(Note: I don’t feel comfortable using the term Negro League, even though it may be historically accurate. Therefore, aside from the title and in this explanation, I will refer to the team as NeL. )
(Note: The image at the top of the page is courtesy of http://apbagames.com)
During my search for free or affordable cards for my APBA baseball game, I had to go no farther than the actual web page itself. They have some accessories for the game like scoresheets and a way to figure out how fatigue might affect pitchers. There wasn’t much in the way of actual cards, but what was there caught my eye and got me to thinking. They have the all-star teams for Major League and NeL baseball from 1933.
I think I mentioned in my article last night that I’ve heard all of the stories about the NeL players. In some cases, as I learned during my modicum of research on Baseball Reference, all we have are stories for some of these players. Look, I know that I’m just a hippie, leftist, snowflake, but it seems like an absolute travesty what has been done to African Americans in this country. Every time I think that I’ve found the bottom, I have to kick over the barrel and dig a little deeper.
Well, I wanted to put these stories to the test, so to speak. It’s not that I found them unbelievable. I mainly just wanted to witness it for myself. More recently, I found a page that has the cards for the 1871 National Association season (a precursor to MLB), so I went to Baseball Reference for some information and found way more for what amounts to a MLB prehistoric league than for the NeL in 1933. That’s shameful. Well, thanks to simulation, justice can at least be minimally served with regards to sports.
So, what happened in the games? Well, let’s find out. I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t excited about this.
Game 1 (NeL 8, MLB 2)
The first game of the series started off close with the score 4-2 after 6 innings. Then the NeL exploded for 4 runs in the 7th inning and closed out the game for an 8-2 victory. Their pitcher, Bill Foster, who will turn out to play a massive role in the series, shut down the MLB team. Even though he was a bit wild with 7 walks, he only allowed 4 hits and struck out 5. The MLB 3-8, a group that includes Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, hitters went a combined 0-13. It was an inconsistent, but still dominating performance.
Meanwhile, the NeL team got 13 hits, including 2 homeruns, 4 doubles, and a triple. While just as dominant at the plate as their pitcher was on the mound, they were no less inconsistent in the field. They had 3 errors, though only one proved costly and drove in a run. Overall, a great start to the series.
Player of the Game: This was a tough one. Walter Davis, RF, 2-5, 2B, HR, 2RBI, 1 Run. Could have been Oscar Charleston, 1B, 2-4, HR, 2 RBI, 2 Run, 1 BB.
Game 2 (NeL 6, MLB 3)
This game was close as well. The NeL led 4-3 after a 2 run 6th for the MLB and a scoreless 7th. It looked like the MLB might steal one before the NeL scored a run each in the 8th and 9th to close it out. While the bottom of the order picked things up, including an important pitch hit by Chick Hafey for the pitcher in that 2 run 6th, the top of the order was 0-17, including a collar in 3 AB with 2 Ks for the Bambino.
NeL starting pitcher, Sam Streeter, got tossed in the 5th inning for arguing balls and strikes. On short rest, Bill Foster came into relief. Even though he looked shaky in the 5th and 6th, he settled down to close out the last three innings and seal another important win.
While not quite the offensive explosion of game 1, the NeL batters put together more than enough offense. Just like in game 1, they spread the wealth around as no batter got more than 2 of their 9 hits.
Player of the Game: Bolstered by his game 1 and game 2 consistency, Oscar Charleston, 1B, 2-4, 2B, 2 RBI, 2 Run.
Game 3 (NeL 7, MLB 4)
In a do or die game 3, the MLB manager shook things up by batting Chick Hafey for Babe Ruth and shuffling his lineup. It looked like a good move as MLB charged out to a 3-0 lead in the first 5 innings. A 2 run 6th for the NeL gave the game the flavor of the series as it was close late. A 4 run explosion by the NeL in the 7th brought back memories of game 1. MLB started a comeback in the 8th, loading the bases and scoring a run, but that’s all they would get for the rest of the game. The NeL got back an insurance run in the bottom of the 8th and a scoreless 9th for MLB ended the game and the series.
Even though Chick Hafey performed no better than the Babe had, going 0-4 with 3 Ks, the lineup switch did have a positive effect on the MLB offense. However, the NeL just proved to me too much. Player of Game 2 and nearly player of game 1, Oscar Charleston, drove in 2 with a double. Rap Dion added two more RBI, and a costly error (one of 3 by MLB in the game) gave the NeL the 2 extra runs needed to win the game.
Bill Foster continued his domination. After allowing those 3 runs early, he shut down MLB before handing over batting duties to Vic Harris, who took a BB to spark that 6th inning rally. After that, Sam Streeter held the MLB to only that single run in the 8th and finished them off for good.
Player of the Game: Rap Dixon, CF, 2-4, 2 RBI, 2 Run
Player of the Series: Bill Foster, who got the win in all three games and kept the NeL fighting throughout the series.
I was surprised that the series ended up being a sweep. In spite of some inconsistencies, it was also a definitive sweep in the favor of the NeL. Their players lived up to the hype and provided a lot of excitement. I was also surprised that some big names that I knew from MLB didn’t perform very well at all. Babe Ruth, in particular, was surprising. I know that he was at the end of his career and maybe shouldn’t have started, but you always hear so much about him that it is humbling to see.
I guess what they say is true. Father Time remains undefeated and even one of the greatest players of all time and a true legend of both baseball and America can’t even compete against aging. Lou Gehrig had one good game, one terrible game, and one great game. That’s more like what you’d expect, but still surprising.
Well, 3 games is not much of a sample size. Also, I still have the cards, so I can always go back to do another series and see if MLB can avenge their loss. If so, what’s stopping me from doing a rubber series to settle this once and for all? Well, all of that will have to wait. As I mentioned earlier, I found a page that has the cards from the 1871 NA season and I want to simulate that. It’s only about 30 games on average for 9 teams. Could be fun. See you then!
Box Scores (Series Stats Coming Soon):