Monday, December 31, 2012

According to Neil Lanctot, Author of Negro League Baseball

In taking from the website
you can learn about the Negro Leagues without having to purchase the books of others who evidently feel their information is on a "need to know" basis for the baseball fanatic.

In a couple of questions you will see that the statistics kept weren't reliable.

From the aformentioned website:

JJM "Some of the Negro League player statistics are pretty amazing. For example, Josh Gibson is reputed to have hit .542 one season. How reliable are the Negro League statistics?

NL Unfortunately, the statistics are not reliable. After the game, League statisticians were dependent on the owners or managers to submit their box scores to a central office, where the numbers would be compiled. Often, the statistics were not even submitted, which would skew the results."

In other words, they don't have box scores for every game played and some of the box scores don't have all of the necessary information.

"The inaccuracy of the statistics is extremely frustrating. While I was doing research for the book, I would often wonder how in the world they could mess something as essential as statistics? It is such a basic thing in baseball. A major appeal of baseball is statistical comparisons, but because the administration of the Negro Leagues was so weak they never could quite get their act together around this issue. They could never get all League owners on the same page regarding it."

"In general, the League publicity was never very good. They depended on the black newspapers for publicity but they were often not cooperative with them as far as getting information out to the fans. Many of the black newspapers were frustrated with the Negro Leagues, complaining that they couldn't get the information they needed. The black sports writer, Sam Lacy, said at one point that his newspaper offered to pay for the results of the game, and even then they didn't receive cooperation."

(Note: Something to consider when you see the amazing numbers. Sometimes the great Negro League teams played against semipro teams of lesser talent. Some of these semipro teams were white. Yes, the Negro League was a professional league but they straddled these two worlds.)

JJM:"This lack of structure really contributed to the demise of the League. The social changes taking place like would have eliminated the League anyway, but what kept money out of the owners' pockets and seemed to expedite their demise was that they rarely signed players to contracts. This left them vulnerable to major league teams who could sign players without the need of paying out compensation.

While some teams did have contracts, they weren't even notarized, which meant they didn't have much legal force. Other teams didn't use contracts at all, including the Kansas City Monarchs, for whom Jackie Robinson played before Branch Rickey signed him.

It was the author's contention that they (owners of the Negro Leagues) preferred the kind of non-existent obligation. Of course, the consequence of this is that when major league teams came calling, Negro League teams took quite a hit. The Monarchs didn't get a penny for Robinson, nor did the Newark Eagles for Don Newcombe or the Baltimore Elite Giants for Roy Campanella. So, while these players became a cornerstone in the success of the Brooklyn Dodgers during the late forties and fifties, Negro League teams didn't get a penny for them."

"The largest sum paid out for a Negro League player may have been fifteen or twenty thousand dollars--the Newark Eagles got approximately fifteen thousand for Larry Doby, which is about the same the Birmingham Black Barons got for Willie Mays and the Indianapolis Clowns got for Hank Aaron."

But that was about what these teams were going to get in that period. And more importantly it wasn't zero.

Wow, to think nothing was received for Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella and Don Newcombe! Ya think this is what Branch Rickey had in mind all along? Sure, he was looked upon as some sort of Abraham Lincoln type but perhaps he saw it as a way to get quality players on the ultimate cheap. Larry McPhail certainly felt this way about "El Cheapo," (a.k.a. Branch Rickey).

Kevin J. Marquez

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Purity Pasture

Another factual piece inspired by the audacity that Baseball is a game of integrity. It is to laugh, if one truly thinks this holier than thou belief ever existed.

"The farm system, which I have been given credit for developing," Rickey said later, "originated from a perfectly selfish motive: saving money."

Wesley Branch Rickey, (Born on December 20, 1881 and Died on December 9, 1965) figured that if the Cardinals could buy up minor league clubs, they could control prospects from the moment they entered organized baseball, when they were unproven and thus inexpensive. The Cardinals could also make sure that the players received the best instruction, which increased their chances of developing, and the big-league club would have accurate scouting information all the way through the process.

The Cardinals would have the pick of the litter, with excess players being used as trade bait or sold for cash. Best of all, Rickey figured the farm system (a.k.a. "Purity Pasture") would probably make enough money to pay for its expenses, which meant that the whole thing wouldn't cost the Cardinals a dime. (And since we're talking dimes, an Enos Slaughter quote about Branch Rickey would be appropriate right here! "Rickey would go to the vault to get change for a nickel.")

Rickey quickly went to work and the Cardinals bought 18% of Texas League's Houston Buffaloes and then acquired working control of Ft. Smith of the Western Association. In 1921, they purchased the Syracuse Stars of the International League. The first stage was complete, and the second, that of stocking the teams with promising players, followed.

A quick and inexpensive means of finding players was developed as the Cardinals sponsored tryout camps, using the team's popularity in the midwest and south to attract young men with dreams of playing baseball. Success came quickly as three players with considerable talent, Ray Blades, Clarence "Heinie" Mueller, and Jim Bottomley, were signed to make their way up the chain. Others would follow, and winning baseball would come with them. In 1926, the Cardinals won their first World Series, and their pennant-winning season would be repeated in 1928, 1930, 1931, and 1942. Even after Rickey left St. Louis following the 1942 season, his farm system continued to produce Cardinal pennants in 1943, 1944, and 1946. Not only was the team winning, but they were becoming replaceable. Thus, Johnny Mize brought over $50,000, a washed-up Dizzy Dean went for $185,000 and two players, and on and on.

Kennesaw Mountain Landis was a staunch opponent of Branch Rickey's minor league farm system and fought it tooth and nail. Landis liberated numerous minor league players during his tenure. In one 1938 case, Landis freed 91 Cardinal farmhands, including Pete Reiser and James "Skeeter" Webb. In January 1940, he hit the Detroit Tigers' system freeing scores of players and costing the Tigers an estimated $500,000.

I wondered, what was the reason for Landis opposing Rickey and the minor leagues?
And after doing some investigative research I came upon the following: Landis viewed the success of the Cardinals' general manager (Rickey)as a threat to the integrity of the game. Phew, here we go again. And I must once again reiterate, those righteous sorts who might-just free the world of it's iniquities that choose the usage of rhetoric are full of crap!

The controlling side of Landis took offense at Rickey's personal success, particularly when Landis' baseball salary of $40,000 was almost $10,000 short of Rickey's. The prevailinig side of the commissioner is once again subject to debate.

What gave Landis the right to do such things? The owners awarded him absolute power. While his judgings could be overruled or overturned he wouldn't take the role of commissioner unless what he said was final. This corrupt and bitter person got his wish because he was dealing with cold-hearted, tyrannical bastards who had enough money to buy a team and then would become misers for their own benefit. They saw Landis as protection to their investment of purchasing a major league ballclub.

Proof of this, was the behavior of Branch Rickey. Fresh off his soapbox for being such a good human being after working diligently to get Jackie Robinson to break the color line, he raids the Negro Leagues as a new source for talent. Effa Manley, owner of the Newark Eagles, accused Rickey of being a crook who did not want to pay out a dime for the players he signed away. Of the number of black players he signed through 1950, he paid out less than 5% of their total value to the clubs he signed them away from. (Think of what it costs clubs to purchase Asian players and you know that this, along with dwindling attendance, killed the Negro Leagues.)

Another case: Dodger outfielder George Shuba was negotiating with Rickey and wanted an increase to $23,000. During their meeting, Rickey was summoned to another office for a phone call. As he waited, Shuba noticed a contract with Jackie Robinson's name on it for $21,000. When Rickey returned, Shuba agreed to take $20,000. Later, he found out that the Robinson contract was a phony and that Rickey's phone call was a setup.

While he was nickel-and-diming his players, Rickey was becoming a rich man. He had a deal with the Cardinals and Dodgers that gave him a 10% commission on every player sale.

After successfully recruiting Don Newcombe from Newark and convinced him to join the Dodgers, Manley took action. She wrote letters to Rickey asking him to meet with her. Rickey did not respond, but Manley continued to fight for just compensation and speak out against the raiding of Negro League teams without reparation.

Cleveland Indians owner, Bill Veeck, called Manley in 1947, inquiring about Larry Doby. they agreed to a deal that ultimately paid the Manleys $15,000 in exchange for Doby (the first black in the American League). The deal established a precedent, and Major League owners from then on paid an average of $5,000 for each Negro Leaguer they signed.

(Much appreciation goes to the following article and website. Was it the Godfather (in the WWF) who said, "Pimping aint easy." He ain't kidding. Finding this kind of information is difficult because it's all in books the writers want money for this hidden knowledge, know what I mean? I'm just researching. I suppose we're all frugal to a certain extent, some get more carried away than others.)

So what changed? Branch Rickey saw the other side of this economic coin and wanted it in his pocket.The death of Landis in 1944 removed a huge segregation barrier. Political pressure in New York to study integration in baseball forced him to speed up his pace, but it also played into his plans in terms of political support.
On Oct. 25, 1945, he announced the signing of Robinson. His choice has been well-chronicled.

"Being the astute businessman he was, Branch realized there was a brand new clientele available," said Buck O'Neil. "Segregation is a pretty stupid way to run a country. Kids don't know color. Fans don't know color. They want to watch a game. Branch Rickey saw that these men could play baseball as well as any white man, and that people were already coming out to watch."

"I don't pretend to know what Rickey's motives were," said Don Newcombe, who played against Robinson in the Negro Leagues in 1945 and was a teammate with him in Brooklyn in 1948. "He was a man with a good heart. I couldn't read his mind. But I knew he was a businessman like any other, and if it was going to enhance the team and his business, he'd make it happen."

Branch Rickey got $40 million worth of ballplayers for nothing," wrote the Pittsburgh Courier.

Larry MacPhail, long Rickey's enemy and rival (and a supporter of commissioner Landis), blasted him in a 1959 Sports Illustrated article. "Rickey was not interested in doing something constructive for either baseball or the Negro players . . . (he) raided the Negro Leagues and took players without adequate compensation. Rickey wasn't kidding anybody in baseball with all his bunk about his conscience."
"They just took the cream of the young crop," said Haynes, "and whoever got a black ballplayer sold tickets. People wanted to see how good they were, especially black people."

"The only thing the owners were interested in were the players, and they didn't respect the Negro League contracts," said Gerald Early, a professor of African-American studies at Washington University in St. Louis. "They didn't pay those teams anywhere near the market value for a Robinson, Doby or Irvin. It's a sign of the lack of leverage the Negro League had as a business, and what the major league owners saw as a (scam). They got talented players and didn't have to pay for them."

Finally, while it has been written (in several books and annals) how the owners mistreated their players. By taking advantage of the players' limited education to pay them less than they were worth and other such indignant acts devised by the not so clever miscreants (owners)in charge. Mr. Rickey was the forerunner of the management side that brought about the players' union organization. With his parsimonious (tendency to be overcareful in spending; unreasonable economy; stinginess) attitude towards baseball players, the man referred to as "El Cheapo," (a.k.a. Branch Rickey) did more than any other person to bring about the union. His cheapness caused the players to get together and form a union.

(I am very grateful for this article. I just about had it with the books popping up that have maybe one paragraph worth of information. Researching information can be found in the most unsuspecting places. In the mere contents of a chapter in a book with a title that is reminiscent of the Kinks. (They had a knack for giving a song a title and no mention of that title was ever brought up in the song.)

In an article by Bob Keisser, "Baseball Segregated, Later Integrated for One Overriding Reason," there is good information on why the Negro Leagues folded and it's ironic that the person who you can pin much of the blame on was the person who initiated the integration. Or at least he (Branch Rickey)got the majority of the credit.


Kevin J. Marquez

Friday, December 21, 2012

For The Good of Baseball

Don't let the title fool you. It's easier said than done considering all the camouflage owners would use to get you to believe that they really cared. All they ever cared about was the bottom line.

From "Baseball and It's Myths ( was some good insight into the hypocrisy of baseball. I think every baseball fan should know this as they should know the Curt Flood story.

'If a player refused to cooperate with the team or sought greater pay, he challenged not the owners personally, but "the Good of the Game," the very integrity of our sacred national pastime... The owners had spun the myths of baseball pastoral purity into Spalding's great "national agreement." A player privileged enough to play baseball had the duty to protect the Integrity of the Game- even if it meant accepting a reserve clause and a lower salary. "What burns the player," Curt Flood wrote in his book "The Way It Is," "is the awareness that certain of his contributions to the fables of baseball strengthen the employer's position and weaken his own."

"I guess you really have to understand who Curt Flood was. I'm a child of the sixties; I'm a man of the sixties. During that period of time this country was coming apart at the seams. We were in Southeast Asia. Good men were dying for America and for the Constitution. In the sourthern part of the United States we were marching for civil rights and Dr. King had been assassinated, and we lost the Kennedys. And to think that merely because I was a professional baseball player, I could ignore what was going on outside the walls of Busch Stadium was truly hypocrisy and now I found that all of those rights that these great Americans were dying for, I didn't have in my own profession."

"In the typically exaggerated rhetoric owners would dip into when the game and their pocketbooks, were threatened, Branch Rickey of the Dodgers proclaimed Danny Gardell's attempt at free labor to possess a "communistic tendency." Are you kidding, these capitalists were the last people to talk. People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. Geeez!

Major league owners punished those who had "defected," because they were threatening the "good of the great American game." Teams would blacklist these players for a minimum of five years.

'The baseball plantation system carried on unperturbed. Despite the game's growing popularity and enormous new income from radio and television rights, the average player salary stayed at almost exactly the same point- compared to the general population-as it had for a century.

But as Curt Flood stated so appropriately, "The moment we found out that the owners didn't want Marvin Miller, he was our guy."

Marvin Miller: "At the time Curt Flood decided to challenge baseball's reserve clause, he was perhaps the sport's premier center fielder. And yet he chose to fight an injustice, knowing that even if by some miracle he won, his career as a professional player would be over. At no time did he waver in his commitment and determination. He had experienced something that was inherently unfair and was determined to right the wrong, not so much for him, but for those who would come after him. Few praised him for this, then or now. There is no Hall of Fame for people like Curt."

(thanks to Baseball and It's Myths and Baseball Reliquary on Curt Flood for the information)

Kevin J. Marquez

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Bruce Jenkins vs. Ann Killion Debate Over Steroids Players Entering Cooperstown

Bruce Jenkins: My choices are all about the best playes, period. I don't have time for the moralistic preaching, and the Hall of Fame has no business pretending its membership stands for "character" or the very finest of upstanding humanity.

Ann Killion: I, too, like my colleague Bruce Jenkins, have to follow my instincts when I fill out my Baseball Hall of Fame ballot. And I've decided that, right now, I won't vote for players who willfully, systematically cheated the game and tainted not only their era but the entire baseball history book.

Killion: The vote-'em-in gang resorts to name-calling, saying voters like me are being sanctimonious, moralistic, holier-than-thou.

Let me tell you what my ballot says under Paragraph 5, titled "Voting":
Voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.

Jenkins: Over time, you come to acknowledge the cavernous gap between professional beseball and the game we loved as kids. you learn of players meticulously corking their bats or scuffing up baseballs (a ticket to the Hall of Fame for Gaylord Perry, Whitey Ford and many others). You sense a quiet, relentless desperation among veterans, always seeking "edge" and willing to do just about anything to get there.

Killion: The steroid story, as we've learned in 2012, is not a closed chapter. It continues to play out and in 15 years, with baseball under a new commissioner and with the perspective of time, the story and its falout may look different. I could change my mind and check the box next to Barry Bonds.
But I can't do it right now.

Jenkins: As the years passed, and I came to flee Bonds' toxic persona, I loved hearing those stories from the other side: talk of Bonds' patience in the box, how he'd never swing at a bad ball, how he'd somehow keep those dead-pull line drives fair, how he so often knew what pitch was coming, how he could definitively spot breaking pitches in mid-flight, how his swing was a gift from the gods, how you'd be a fool not to stop and watch the man take batting practice. As the science of hitting evolved through its most elite practitioners - Ty Cobb to Rogers Hornsby to Ted Williams to George Brett, to name a few- Bonds was unquestionably the master of his time.

So forgive my disgust over writers becoming the arbiters of baseball morality, making the vote all about themselves, or saying, oh my goodness, they just can't decide. Be damned the revisionist history claiming that Sosa and Mark McGwire actually didn't part the emotional seas, or that Bonds-Eric Gagne was a phony at-bat. And take a tip: Decades from now, when performing-enhancing substances have been refined and universally approved throughout sports, people will look back with amusement upon these days of Cooperstown anxiety.

(the debate was taken further by Larry Krueger and Ann Killion on 680AM, KNBR, this morning. Her debate didn't hold water but she believes what she believes. He was going the route of "characters" in the Hall. The Paragraph 5 that Killion seems to be basing her reason for not voting for those who "cheated." If everyone was doing something and the owners and commissioner chose to look the other way then it must have been okay. Nothing was done about it. All the gate receipts were accepted and no money was returned to those who felt "cheated." And so it goes. Thanks to Bruce Jenkins, Ann Killion and Larry Krueger for their input on a hot topic.)

Kevin Marquez

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Tommy Lasorda Said

"They cheated. That's the way it is. If my brother did that I'd say the same thing about my brother. I mean, I know those guys. They're good friends of mine. But by golly, they didn't do it the right way."

"How in the hell could a guy hit 73 home runs? I mean, Babe Ruth couldn't do it."

This is the same guy who has sung the Dodger blues by not getting his chance to make the major league roster because of some Jewish left-hander from Brooklyn, New York. With that cheshire cat grin he made a livelihood out of saying, 'It took Sandy Koufax to keep me off the major league roster.'

So you mean to tell me if someone approached him with the idea of a supplement incorporated into a well-balanced diet, with an emphasis on strength and conditioning, that would enhance his game to the point where he could escape the dregs of minor league baseball, he wouldn't do it?

More money, better living conditions, a chance to show all those naysayers what he could do. Or how about being told by a trainer, back in those uninformed days of treating injuries, 'What do you think all those ointments and lotions Koufax uses do for the lefty? They help him stay in the big leagues.'

Holy Gluefactory Batman, you have a chance to escape the morass of minor league baseball (in Montreal) and you're going to punch the trainer in the nose for suggesting such a thing? C'mon, you'd jump higher than a vat filled with spaghetti if that opportunity was presented to you. Unless, of course, you were a practicing monk where thou art as pure as the freshly driven snow. Pa-lease!

You can't make quotes from your current perspective. Think back to the days when you were trying to make the big league club. Wouldn't you have done anything to make the bigs?

Kevin J. Marquez