Friday, August 27, 2010

End Of The Second Half

The Monarchs played just a few more regular season games after Jackie was injured on August 21 and left the team for good on August 27. They lost their fourth straight game to the American Giants in Chicago on the 27th, 5-6. Rarely used Monarchs pitcher Steve Wylie walked in the winning run in the bottom of the ninth. On the 28th, while Jackie Robinson was meeting with Branch Rickey in Brooklyn, the Monarchs continued their losing ways by dropping both ends of a double header to the Clowns in Cincinnati. Hilton Smith pitched the first game, a 5-6 loss, while Lefty LaMarque pitched the second game, a 0-3 loss. In the final games of the regular season, the Monarchs hosted the Memphis Red Sox in double headers on September 2nd and 3rd. I unfortunately don't know the results of these games. Regardless, the Monarchs late season slide meant they no longer had any hope of capturing the second half title for the right to face the Cleveland Buckeyes in a postseason series to determine an American League champion. Games I've turned up show a 15-12 second half record, but final standings from the September 14 Call give their record as 8-8. If I remove games against the National League and non-league competition, I show a 7-10 record for the Monarchs. No hope for a postseason berth.

According to the September 14th Call, the AL batting leaders finished like this:

.393 Sam Jethroe, Cleveland
.372 Art Wilson, Birmingham
.361 Art Pennington, Chicago
.352 Ed Steele, Birmingham

It was Jethroe almost "across the board" in the other departments too. The hard hitting Cleveland outfielder climaxed a great campaign by finishing on top in five other divisions with 55 runs scored, 123 total bases, 10 triples, 8 home runs and 21 stolen bases
The two Cleveland Jefferson boys, George and Willie, topped the pitchers. George was first with 11 victories and only 1 defeat and Willie second with a 10 mark. Gentry Jessup of Chicago, however, won the most games, 15, but lost 9.
The Monarchs won the team fielding honors, with .966...Jackie Robinson was seventh in individual batting standing, and LaMarque stood third in the number of games won.
Here are the results I've found for the second half along with Jackie's hits and at-bats:

(click to enlarge)

And here's a look at the the 8,600 or so miles the team traveled in the second half. Lots of time in the northeast:

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Jackie's Time With The Monarchs Ends As He Heads To Brooklyn To Meet With Branch Rickey

The Monarchs were in Chicago for a four game set with the American Giants over August 24-27th. The Monarchs had a series to forget on the field, dropping all four contests while being outscored 29 to nine. Booker McDaniels had a particularly rough game on the 26th, allowing 15 runs and 21 hits in eight innings. The Monarchs managed no runs and just one hit in the game.

Jackie Robinson and Clyde Sukeforth (source)

Off the field, however, it was a monumental series, even if no one knew it at the time. The Brooklyn Dodgers, in the person of scout/coach Clyde Sukeforth, made their first contact with Jackie at the game on Friday the 24th. According to Arnold Rampersad's Jackie Robinson: A Biography:
On August 24, at Comiskey Park, Jack was out on the field, but nursing a sore shoulder, when a white man called out his name and beckoned. Jack went over. The man introduced himself as Clyde Sukeforth, which meant nothing to Robinson. The he said he was there on behalf of Branch Rickey of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Now he had Jack's attention. Mr. Rickey was starting a team, the Brooklyn Brown Dodgers. He wondered about Jackie's arm strength; could Jack throw a few balls for Sukeforth? The Dodger  scout would remember Jack listening "carefully, and when I was through he spoke right up--Jackie was never shy, you know."
"Why is Mr. Rickey interested in my arm?" Jack asked. "Why is he interested in me?"
Sukeforth convinced Robinson to meet him after the game at the Stevens Hotel, where the scout was staying, and where he bribed a bellman two dollars to allow Jack to use the passenger elevator, from which blacks were normally barred. Eventually Jack arrived and began to pepper Sukeforth with questions. One thing above all intrigued both men. Mr. Rickey had made it clear, as Sukeforth informed Jack, that if Robinson would not come to him, he would come to Robinson. Both Jack and Sukeforth now suspected that something more than a place on the Brooklyn Brown Dodgers might be at stake.
The men arranged to meet in Toledo, where Sukeforth had to observe another player,then take the train to New York. Sukeforth then sent a wire to Rickey telling of Jack's injury ("Player fell on shoulder last Tuesday [21st]. Will be out of game a few more days"). On Sunday night [26th], after the white scout convinced a ticket seller that, yes, he intended to share quarters with the black man, they left Toledo.
After a day of travel on the 27th, Robinson had his legendary meeting with Rickey on the 28th.

Robinson did go to the ballpark with his Monarchs teammates one last time on the 26th, but didn't play due to his injury. Chicago Defender sportswriter Fay Young had somehow gotten wind that Jackie might be heading east to meet with Rickey, and he questioned Jackie about it at Comiskey on the 26th. Young wrote in a September 1 column:
Between the doubleheader [on the 26th], your columnist flagged Robinson and asked him what there was to the rumors.
"Just rumors," answered Jackie.
Pressed for an answer to a simple question as to whether he had been invited, approached on the subject or not, Robinson evaded a direct answer.
Told that if it was such a secret , somebody had been doing some talking as too many, even to his club owner, knew about it, Robinson came back with a grin, "Well, it's a rumor. If you don't see me here tomorrow, then there's something to it."

September 1 Chicago Defender

Friday, August 20, 2010

Satchel Whiffs 15 Clowns In Complete Game Victory

From the August 21 Nashville Banner, courtesy of John Holway:
Leroy (Satchel) Paige showed Nashville baseball followers why he is regarded as one of the best hurlers in the country at Sulphur Dell Monday night as he turned back the Cincinnati Clowns, 6-4, for Kansas City on nine well-scattered safeties.
Paige, showing some of the best control seen at the Dell this year, threw a total of 133 pitches to the plate. 87 were strikes 25 were called balls and 21 were hit. He whiffed 15 opponents and walked but one man, a pinch hitter in the ninth. 
The Monarchs and Clowns played in Nashville again on the 21st before the Monarchs made their way to Chicago for a series against the Chicago American Giants that would prove fateful for Jackie Robinson.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Sunday Double Header In Cincy

The Monarchs and Clowns played two on August 19 in Cincinnati's Crosley Field. The Clowns put "a serious crimp" in the Monarchs second half chances by sweeping the two games from KC.

August 25 Chicago Defender

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Jackie On The End Of WWII And His Off-Season Plans

The US dropped atomic bombs on Japan on August 6th and 9th. By the 14th, Japan had informally surrendered. From the August 18 Afro-American:
Jackie Robinson, former  UCLA football star, now shortstop with the Kansas City Monarchs, and a veteran of 31 months: "I bet $5 it wouldn't be over before October, but that is one bet I am happy to lose. If it is true, it is great news. Now the boys can come home. My best friends and cousins are over there, so you know how I feel about the end."
Monarchs in the service such as Buck O'Neil, Hank Thompson and Willard Brown could start dreaming about being back home and back with the Monarchs in '46.

The August 18 Pittsburgh Courier had this report on Jackie's off-season plans:
Sam Huston College of Austin, Texas, announced this week that Jack (The Rabbit) Robinson has signed a contract to coach football there this fall. Robinson, here last week playing shortstop for the Kansas City Monarchs, said he hasn't signed a contract and that he may play professional football in the Pacific Coast League.

3-1 Win Over Clowns In Indianapolis

Having wrapped up the last eastern swing of the season, the Monarchs headed back to the Midwest. The first stop was in Indianapolis on August 18. Hat tip to John Holway for turning up this brief game account from the August 19 Indianapolis Star:
The Kansas City Monarchs defeated the Indianapolis Clowns, 3 to 1, in a Negro American League game before approximately 3,000 fans at Victory Field last night.
The line score reveals that Booker McDaniels was the lone Monarchs hurler.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Standings and Batting Leaders

The August 17th Kansas City Call published the below standings that show the Monarchs leading the way in the second half of the Negro American League season. The second half ran through September 3. The article lists the batting average leaders as of August 8 like so:

.429 G. Jefferson, Cleveland
.409 Sam Jethroe, Cleveland
.388 Ed Steele, Birmingham
.368 Art Pennington, Chicago
.360 Buddy Armour, Cleveland
.349 Jackie Robinson, Kansas City

Monday, August 16, 2010

3-3 Tie Versus The Grays In D.C.

After the Memphis Red Sox dispatched the Philadelphia Stars, the Monarchs and Homestead Grays faced off to round out a four team doubleheader at Washington, D.C.'s Griffith Stadium on August 16. Lefty LaMarque got the call to start for KC, and faced Roy Welmaker of the Grays. Josh Gibson was not in the Grays lineup this day, and LaMarque managed to take a 3-2 lead into the bottom of the ninth. But the Grays tied it up, prompting manager Frank Duncan to bring Hilton Smith in from the bullpen. After a scoreless tenth, the game was called "to allow the Monarchs to take a midnight train to Youngstown, Ohio" (August 25 Pittsburgh Courier).

This is the last game of Jackie's for which I have a box score. He went 1-for-3 with a double, bringing his average to .414 (41-for-99) in stats I've been able to uncover. That figure includes spring training, the all-star game, and barnstorming games outside of the Negro Leagues. In regular season games against Negro American and National League teams, I have Jackie hitting .436 (34-for-78). A hall of fame sanctioned study headed by Dick Clark and Larry Lester gives Jackie's average as .434 (23-for-53) and slugging as .660. Jackie probably played in over 100 games with the Monarchs, and the 99 at-bats I have for him come from just 26 games. All of these numbers are mere hints at how Jackie fared, but they leave the clear impression that he was a phenomenal player in 1945.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Victory In Queens Over Semi-Pro Bushwicks

August 15 brought the Monarchs to New York to face a semi-pro club called the Bushwicks. The Bushwicks were regular hosts to Negro League teams at Dexter Park. According to the August 16 New York Times,
The Kansas City Monarchs, behind the effective twirling of Booker McDaniels, crushed the Bushwicks,  9-3, last night at Dexter Park in Queens. The visiting twirler struck out eight and yielded five hits, which he kept well scattered.
The report and box (showing Jackie going 2 for 5 with two singles) from the Brooklyn Eagle:

Dexter Park is no more, but there is a historical marker at the site that lists Jackie and Satchel as stars that played there.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Monarchs Triumph In First Ever Night Game At Braves Field

Braves Field, Boston (source)

Big, big thanks to Chris Wertz for passing along the below game summaries of the Monarchs 11-1 trouncing of a Navy team in the first ever night game played at Braves Field.

William "Sheep" Johnson of the Boston Chronicle goes to great lengths to disparage Satchel for not showing up to the game, while lavishing praise on Hilton and Jackie. He writes:
Jackie gave the fans thrill after thrill by his brilliant fielding, base running and hitting. His drag bunt, his delayed steal of third, and his stealing home with the opposing pitcher, looking right down his throat, unable to do anything about it, were his three sensational plays. Jackie proved why he is the talk of the country. He acts like a Big Leaguer, hits like a big leaguer, thinks like a big leaguer, throws like a big leaguer, and he fields like a big leaguer at shortstop. In fact HE IS A BIG LEAGUER AND AS THE COLONEL FROM THE BOSTON RECORD (Dave Egan) SAYS "THE RED SOX COULD USE HIM RIGHT NOW AND PERHAPS GIVE THE BOSTON FANS A REAL BIG LEAGUE CLUB."

August 25 Boston Chronicle

August 14 Boston Herald

Monday, August 9, 2010

Monarchs Shut-Out By Wilmer Harris & Philly Stars In D.C.

The Monarchs final eastern swing of the '45 season continued on August 9 with a game against the Philadelphia Stars in Washington D.C.'s Griffith Stadium. It turned into a pitchers' duel between Philly's Wilmer Harris and KC's Booker McDaniels. Harris got the better of it, holding the Monarchs hitless through seven before Lee Moody broke through with a single. KC managed two more hits off Harris, but no runs. McDaniels yielded just two runs in a tough luck loss.

Satchel was slated to start the game, but showed up too late. The Birmingham Black Barons and Homestead Grays played following the Monarchs game, so Satchel started for Birmingham "to keep (from) disappointing the large number of fans who had turned out to see him in action. He held the Homestead Grays hitless for the three innings he toiled, fanning six of the nine batters to face him. Included in the number of strike-out victims was Josh Gibson" (August 18 Afro-American, below).

Right next to the game summaries is the beginning of an article about the three New York major league teams being under investigation by a New York anti-discrimination commission. The commission didn't need to worry about Branch Rickey's Dodgers.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Hilton & Monarchs Get Revenge On Homestead Grays

August 4 Pittsburgh Courier

After losing to the Grays in Philadelphia, the Monarchs evened the score the next night in Pittsburgh. Hilton Smith held the mighty Grays lineup to three hits (one a Buck Leonard home run) and two runs in a complete game performance. Jackie displayed a bit of his famous base-running. From the Pittsburgh Courier summary below: "With Moody at bat and Scott on first, the fleet-footed Robinson came home from third when Josh Gibson tried to nail Scott attempting to steal second. Robinson slid in under Jackson's return throw to Gibson."
August 11 Pittsburgh Courier

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Josh Gibson Blast Downs Monarchs In Philadelphia

The Monarchs met the Homestead Grays in the first game of a four team double header at Philadelphia's Shibe Park on August 7th. The Grays slipped past the Monarchs 3-2. Josh Gibson hit a two run blast off Lefty LaMarque in the fourth inning to plate the eventual winning run. The Monarchs were scoreless through eight before staging a ninth inning rally that fell short. In the second game, the Philadelphia Stars overtook the Birmingham Black Barons 13-9.

August 18 Afro-American

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Paige, McDaniels Shut-Out Air Force Team In KC

Just two days after meeting a Navy team in KC, the Monarchs hosted another military team on August 5th. The Ft. Leavenworth Sherman Field Flyers started Herman Besse (who split time between the minors and majors between 1936-54) against Satchel Paige. The Monarchs showed the Flyers respect and/or wanted to please the hometown fans by pitching Satchel and Booker McDaniels in the game. The Flyers were no slouches--They had won the 1944 National Baseball Congress (semi-pro) championship. But they were no match for the Monarchs this day. Satchel went five strong innings, allowed three hits, no runs and struck out six. McDaniels picked up where Paige left off and completed the shutout while allowing four hits and four strikeouts.

The Ft. Leavenworth Flyers uniforms may have looked like this in 1945; the auction house where I found the photos lists them as WWII era.

The Monarchs infielders did most of the offensive damage. Taking up the first four spots in the lineup, they got four of the seven KC hits and scored all six runs. In games I have, the infielders (Lee Moody, Herb Souell, Jesse Williams and Jackie Robinson) were hitting between .303 and .450 after this contest. Jackie made the most of his one hit in five at-bats this day; he drove in a run, stole a base, and scored. The Monarchs offense was helped by some sloppy fielding by the Flyers; whoever was keeping score for the Kansas City Call rung them up for nine errors.

Soon after this game, the Monarchs headed off for their final east coast swing of the season.

August 10 Kansas City Call