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Baseball Analysis  John Holway / Negro Leagues

I've just finished "The Kansas City Monarchs 1920-1938 featuring Bullet Joe Rogan, the greatest player in Cooperstown," by Phil Dixon. It's a breakthrough book with a wealth of details and pictures never before published.


By John B. Holway

I told Phil earlier that I wouldn't quarrel with his premise, and now I'm glad I didn't. He makes a strong case.

At the very least, Rogan and Babe Ruth were the two greatest double-threat men, pitching and hitting, of all time. In his heyday, Rogan could win 20 games, bat .400, and slug homers at a pace of 40 per 550 at bats.

And Joe stood 5'6", he wouldn't even come up to Babe's armpits.

Phil corrects some long-held errors, including my own.

He puts Joe's birth four years later than everyone else had. So where I say he debuted at age 30 in 1920, Phil puts him at age 26.

And he says Casey Stengel did not discover Joe in Arizona in 1918, playing with an army team at Fort Huachuca. Casey and many others had known about Joe several years before that. It is true, however, that Casey and his all stars played Joe and his doughboy teammates. When I asked Case about it in Cooperstown 30 years ago, I got a typical Stengelese answer. Quoting from my book, "Blackball Stars," Ol' Case' said:

"I first saw Rogan down below Albuquerque. We were down near the Mexican border, and the army brought these buglers and made all the soldiers line up and march across the field like this and pick up pebbles and rocks so we could play.

"We had a big guy [probably Lee Meadows] pitched for St Paul in the American Association, who cheated. So before the game I went out behind home plate and announced:

[Stentorian voice]: "Ladies and gentlemen" -- but there were no ladies there -- "ladies and gentlemen, we're now going to have a young man that pitches this game today that throws the new, mysterious ball known as the 'tequila pitch!' It's taken from the tequila plant! And, Jesus, he was spitting all over the ball and everything else, you know, and cheating. So we won the game."

Stengel remembers Rogan vividly. "You know how Rogan pitched, don't you? He pitched like this, without a windup. If you lean in, see, he pitches close; it you step back, you know what he'd come in with? Outside."

Phil has one maddening habit, however. He counts all games together, Negro League plus semipro opponents, whereas I count only league games (plus Cuba and post-season and of course games against white big leaguers).

Counting that way, Phil says Joe won 350 games, which is more than Satchel Paige.

My own count shows them tied in league games:

League Games Combined Games*

Name W L Pct TRA W L Pct TRA
Paige 155 77 .668 3.03 208 120 .634 3.10
Rogan 155 64 .742 3.36 174 73 .704 3.31

TRA is Total Runs/9 innings (earned runs not given)

* Combined games include league games, post-season, East-West, Cuba, Dominican Republic, vs white big leaguers, and Satch's AL record.

Joe joined the Monarchs in July 1920 and won 11 games the rest of the season. If he had come up in May, when the season opened, he might have won 8 or 9 more.

Satch came up at age 23, three years younger than Bullet Joe. In the next three years his record was 32-18.

Satchel debuted in 1927. Joe's peak seasons had been 1924-25. Satch told me:

"Yeah, I pitched against Bullet Joe. Rogans was one of the world's greatest pitchers. I never did see him in his prime if you want me to tell you the truth. I came up from Birmingham to Kansas City. He beat me 1-0 in the 11th inning. Yeah, he was the onliest pitcher I ever knew, I ever heard of in my life, was pitching and hitting in the cleanup place. He was a chunky little guy, but he could throw hard. He could throw hard as Smoky Joe Williams -- yeah. Oh yes, he was a number-one pitcher, wasn't any maybe so."

You can order contact Phil or order his book by email at

Phil says he uses "at least" 350 games, because there may be more he hasn't found. I told him, "Phil, when they bury us, some guy will run up yelling, "Stop! Stop! Here's one more box score!"

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