Quality of Negro Leagues

craig44craig44 Posts: 1,699 ✭✭✭
So the ichiro threads got me to thinking a bit about the negro league and the quality of players. I read some research on baseball fever that found that NLers did well against mlbers when there were 0-3 mlb players on the opposite team. However, as the amount of mlbers on the opposition increased, the NL win percentage drops. This seems to insinuate that the NL was probably top heavy tallent wise and had little depth like a mlb team would. I think they most likely had some great stars, but the further down the depth chart you went, the talent probably dropped off pretty steeply, with many players not being of m lb quality. This is probably where you get someone like Josh Gibson hitting 800 homeruns as a catcher. Either, he really didn't hit that many or he hit the vast majority against inferior competition.
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Comments

  • JoeBanzaiJoeBanzai Posts: 3,495 ✭✭✭
    I wish I could find the book I have, but I seem to remember Bob Feller and some Major league players used to play exhibition games against a black "All-Star" team and the black players won a lot of those games.


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  • perkdogperkdog Posts: 15,696 ✭✭✭
    I believe that a large amount of those Negro League players were a shameful waste of potential Hall of Famers.
  • jay0791jay0791 Posts: 2,171 ✭✭✭
    I totally agree with perkdog. On another thread it was argued Ishiro played in Japan vs inferior competition.

    His hits there wouldn't count as does Josh Gibson's. Maybe in MLB record books that is so.

    It doesn't take away his total hit count. Maybe Gibson doesn't officially have the HR record.

    A small measure to correct the injustice many NLers were inducted into the BB HOF despite never having played in MLB.

    It is my belief that man of the NL players were equal to the MLB players. Many HOFers that played against them have said so.

    I suggest watching Ken Burns film on the negro leagues.

    Now that MLB is fully integrated we will have far more percentage of people of color inducted.

    IMO there is no reason to believe that it wouldn't have been any different 60 years ago as today.

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  • JHS5120JHS5120 Posts: 1,982 ✭✭
    Imagine taking the 2016 MLB rosters and split them up into white players and minorities. Then create two leagues with the minorities in one league and the white players in another. I would venture to guess they would be very comparable leagues.
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  • craig44craig44 Posts: 1,699 ✭✭✭
    How many "official" home runs is Gibson credited with? On baseball reference, he has 107 homeruns. Not quite sure where the 800 homeruns come from with him. Seems like a case of apocryphal stats.
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  • jay0791jay0791 Posts: 2,171 ✭✭✭
    Craig

    I believe Gibson's HR total is an educated estimate.

    The NL did not keep records like MLB did.

    Although not official the all time HR king is Sadaharu Oh from Japan at 868.

    Look him up...he is the Babe Ruth of Japan.

    It's a point not to compare the different eras to today or even the NL to MLB.

    They played a different style.
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  • craig44craig44 Posts: 1,699 ✭✭✭
    Jay, I agree, 800 is an estimate. Probably, a number someone came up with, like, "oh Gibson, he must have hit over 800 homeruns." Not realistic, but seems to have stuck. Similar to the 650 foot home runs he and Ruth hit. Fun stories, but not based in reality.
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  • perkdogperkdog Posts: 15,696 ✭✭✭
    We need Dallas or Skin to jump in here and give us their point of view
  • jay0791jay0791 Posts: 2,171 ✭✭✭
    Also keep in mind the Negro Leagues were not just one league but many.

    Gibson played for the Homestead Grays in the league most are familiar with but also

    the Mexican, Cuban and Dominican leagues.

    They played only 60 games a year. Most were "barnstorming" games where the players could make the most money.

    Many of these were vs inferior competition.

    The baseball HOF and many researchers did a in depth study of HOF caliber players. From known schedules and newspaper

    writings of the period they can certainly get a very close estimate of statistics.

    Check out Wikipedia on Gibson

    Link
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  • craig44craig44 Posts: 1,699 ✭✭✭
    Jay, I had a feeling a lot of these games were barnstorming tours. That would explain a lot.
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  • dallasactuarydallasactuary Posts: 1,883 ✭✭✭
    Originally posted by: perkdog
    We need Dallas or Skin to jump in here and give us their point of view

    I don't really have anything to add. The OP summed it up pretty well; if the best NL teams or NL all-star teams competed against makeshift teams including some MLB players they did well, but no NL team could have competed with a good MLB team or certainly an MLB all-star team. Obviously, there were individual NL players who were every bit as good as star MLB players, but there weren't many, at least not nearly enough to elevate the NL to close to MLB level. My guess is that if the best NL team had been dropped into MLB at any point they would have fared about as well as the 1962 Mets; they would have won some games, but a lot fewer than any other team. A NL all-star team, on the other hand, could probably have been competitive (.500 record), but not a title contender. Part of the perception problem, I think, is that we think of NL all-stars like Josh Gibson and Jackie Robinson and it seems like if they played on the same team they would have been great. Problem is, Gibson was an old man by the time Robinson came along; we know all the great NL players but don't consider that at any given time there were only a handful of great players in the entire league.
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  • I'm a bit late coming into this argument (don't hate on the new guy), but the NL was a completely different game, with many great players. NLers had a different mindset back in the day, where it was thought better to go 1-5 with 2 RBIs was better than going 3-5 with 0 RBIs (and missing 2 opportunities with runners on base). It was more about better situational baseball and not necessarily about stats, something that is missing in today's game.

    I understand the argument about the many on the lower levels of the NL may not have played in the MLB. However, many of the lower levels of the MLB wouldn't have played either if NLers had played. Please also consider this: Remember that Latinos weren't present during the times of Ruth. I'm not saying that Ruth's numbers aren't legit. They are (although another argument could be that Yankee Stadium's short porch to right field was another thing not considered when looking at his HR total - not everything was a 500 foot blast - another time for that argument over beers). But how many of his HRs came against the likes of Cy Young/Bob Feller caliber pitchers and how many came against a guy named Joe, who wouldn't have been on the team if Sathel was pitching? The argument goes both ways.

    Just offering a different perspective.

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  • grote15grote15 Posts: 24,585 ✭✭✭✭
    edited February 17, 2017 6:03AM

    @dallasactuary said:
    Originally posted by: perkdog
    We need Dallas or Skin to jump in here and give us their point of view

    I don't really have anything to add. The OP summed it up pretty well; if the best NL teams or NL all-star teams competed against makeshift teams including some MLB players they did well, but no NL team could have competed with a good MLB team or certainly an MLB all-star team. Obviously, there were individual NL players who were every bit as good as star MLB players, but there weren't many, at least not nearly enough to elevate the NL to close to MLB level. My guess is that if the best NL team had been dropped into MLB at any point they would have fared about as well as the 1962 Mets; they would have won some games, but a lot fewer than any other team. A NL all-star team, on the other hand, could probably have been competitive (.500 record), but not a title contender. Part of the perception problem, I think, is that we think of NL all-stars like Josh Gibson and Jackie Robinson and it seems like if they played on the same team they would have been great. Problem is, Gibson was an old man by the time Robinson came along; we know all the great NL players but don't consider that at any given time there were only a handful of great players in the entire league.

    Dallas,

    I'm curious as to what gauge of NL player talent upon which you are basing these assessments. If the negro leagues were comprised of the same number of teams and players as MLB at that time, do you think the NL would have been more competitive or even better than some of their MLB team counterparts? Or are you saying that the quality of play, if we were to limit the number of teams and roster sizes of the NL to that of MLB at the time, was inferior?



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  • craig44craig44 Posts: 1,699 ✭✭✭

    I think we may be able to get an idea as to quality of play in the NL by looking at anecdotal evidence. "Stories" are told of Paige winning 2000 games and having 100 nohitters. Also of Gibson hitting 800 home runs as a catcher. Now, I think we all can agree that those type of numbers are completely unprecedented at the major league level. So we are left with a couple of options as I see it. Either those numbers are folktales and not real, or they are based in reality and the quality of play in the NL was significantly lower than that of m lb and great players could put up video game numbers in the NL. Similar to putting mike trout in AA ball and seeking what he could do.

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  • @craig44 said:
    I think we may be able to get an idea as to quality of play in the NL by looking at anecdotal evidence. "Stories" are told of Paige winning 2000 games and having 100 nohitters. Also of Gibson hitting 800 home runs as a catcher. Now, I think we all can agree that those type of numbers are completely unprecedented at the major league level. So we are left with a couple of options as I see it. Either those numbers are folktales and not real, or they are based in reality and the quality of play in the NL was significantly lower than that of m lb and great players could put up video game numbers in the NL. Similar to putting mike trout in AA ball and seeking what he could do.

    Fair enough...but to be completely fair, if we're going to pick and choose statistics, then we'd also have to look at all cases. Satchel Paige pitched into his 40's before he finally got a shot. He won 12 games in MLB at the age of 45, with a 3.07 ERA. There was a LOT of quality, and the talent shouldn't be discounted just because some of the competition was against "lesser" players, as the discussion assumes. If you say that, then you'd also have to say that some of Feller's wins were against "lesser" competition because some of his wins were against players who wouldn't have been playing if blacks an Latinos were in the league. Not all of Babe Ruth's HRs were against the likes of Grover Cleveland Alexander and Cy Young.

    Thanks for the discussion!

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  • craig44craig44 Posts: 1,699 ✭✭✭

    I agree that there were great talents playing in the NL. However, the second, third, fourth tier of players were no where near the quality of mlb. There is just no way a catcher ever hits 800 home runs I'm mlb. The stars in the NL were just allowed to shine extra bright because the overall level of play was weaker.

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  • okay, if you say that a guy couldn't hit 800 HRs in MLB, but a guy could hit 714 HRs during the same time? :) Ruth was the best hitter during his time, but Gibson was the best during his time. I'd venture to say that BOTH hitters, if facing the best, would have had reduced numbers. That's not to take away from Ruth. But I think you're discounting Gibson in a way that your not doing the same for Ruth and other MLB players.

    In fifty-four exhibition games, against competition such as future Hall-of-Famers Dizzy Dean, Bob Feller, and Bob Lemon, Cool Papa Bell hit .391. He averaged one stolen base for every two games. His lifetime average was .341. The difference is that he didn't hit .391 against some scrub. I've read comments above that these were all-star teams. This is true, so many of the NL teams weren't all Satchel Paige caliber. But they were playing other MLB all-star teams, not MLB teams, who also had ML players that would have been minor leaguers had integration taken place. It works both ways on your argument.

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  • craig44craig44 Posts: 1,699 ✭✭✭

    No, I didn't say no one could hit 800 HR in mlb ( though no one ever has) what I said was that no catcher could ever hit 800 HR in mlb. As I said before, either that number is a fairy tale or the level of play in the NL was so low as to allow a great player to reach such an unprecedented level. It would be like putting 1956 mantle into AA and letting him hit 100 homers. No one is saying the NL didn't have its stars, I am saying the second, third and fourth tier players would not sniff mlb quality and made the apocryphal stats we have all heard possible.

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  • I don't think that we're far off on this. You're saying that people wouldn't have astronomical numbers, like 800 HRs...how many had that in the NL? One...and extremely gifted player. It's not like everyone had those numbers.

    What I will concede is that Gibson had only about 200 in official NL games, and many were in "lesser games". However, this isn't to take away from how great he was, as he was 21 for 56 against ML players. What I won't concede is that the 3rd or 4th tier players in MLB (probably some 2nd tier) might not have been MLB players had the best competition from blacks and Latinos been in the league. There were better players in the NL than you think.

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  • craig44craig44 Posts: 1,699 ✭✭✭

    I agree there were stars in NL baseball, but I will hold that the depth was much much more shallow in NL. Take a look.
    From 1930-1950, league batting average for NL was .308. For MLB-.269. This shows either Herculean hitters in the NL or a great lack of pitching depth league wide.

    The next stat tends to make me believe it was the latter.

    A list of 15 top hitters who played both in NL and MLB and how they performed.
    Batting ave NL--.319. When they transitioned to MLB--.271

    This list included: junior gillium, Roy Campenella, Elston Howard, Willie Mays,Sam jethro, Monte irvin, Larry doby and Luke Easter
    I think this illustrates that the depth of MLB pitching was much better than NL and even top players had big drop offs.

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  • @craig44 said:
    I agree there were stars in NL baseball, but I will hold that the depth was much much more shallow in NL. Take a look.
    From 1930-1950, league batting average for NL was .308. For MLB-.269. This shows either Herculean hitters in the NL or a great lack of pitching depth league wide.

    The next stat tends to make me believe it was the latter.

    A list of 15 top hitters who played both in NL and MLB and how they performed.
    Batting ave NL--.319. When they transitioned to MLB--.271

    This list included: junior gillium, Roy Campenella, Elston Howard, Willie Mays,Sam jethro, Monte irvin, Larry doby and Luke Easter
    I think this illustrates that the depth of MLB pitching was much better than NL and even top players had big drop offs.

    This was actually a fun exercise. I did take the time to look it up, which was actually a fun exercise. What I found was quite interesting, as those that reported those numbers didn't tell the whole story. Comparing their MLB vs. NL numbers, I show:

    Junior Gilliam (not really enough stats in NL to really compare):
    G PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BA OBP SLG
    MLB (14 seasons) 8321 7119 1889 304 71 65 558 0.265 0.36 0.355
    NLB (5 seasons) 57 51 11 2 0 1 2 0.216 0.286 0.314

    Campy 15-23 nl, 26-35 in mlb,, more power, less average
    PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BA OBP SLG
    MLB (10 seasons) 4816 4205 1161 178 18 242 856 0.276 0.36 0.5
    NLB (9 seasons) 500 474 149 23 7 14 108 0.314 0.346 0.481

    Elston Howard (only spent 1 season at the age of 19 in NL, so his .274 average over 14 seasons is going to heavily skew the average that is reported)

    Willie Mays (only spent 1 season at the age o 17 in NL, so his .302 average sort of balances out Elston Howard's numbers.

    Sam Jethroe
    PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BA OBP SLG
    MLB (4 seasons) 1975 1763 460 80 25 49 181 0.261 0.337 0.418
    NLB (8 seasons) 233 219 62 9 6 2 26 0.283 0.323 0.406

    Doby
    PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BA OBP SLG
    MLB (13 seasons) 6302 5348 1515 243 52 253 970 0.283 0.386 0.49
    NLB (5 seasons) 351 329 100 12 9 8 60 0.304 0.342 0.468

    I have no doubt that these numbers that you stated are being reported. Most of these numbers on the surface make what you stated believable. But they do not tell the whole story, which is common for this era. For instance;

    • Sam Jethroe's MLB's numbers came at the ages of 33-37
    • Larry Doby's BA declined in the MLB, but his SLG increased in MLB (not uncommon for older players, right? This was also the case for Jethroe, Campy, and Gilliam)
    • Campanella's numbers heavily skew the overall numbers, but also not told here is that his NL time started at the age o 15 until 23. He caught until age 35, so his numbers should have gone down. But his power numbers when up.

    For those doing the sort of comparison of BA, they should base it on guys who aren't mid 30's (plus or minus) and not draw conclusions entirely based on talent of the league...in my opinion...and look at the entire picture.

    Again, I'm not suggesting that what you're saying is entirely false. But people tend to report numbers and base their opinions on data that sometimes are not comparing apples to apples.

    BTW, great discussion! I'm for these discussions that often aren't discussed among fans and I'm for anything that highlights the Negro Leagues.

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