Souell's illness on Sunday (the 1st). Souell was sent to left field. With this sudden shifting of the field, Manager Duncan's boys made seven errors to aid in pulling up the Buckeye's 8 to 1 score. Plus this McDaniels began to tire in the seventh and in the eighth the Ohioans hit everything he had to offer."

July 6 Kansas City Call

The four losses dropped the Monarchs into third place in the first-half standings, behind Cleveland and Birmingham. The standings published in the Call put the Monarchs at 17-14; games I've found show a 15-13-1 record.

final first half standings from July 6 Kansas City Call

Here's the Monarchs schedule and results from the first half that I've been able to put together. Jackie's hits and at-bats are also listed. He blistered 26 hits in 54 at-bats in the 15 games for which I have info.

(a noble click embiggens)

And finally, a look at the 6,500 miles the Monarchs put on the bus in the first half:

Friday, July 2, 2010

Frank Duncan On Jackie's Time With The Monarchs

Frank Duncan, 1941 (source)

Frank Duncan, manager and catcher for the '45 Monarchs, had this to say to John B. Holway for his book Blackball Tales:

I remember when Jackie Robinson got out of the Army, came through here as a second lieutenant in 1945. We trained at a Texas League park, and Wilkinson, our owner, says, "Frank, Jackie Robinson'll be over here, he'll join you in a few days."

I said, "Fine." I'd never seen him play, I'd only seen him play one game of football, when the College All Stars played the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field in Chicago in 1941. When Jackie showed up,  I said, "Jackie, now tell me, what is your best position?"

He said, "Shortstop."

But I had Jesse Williams at shortstop, so I told Jackie, "You work out over there at second base with Serrell."

Jackie said, "I'm a little fat, I'm going to get some of the weight off me, I can do better."

I says, "You may have a different system of training, being a football player. You follow your own routine, I'll leave it up to you." And that's what he did.

Jackie wasn't the best player on the club. No, he wasn't. But you talk about running those bases--oh man. I told him, "You're on your own, Jack." I had Baldy Souell hit behind Jackie, because he was a darn good hitter. With Jackie on second base Souell on first, Jackie would make a break, and Souell thought he was going. I'd look up, Souell would be standing on second base, Jackie still on there. I says, "Where were you going?"

He says, "I thought Jackie was going."

I said, "I'm going to do you better than that, I'm going to put you in front of Jackie."

We played exhibitions all around New Orleans around Easter Sunday, and when we broke camp and got back up here (Kansas City), Robinson was in pretty good shape. By the time we got to New York, Washington, and Baltimore, those scouts were on him. I don't know how the Dodgers ever signed Jackie, but I know one thing: The Monarchs didn't get any money for him. Didn't get a dime. They lost money on that deal. Lost lots of money.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Monarchs Blow Late Leads Against Cleveland Buckeyes In KC

Jackie Robinson steals home past Cleveland Buckeye catcher, Quincy Trouppe, by Kadir Nelson

The first half of the split season was to end on July 4. The Monarchs and Cleveland Buckeyes had both been in the running for the first half title, so two doubleheaders between the teams on July 1 and 4 had loomed large at the end of the half. Unfortunately for the Monarchs, any tension for the four games was drained thanks to the Buckeyes locking up the first half before coming to KC for the games on July 1. The Monarchs would have to win the second half crown if they wanted a chance to play in the Negro American League championship at the end of the season.

But first, they had to try to handle the powerful Buckeyes as the first half wound down. The June 29 Kansas City Call detailed how tough the task facing the Monarchs was: "Cleveland boasts some of best hitters, pitchers and fielders in the league. The hurling staff is headed by Eugene Bremmer, the Jefferson brothers, Willie and George and Lowell Harden and Manager Quincy Trouppe, catcher. In the hitting department the Buckeyes have four men batting above the .350 mark. Lloyd (Ducky) Davenport is the heaviest hitter with an average of .372 in 23 games; Sammy Jethroe, last year's fair-haired hitter in the American league is batting right behind Davenport with .372 out of 25 games; Woods of Cleveland, third baseman, is batting .350 out of 25 games and last but not least, Armour, left fielder is batting .350 out of 17 games." (Jethroe was one of the players that had a try-out with the Boston Red Sox earlier in the year with Jackie.)

As you can read in the game summaries below, the Monarchs blew leads late in both games. Jackie went 1-for-4 with a single and a run scored in the first game. Double Duty Radcliffe started the first game catching for KC, but was knocked out by a foul tip off Jethroe's bat.

July 6 Kansas City Call