Book of Common Prayer
WHAT IF EFFA MANLEY
HAD BEEN AN UGLY MAN?
By John B Holway
Effa Manley, the glamor girl business manager of the Negro Leagues, is now a Hall of Famer. But her husband, Abe, the team owner who built the Newark Eagles into champions, is not.
This is one of the curious results of the special Hall of Fame election that conferred crowns of immortality on 17 veterans of baseballs segregated past.
A committee of noted scholars and unknown fans elected 11 bona fide superstars.
Then it stumbled. It named six more persons, including Manley, who were marginal or, in my opinion, flatly unqualified. And they passed over quite a few others, who had big stats but a small base among the electors.
Lets start with Manley, a lovely person inside and out, but who, in my opinion, would not have been elected if nature had created her as an ugly old man.
(My wife disagrees. There are a lot of ugly men in Cooperstown, she says.)
I advocated putting Effa and Abe on a single plaque, but this might have been embarrassing. Abe (on the left with manager Biz Mackey, who was also elected) was a racketeer, who bought the team with profits from his numbers (lottery) business. Every state in the country runs lotteries now, but 70 years ago a man could be sent to prison for doing the same thing.
In fact, one man almost was -- Alejandro Pompez (right), owner of the New York Cubans. Alex was indicted but fled to Mexico; now hes about to go to Cooperstown, one of the 17 elected, along with Effa, last Monday.
If they let Pompez in, can they keep Pete Rose out?
The committee elected three Latin figures, though the suspicion is that only one of them, Cristobal Torriente, was a true Hall of Famer.
One angry fan, Fredrico Brillhart, grabbed the phone and gave me an earful about the miscarriage of justice in passing over his favorite, outfielder Spotswood Poles, the early Cool Papa Bell. I tried to calm him down by saying box scores back then were too spotty, and we have only anecdotes.
Another old friend, historian Phil Dixon, also got his own gripes off his chest. Phil loves pitchers John Donaldson and Chet Brewer and second baseman Grant Home Run Johnson, none of whom made it in the balloting.
Back around the 1913 era, Donaldson chose to play with white semipro teams in small prairie towns, instead of with the early black clubs. He made more money that way, but his resulting data against black big league clubs were too meager to impress the committee members. Dixon has a book coming out with exhaustive details on Donaldsons career, claiming that he struck out almost 5,000 men. When I protested that they were semipro players, Phil replied, Then cut em in half, its still a lot strikeouts.
Dixon is one of the four or five best researchers in America on the old black leagues. But he was left off the committee. Another top scholar, Jim Riley, author of the Biographical Dictionary of the Negro Leagues, was also passed over.
I think the committee sorely needed their expertise.
So what's the scorecard on the committees work?
11 hits 17 errors
The errors include both sins of commission and of omission, that is, many worthy men were rejected. This is probably the necessary price to pay for 11 hits.
Below are the 39 candidates on the ballot, with the winners in boldface, plus some others, in italics, who were not nominated. The stats are from my own 30-year research project, which yielded totals that are usually larger than those produced in the Hall of Fames recent study.
Jud Wilson, with a .353 batting average, is in. But big John Beckwith (left) also .353, is out. Beck had Albert Belles charm and Babe Ruth Ruths bat. And he played both catcher and shortstop.
Either the voters didn't do their homework, or the data they used was incomplete. Its not clear what the Hall of Fame study used as its criteria for including some games and not others, but my own preference is to include every game I can find between bona fide black teams. My philosophy is: If Josh could hit it, I can count it.
Elected are in boldface
Those not of the ballot are in italics:
AB BA HR HR%*
* Home runs per 550 at bats
Artie Wilson, 85, the Negro Leagues last .400-hitter, would have
given the Hall a sprightly, energetic living presence at the inductions in
July. He would have stolen the
show. But he was left off the
ballot, while Pete Hill was put on.
George Scales (left) had a temper, but he was not only an infielder with power, he was a great teacher. It was Scales who taught Joe Black and Jim Gilliam the skills they needed to make it to the Dodgers.
Gratefully, Minnie Minoso was not elected in a back-door attempt to get him into the Hall after only two years in the Negro Leagues. I'd be in favor of putting him in the Hall the right way, but this was the wrong way.
William Bell 151 63
Ray Brown 148 49
Bill Byrd 133 94
Andy Cooper 131 6
Nip Winters 131 73
Leroy Matlock 79 33
Chet Brewer 72 44
Max Manning 70 39
Jose Mendez 22 8
If Ray Brown is in, why is William Bell out? He ranks third in Negro League victories, behind Paige (160-91) and Bullet Rogan (155-65).
Either the election committee didn't do its homework, or the data they used were incomplete and misleading.
And why did Mendez (left) make it? He was a great pitcher in Cuba but the 58 mite didn't pitch in the Negro League until the end of his career, and then for only four seasons. Did the Halls election guidelines include Cuban totals? If so, then Jose belongs in; if not, then what's going on?
Matlock, Brewer, and Manning compare well with present Hall of Famers Leon Day and Hilton Smith.
Manning(right) lost a potential 30 victories during three years in the Service.
Brewer spent several years in Latin America. He would have preceded Jackie Robinson as the first black in white baseball, but the minor league commissioner struck his contract down.
Taylors rejection was a shock. He was one of the great early managers of black baseball. He is far better qualified than Manley.
Greenlee (left) built the greatest team in Negro League history, the Pittsburgh Crawfords; he was also the most notorious numbers racketeer in black baseball. I suspected he was blackballed by the Hall, before it unwittingly let Pompez in. (Gates assures me I am wrong; no one was blackballed, he says.)
Ed Bolden (right), who had no underworld taint, founded the Eastern Colored League and built three pennant winners in Philadelphia, two more than the Manleys. Yet he wasn't even on the ballot. If his biographer, Neil Lanctot, had been on the committee, this oversight would have been avoided.
Sadly, one of the great gentlemen of baseball, Buck O'Neil, 94, fell one vote short, putting a damper on a big celebration already prepared for him. Buck didn't have the numbers for a Hall of Fame first baseman (though neither did Ben Taylor), but well-meaning fans, ignorant of the facts, raised his hopes cruelly.
If the Hall ever opens a wing for great citizens, O'Neill should be the first man in. He has been a great ambassador for the black leagues, and for all of baseball, and should be honored as such. As manager of the KC Monarchs, he sent 35 men to the majors, include Ernie Banks and Lou Brock.
Brewer (center) should be right behind. Chets work with boys baseball in Watts sent many a kid to the major leagues -- and saved many another from a life in prison, including Dock Ellis of the 1970 champion Pirates.
Mendez should have gone in with them. A fine musician, he played cornet at dances after the games, and he took his guitar throughout the Caribbean, spreading music and baseball wherever he went. Without Mendez, we might not have Mariano Rivera, David Ortiz, or Pedro Martinez.
I'd like to see the votes broken down by individual voters. This has never been done in the history of the elections, going back to 1937. Members of Congress and the Supreme Court cast their votes on far more controversial issues under the clear light of the sun, while Cooperstown electors operate furtively in smoke-filled rooms. Who do they think they are? The College of Cardinals?
This was supposed to be the final election of black veterans. But President Dale Petroskey left the door open for another ballot to admit those deserving men who were unfairly left out.