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Thread: Oscar Charleston General Thread

  1. #51
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    I know some people want to hang onto larger than life legends so they may not want to hear what I have to say about some of the men that played in Black baseball or Blackball. Sometimes, I worry that when I make a contribution to the conversation here that nobody wants to talk about it anymore. I enjoy and appreciate these players and that is why I am here. Oscar Charleston was a great player, but I believe that his power as a hitter has been exaggerated by some authors. We have statistics for Oscar from more than 4,000 plate appearances covering 944 games. He has a .354 career batting average and a .428 OBP in those recorded games. He hit a total of 118 homeruns in those games which translates roughly to an average of about twenty homeruns in a 162 game season. He hit triples at almost the same rate. These are still some great stats, but we have to keep in mind that the level of competition was not equal to that of Major League baseball. This has to be considered when making a comparison to Willie Mays (The player Charleston has most often been compared to). I do not believe that Charleston hit with as much power as Willie Mays and there is no way that he had as strong of a throwing arm. Yes, Charleston had a very nice throwing arm, but not in the legendary category such as the throwing arm of Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente and some others. Follow this link to see some stats for Oscar Charleston:

    http://www.seamheads.com/NegroLgs/player.php?ID=134

  2. #52
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    Quote Originally Posted by TerryB View Post
    I know some people want to hang onto larger than life legends so they may not want to hear what I have to say about some of the men that played in Black baseball or Blackball. Sometimes, I worry that when I make a contribution to the conversation here that nobody wants to talk about it anymore. I enjoy and appreciate these players and that is why I am here. Oscar Charleston was a great player, but I believe that his power as a hitter has been exaggerated by some authors. We have statistics for Oscar from more than 4,000 plate appearances covering 944 games. He has a .354 career batting average and a .428 OBP in those recorded games. He hit a total of 118 homeruns in those games which translates roughly to an average of about twenty homeruns in a 162 game season. He hit triples at almost the same rate. These are still some great stats, but we have to keep in mind that the level of competition was not equal to that of Major League baseball. This has to be considered when making a comparison to Willie Mays (The player Charleston has most often been compared to). I do not believe that Charleston hit with as much power as Willie Mays and there is no way that he had as strong of a throwing arm. Yes, Charleston had a very nice throwing arm, but not in the legendary category such as the throwing arm of Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente and some others. Follow this link to see some stats for Oscar Charleston:

    http://www.seamheads.com/NegroLgs/player.php?ID=134
    I want to know enough to be comfortable in assessing these players, so I'm with you, TerryB. The stats we are getting these days still aren't for as long a seasons or as complete a stat set as we'd have had for them if they'd played in the majors, to be sure. But they're complete enough that it's nearly random what we're missing (I'd guess that truly memorable league games being missing is rarer than ordinary ones, which would might skew the stats upward a tad for a dominant player), but it shouldn't be a big concern with the amounts of PA we're getting now.

    I don't get excited about the single season marks, with 50 or less games often being all that's reported. That's like getting all hyped up over someone's stats in May in the majors. But when you put a guy in several thousand PA context with walks (which to my mind is the most important improvement in the data), you can get a much better picture of them than you could with the data available only a decade or so ago. I'd rather rely on that data than the combination of the fragmentary data at the turn of this century combined with the narratives which often contained flourishes from guys who knew how to tell an entertaining story. In some ways, relying on those narratives without the better data we have now is like relying on the "history" as told by a "based on true events" film or TV show. One other factor is the issue of barnstorming. Josh Gibson undoubtedly pounded pitchers even more than he did in black ball league play, since it seems the average quality of barnstorming opponents wasn't even as good as that in the Negro Leagues. Since Negro Leaguers played almost year round with few days off, Gibson might have hit a thousand homers against all opposition. I think it more telling that in about 2000 recorded PA he hit about 350/400/620 with a homer in less than every 20 PA, despite playing a lot in a terrible HR park like Griffith Stadium.
    Seen on a bumper sticker: If only closed minds came with closed mouths.
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  3. #53
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    Quote Originally Posted by jalbright View Post
    I want to know enough to be comfortable in assessing these players, so I'm with you, TerryB. The stats we are getting these days still aren't for as long a seasons or as complete a stat set as we'd have had for them if they'd played in the majors, to be sure. But they're complete enough that it's nearly random what we're missing (I'd guess that truly memorable league games being missing is rarer than ordinary ones, which would might skew the stats upward a tad for a dominant player), but it shouldn't be a big concern with the amounts of PA we're getting now.

    I don't get excited about the single season marks, with 50 or less games often being all that's reported. That's like getting all hyped up over someone's stats in May in the majors. But when you put a guy in several thousand PA context with walks (which to my mind is the most important improvement in the data), you can get a much better picture of them than you could with the data available only a decade or so ago. I'd rather rely on that data than the combination of the fragmentary data at the turn of this century combined with the narratives which often contained flourishes from guys who knew how to tell an entertaining story. In some ways, relying on those narratives without the better data we have now is like relying on the "history" as told by a "based on true events" film or TV show. One other factor is the issue of barnstorming. Josh Gibson undoubtedly pounded pitchers even more than he did in black ball league play, since it seems the average quality of barnstorming opponents wasn't even as good as that in the Negro Leagues. Since Negro Leaguers played almost year round with few days off, Gibson might have hit a thousand homers against all opposition. I think it more telling that in about 2000 recorded PA he hit about 350/400/620 with a homer in less than every 20 PA, despite playing a lot in a terrible HR park like Griffith Stadium.
    I don't get too excited about stats from fifty games either, but when we have a few thousand recorded plate appearances then I think that does tell us a good deal about the player. In Josh Gibson's case the Seamheads site only has 452 PA, but his 26 homeruns and .361 batting average in those plate appearances do seem consistent with what we now know about Josh Gibson and the level of competition. You might find the new book Outsider Baseball and informative read. Author Scott Simkus tackles the question of how many homeruns Josh Gibson hit among other things.

  4. #54
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    BBref has about 2000 PA for Gibson
    Seen on a bumper sticker: If only closed minds came with closed mouths.
    Some minds are like concrete--thoroughly mixed up and permanently set.
    A Lincoln: I don't think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday.

  5. #55
    I feel comfortable with 2500 PA personally. That's roughly 5 seasons of MLB AB's. What does everyone else think?

  6. #56
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    I've been trying to get more detailed first person accounts of Charleston. Former BBF poster "The Splendid Splinter" has a baseball journal that belonged to his great-grandfather who saw Charleston play several times and documented what he saw. According to The Splendid Splinter his great-grandfather had 48 journal entries for Charleston. Unfortunately, The Splendid Splinter doesn't post at BBF anymore, his last post was in 2008. Does anyone have contact with him or know his e mail address?
    Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls - it's more democratic.-Crash Davis

  7. #57
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    Quote Originally Posted by bluesky5 View Post
    I feel comfortable with 2500 PA personally. That's roughly 5 seasons of MLB AB's. What does everyone else think?
    Even a couple of season's worth, 1000 or so, will do if it backs up the reputation of the guy, especially if he also led a bunch of leagues he was in. Another thing is that the best players tended to wind up on the best teams in the Negro Leagues, so you want to see some pennants. Let's put it this way: if all we had were Mike Trout's first two seasons of data, and it was backed up by 5 home run titles, a few batting titles, an MVP, 10 all-star games, 3-4 RBI titles and a WS ring or two, would anyone doubt he was a great player? That's a better description of what's been found for the Negro Leaguers.
    Seen on a bumper sticker: If only closed minds came with closed mouths.
    Some minds are like concrete--thoroughly mixed up and permanently set.
    A Lincoln: I don't think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday.

  8. #58
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    Quote Originally Posted by jalbright View Post
    BBref has about 2000 PA for Gibson
    The stats for Josh Gibson on the Baseball Reference site are consistent with the stats found on Seamheads for him lending further credibility. Seamheads will be releasing stats for Josh Gibson from the 1935 and 36 Negro National League seasons soon.

  9. #59
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    Some great news to share. I spoke with writer Geralyn Strecker via email. She is working on an Oscar Charleston biography due out in 2016. She's given me permission to post the following email excerpt.

    When comparing Charleston's best CF years (probably 1915-1927) with Mays, and Charleston's hitting with anyone mid-1920s and later, you must consider major changes in equipment. Charleston was catching with a small, thin mitt that did nothing except take a little sting off the ball. Most fielders caught 2-handed until after WWII, but sportswriters repeatedly noted Charleston's "one-handed circus catches." When he pulled off these feats, fans showered coins onto the field. By comparison, Mays had a more modern mitt and outfield walls. For hitting, Charleston's early career is still part of the deadball era, plus many of the parks still either did not have outfield fences and/or had fans sitting in the outfield grass.

    Charleston was a total player, and his on-field career spanned 30 years (1912 in the Philippines through 1942) with no significant injuries. As a kid, he was the best pitcher in Manila, tossing frequent shutouts against many white players who saw time in the high minors or even took a sip of coffee in the majors. His speed was amazing, and fortunately the Army timed him during track & field meets. Speed + brains = impressive stolen base totals. He could slam home runs but loved to run out triples and could lay down a drag bunt better than anyone at the time, usually making it to first. The most comprehensive assessments of his skill come from the Cuban press, where writers saw him compete against the best of all leagues and backgrounds. In 1933, when the Negro Leagues held their first All-Star game, fans still gave 36-year-old Charleston the most votes overall, even though he was playing first by that time. People just knew he was great, and peers deemed him the Black Cobb, Black Speaker, and Black Ruth (the latter while Gibson was still in diapers).

    Bill James ranks Charleston #4 all time behind Ruth, Wagner, and Mays. That is certainly in the right ballpark. Others might have had a better year or two, but to sustain the talent over three decades is truly amazing. And after that, he was a mastermind manager and scout, contributing to professional baseball right up to his death. In 1954, he led the Indianapolis Clowns to the NAL pennant but then died shortly after the season ended. His obituary appeared in black newspapers on the same page as Mays celebrating World Series victory.

    Interestingly, Charleston also had no serious vices. He didn't smoke, drink, use drugs, or gamble. His biggest weakness was pie.

    Can you tell I am a Charleston fan? I even live in the old ballpark where he managed and played for the Indianapolis Crawfords in 1940. As the home field for the AAA Indianapolis Indians from 1931-1996, the park has been known by many names--Perry Stadium, Victory Field, Bush Stadium--and is now the Stadium Lofts. It's just too cool for words. My patio leads right out to home plate.
    Last edited by Honus Wagner Rules; 06-03-2014 at 02:33 PM.
    Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls - it's more democratic.-Crash Davis

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