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