The Negro Leagues were not only a league of great ballplayers, but also of great stories. As we celebrate Black History Month, we highlight a few.
Josh Gibson's Home Run never comes down
From Robert W. Peterson's "Only the Ball Was White"
One day during the 1930s the Pittsburgh Crawfords were playing at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, where their young catcher, Josh Gibson, hit the ball so high and so far that no one saw it come down. After scanning the sky carefully for a few minutes, the umpire deliberated and ruled it a home run. The next day the Crawfords were playing in Philadelphia, when suddenly a ball dropped out of the heavens and was caught by the startled center fielder on the opposing club. The umpire made the only possible ruling. Pointing to Gibson he shouted, "Yer out -- yesterday in Pittsburgh!"
Cool Papa Bell rounds the bases in 12 seconds flat
Cool Papa Bell could, allegedly, round the bases in just 12 seconds. Multiple sources recorded Bill Veeck clocking Bell at 13.1 seconds in Chicago, on a muddy field. In more ideal conditions, it is easy to see Bell eclipsing the 12-second mark.
Rube Foster's 11-bunt rally
Rube Foster is credited with popularizing the suicide squeeze and would often use the bunt and run to frustrate opponents. One story has his Chicago American Giants trailing 18-0 to the Indianapolis ABCs in the eighth inning, Foster jumpstarted a rally by signaling for 11 bunts in a row. Opposing fielders were so flummoxed they couldn’t get anybody out, and the Giants went on to hit two grand slams and tie the score before the game was called on account of darkness.
Ted "Double Duty" Radcliffe earned his nickname
Radcliffe's Pittsburgh Crawfords played a doubleheader at Yankee Stadium, catching a shutout by Satchel Paige in the first game. To top that off, he threw a shutout in the second game.
"Smokey Joe" Williams struck out 27 batters in a single game
In a game against the Kansas City Monarchs in 1930, at the age of 44, Williams struck out 27 batters while allowing just one hit.