View Poll Results: Who's the Greatest Negro League pitcher (pick one)?

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  • Satchel Paige

    15 62.50%
  • Smoky Joe Williams

    5 20.83%
  • Willie Foster

    0 0%
  • Bullet Joe Rogan

    1 4.17%
  • Hilton Smith

    0 0%
  • Jose Mendez

    0 0%
  • Other (please specify)

    3 12.50%
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Thread: Greatest Negro League Pitcher

  1. #1
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    Greatest Negro League Pitcher

    As a companion to Bill Burgess' thread on the greatest Negro League hitter, I'll add one on the greatest Negro League pitcher. I'm only looking to do one poll, unlike Bill's more ambitious idea of running several to rank the hitters. If someone wants to run with it after this one, feel free.

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  2. #2
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    I voted for Satchel, but I'd like to say that I consider Joe Williams was not far behind at all. He was really close, and some people considered him the better pitcher.

    In fact, in a famous Pittsburgh Courier poll, Joe came in ahead of Satch. I think.

  3. #3
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    actually i have changed my tune now with Smokey Joe as the best Negro League pitcher instead of Satchal... mostly after reading my great grandpa's journal.


    i basically have them as 1a. and 1b. i just smokey joe as 1a. now... ask me again in about a month and it'll probably be satchal.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by william_burgess@usa.net View Post
    I voted for Satchel, but I'd like to say that I consider Joe Williams was not far behind at all. He was really close, and some people considered him the better pitcher.

    In fact, in a famous Pittsburgh Courier poll, Joe came in ahead of Satch. I think.
    "In 1952, a poll taken by the Pittsburgh Courier named Williams the greatest pitcher in Negro League history."

  5. #5
    I voted for John Donaldson to be contrarian.

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Splendid Splinter View Post
    "In 1952, a poll taken by the Pittsburgh Courier named Williams the greatest pitcher in Negro League history."
    Interestingly enough, a poll taken 2 years later by the Pittsburgh Courier named Biz Mackey the greatest Negro League catcher over Gibson

    My vote still goes with Satch with SJ Williams a pretty close 2nd...
    "There are three things in my life which I really love: God, my family, and baseball. The only problem - once baseball season starts, I change the order around a bit.
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  7. #7
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Chickazoola;997398
    [I
    I just read an article in the new SABR magazine about Cannonball Redding and he seemed like a very compelling figure who dominated quality opposition(lost of major league talent) but only regionally, he never really left the Northeast.
    [/I]

    Just moved from the Redding/Donaldson thread.


    The article in the most recent journal was about Cannonball Jackman, not Cannonball Redding. Jackman starting pitching in Texas in 1918 though no actual game documentation has been retrieved until he arrived in New England in 1924.

    Jackman may well have been a better pitcher than either Williams or Paige though that is speculative. Projections have him at 800 wins and 8,000 strikeouts plus 150 homers as a batter. At various times he was compared to Paige, Williams, Redding, Bob Feller, Walter Johnson, G.C. Alexander and even Babe Ruth. John McGraw reportedly called him the greatest natural baseball player he ever saw. Bill Yancey - longtime Negro League player and NY Yankees scout - named Jackman the greatest black pitcher in Peterson's "Only the Ball was White."

    Much of what Paige did was a media act and it wasn't original. Jackman did everything Paige did and was doing it 10 years earlier. By this I mean calling in outfielders, working the crowds, announcing strikeouts (hitting homers for Jackman as well) in advance. Paige and Jackman's careers lasted the same time frame (Jackman mid teens-mid 50s, Paige mid 20s-mid 60s) and had the color line been broken ten years earlier I suspect Jackman would easily hold the place in history that Piage does. Afterall history is made by the media, and Jackman, playing in the New York City to Boston area, was a huge star.

    Jackman pitching in Braves Field as early as 1938 and Fenway Park in 1944 (thought likely earlier). He pitched for the best teams white semipro teams in New England. In 1929 the guests of honor at a banquet for the Douglas, Massachusetts team included the LT Governor of Massachusetts, Wes Ferrell fresh off his 21-win rookie season, Hank Greenberg, and Cannonball Jackman.

  8. #8
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    --Jackman might have been as talented as Williams amd Paige. Its pretty hard to compare or make precise judgments considering the circumstances under which they pitched. They faced wildly varying degrees of competition and their records are inconsitently (to say the least) documented. It would be hard to call Jackman the best Negro League pitcher though, since most of his work was done outside the official leagues. It might be more accurate to call him the best semi-pro pitcher (black or white) of all time.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by leecemark View Post
    --Jackman might have been as talented as Williams amd Paige. Its pretty hard to compare or make precise judgments considering the circumstances under which they pitched. They faced wildly varying degrees of competition and their records are inconsitently (to say the least) documented. It would be hard to call Jackman the best Negro League pitcher though, since most of his work was done outside the official leagues. It might be more accurate to call him the best semi-pro pitcher (black or white) of all time.

    All true statements. However, making a living in the Depression meant going where the money went. Jackman worked in New England where he was every bit the star - just as Paige was in the midwest. Many newspaper accounts of Paige's exploits in New England in fact were actually deeds performed by Jackman. Wes Ferrell once said he faced Paige in 1927 while playing semipro ball in Massachusetts before signing with Cleveland. Only it wasn't Paige, it was Jackman.

    I doubt very much that the players of the 20s who didn't play in the "official" Negro Leagues considered themselves any better than the barnstorming squads. All of those teams barnstormed anyway. The "official" leagues played only 30-40 games against other "official" teams, and the bulk of their playing was against the same teams Jackman faced.

    Paige won about 110 "official" games but they were spread out over 20 years, about five a season. Did that make him great? Do you think Paige faced tougher competition in North Dakota than Jackman did in Boston?


    Jackman faced, among many other, the intact Hilldale and Lincoln Giants squads in the 1920s and handled them with the same ease which which he dispatched Class B New England League squads and numerous other teams made up with multiple players of big league experience.

    I suspect that Jackman's name will be prominent on the agenda of the next Negro League HOF committee.

  10. #10
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    It was a very tough call between Paige and Williams. I ultimately went with Paige.

    "Do you think Paige faced tougher competition in North Dakota than Jackman did in Boston?"

    Actually, I did some research regarding the Bismarck, ND team that Paige played for and they were truly world-beaters taking on the best semi-pro (and even local Minor League) teams out there. James A. Riley goes on about the team at some length, and his book was a biographical research piece. Bill Jackman (who Riley contends may have been the fastest submarine-delivery pitcher of all time) is unfortunately dragged down by the teams he played for and thus hard to judge (often, teams only kept won/loss records for pitchers and tossed anything concerning ERA unless the pitcher pitched an incredible game or threw a shutout). The only time he really seems to play with very good barnstorming teams was the late 1920's, and he really shines (he goes 52-2 against all levels of competition). That is definitely a point in his favor. But his peak was also quite a bit shorter than Paige's (I'll admit that's not saying much, since Paige had an unbelievably long peak) as his fastball slowed down in the mid-1930's.
    "They put me in the Hall of Fame? They must really be scraping the bottom of the barrel!"
    -Eppa Rixey, upon learning of his induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

    Motafy (MO-ta-fy) vt. -fied, -fying 1. For a pitcher to melt down in a big game situation; to become like Guillermo Mota. 2. The transformation of a good pitcher into one of Guillermo Mota's caliber.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Baseball Guru View Post
    Interestingly enough, a poll taken 2 years later by the Pittsburgh Courier named Biz Mackey the greatest Negro League catcher over Gibson

    My vote still goes with Satch with SJ Williams a pretty close 2nd...
    Thats because Mackey was the best catcher in the Negro Leagues.

    Gibson imo is the best hitter from the Negro Leagues, but Mackey was much better defensively, and no slouch offensively. But when selecting who is better in a position such as catcher, Mackey was the obvious choice.

    BTW I picked Paige as well, and like you I think Williams is a close 2nd.
    Last edited by Dogdaze; 09-06-2007 at 10:47 AM.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Dalkowski110 View Post
    It was a very tough call between Paige and Williams. I ultimately went with Paige.

    "Do you think Paige faced tougher competition in North Dakota than Jackman did in Boston?"

    Actually, I did some research regarding the Bismarck, ND team that Paige played for and they were truly world-beaters taking on the best semi-pro (and even local Minor League) teams out there. James A. Riley goes on about the team at some length, and his book was a biographical research piece. Bill Jackman (who Riley contends may have been the fastest submarine-delivery pitcher of all time) is unfortunately dragged down by the teams he played for and thus hard to judge (often, teams only kept won/loss records for pitchers and tossed anything concerning ERA unless the pitcher pitched an incredible game or threw a shutout). The only time he really seems to play with very good barnstorming teams was the late 1920's, and he really shines (he goes 52-2 against all levels of competition). That is definitely a point in his favor. But his peak was also quite a bit shorter than Paige's (I'll admit that's not saying much, since Paige had an unbelievably long peak) as his fastball slowed down in the mid-1930's.

    Jackman's peak wasn't any shorter than Paige's. It was exactly the same. Your relying on Riley's book and he didn't know. Jackman was still mowing down top notch opposition through 1946 and 1947. He started in Texas in 1918 so that is a 30 year peak. His 1948-1953 years were much like Paige's final year; smoke, mirrors and a legendary name.

    Riley, like most of the other Negro League authors, have spent very little research energy on the New England area. That's too bad for the amount of traffic and popularity was just as strong there as anywhere else in the country.

  13. #13
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    "His 1948-1953 years were much like Paige's final year; smoke, mirrors and a legendary name."

    Okay, I'll concede ignorance regarding Jackman seeing as Riley evidently got it wrong, but Paige pitched professionally with success into the early 1960's (he actually did very well with the Miami Marlins). I believe his last semi-pro gig was around 1966 or 1967, although by that time he was truly washed up. Even though Jackman gets a significant head start on Paige, 1918 as opposed to 1926, using your info Jackman pitches effectively from 1918 up until around 1948. Thirty-year peak. Still incredible and better than about 98.5% of other Negro League pitchers. But Paige ultimately falls apart around 1962. He has a 36-year peak where he can still get guys out without resorting to his name as a weapon of intimidation. He still edges out Jackman.

    That said, I've got a couple questions about Jackman. Specifically his delivery and pitch repertoire. Did batters claim he at his fastest while throwing overarm (first few years of his career) or while throwing submarine? Also, was his post-injury windup learned or copied from Carl Mays or Dizzy Dismukes (the other two submarine power pitchers we've seen this century) or did he just kinda develop it without any assistance? Finally, aside from his fastball and I'm assuming upward-breaking curveball (since the pitcher's mechanics are reversed throwing straight underarm, yes, this is 100% possible and well-documented, though few batters in any league have actually seen a refined "6-to-12" curve [Byung-Hyun Kim throws one, though it's awful, and Mets Minor Leaguer Steve Schmoll throws one, though can't control it], and I'm guessing that would've helped confuse batters), what pitches did he throw?
    "They put me in the Hall of Fame? They must really be scraping the bottom of the barrel!"
    -Eppa Rixey, upon learning of his induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

    Motafy (MO-ta-fy) vt. -fied, -fying 1. For a pitcher to melt down in a big game situation; to become like Guillermo Mota. 2. The transformation of a good pitcher into one of Guillermo Mota's caliber.

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Dalkowski110 View Post
    "His 1948-1953 years were much like Paige's final year; smoke, mirrors and a legendary name."

    But Paige ultimately falls apart around 1962. He has a 36-year peak where he can still get guys out without resorting to his name as a weapon of intimidation. He still edges out Jackman.


    That said, I've got a couple questions about Jackman. Specifically his delivery and pitch repertoire. Did batters claim he at his fastest while throwing overarm (first few years of his career) or while throwing submarine? Also, was his post-injury windup learned or copied from Carl Mays or Dizzy Dismukes (the other two submarine power pitchers we've seen this century) or did he just kinda develop it without any assistance? Finally, aside from his fastball and I'm assuming upward-breaking curveball (since the pitcher's mechanics are reversed throwing straight underarm, yes, this is 100% possible and well-documented, though few batters in any league have actually seen a refined "6-to-12" curve [Byung-Hyun Kim throws one, though it's awful, and Mets Minor Leaguer Steve Schmoll throws one, though can't control it], and I'm guessing that would've helped confuse batters), what pitches did he throw?
    Maybe, but maybe not. Page was 56 in 1962. Jackman was unsure of his age. The 1900 US census lists an 1894 birth and the 1920 US census says 1897. Jackman wrote 1895 on his WW I draft card, 1896 on his WW II draft card and 1897 on his HOF questionaire. Jackman said he played professionally from 1918 to 1953. I have located boxscores from 1924 to 1951. Teammates on the Boston Giants said he was still pitching and winning as late as 1958. I'm not too sure I believe it but it is possible.


    Jackman said that he was real fast before he hurt his arm, when he pitched overhand. The earliest games I have, a few from 1924, show him with high strikeouts so I believe his arm injury was earlier (pre-1924) than usually listed (1925). Webster McDonald told Holway that he taught the pitch to Jackman while teammates on the Philly Giants in New England. I have no specific year but currently I have McDonald last in New England with Philly in 1924 and Jackman first with them in 1925. If I trace the genesis correctly McDonald said he learned the pitch from Dismukes who in turn had learned it from watching Mays. Again, I am not sure I buy this completely as McDonald's recollection of the Dismukes -Mays encounter didn't seem to jive that well.

    Jackman could and still did ptich overhand late in his career. I assume he was a Luis Tiant type with many angles of origin. He pitched mostly underhand and said that his motion was difficult to pick up; IE he won more with guise than speed. The batters did not say that, they thought he was plenty fast.

    Reportedly he threw an underhand knuckleball by the mid 1940s. I have found many references of it though none real descriptive. I have spoken to one of his catchers, this man played OB very briefly, and when he caught him, in 1944, he said Jackman could make his underhand pitches break up, down, left or right.

  15. #15
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    Thanks for the info. I found this part specifically to be very interesting...

    "Reportedly he threw an underhand knuckleball by the mid 1940s. I have found many references of it though none real descriptive."

    Ironically, I'm researching any and all submarine knuckleballers. White or black, segregated ball or no segregated ball, this seems to have been one of the most difficult pitches to effectively throw. Aside from Jackman, I have documented the following professional pitchers that threw (and in one case...currently throws) a submarine knuckler...
    -Ed Willett (Probably the only pitcher who ever SPECIALIZED in a submarine knuckler as his best pitch)
    -Webster McDonald (Would fling the occassional knuckler, but considering he changed arm angles all the way up to sidearm with some of his pitches, we have no definitive proof he threw the knuckler submarine, though he probably did.)
    -Pat Caraway (Again, similar case to McDonald. Caraway, a Major Leaguer, alternately claimed he never threw his knuckler submarine or did it sometimes, but not often.)
    -Dan Quisenberry (Threw a knuckler once in a while until batters started homering off of it.)
    -John Anderson (Anderson is an interesting case. Technically, he didn't throw a submarine knuckler...rather, he threw about 8:00 to 8:30 on the biological clock, or VERY low sidearm, a la Joe Smith or Cla Meredith...but I think he deserves mention since he was at least close.)
    -Adam Cowart (The Giants' pitching prospect who literally drags the dirt with his knuckles has reportedly started experimenting with a knuckleball.)

    That's the list. All of 'em. You can tack on Bill Jackman, but it was a rare pitch indeed.
    "They put me in the Hall of Fame? They must really be scraping the bottom of the barrel!"
    -Eppa Rixey, upon learning of his induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

    Motafy (MO-ta-fy) vt. -fied, -fying 1. For a pitcher to melt down in a big game situation; to become like Guillermo Mota. 2. The transformation of a good pitcher into one of Guillermo Mota's caliber.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dogdaze View Post
    Thats because Mackey was the best catcher in the Negro Leagues.

    Gibson imo is the best hitter from the Negro Leagues, but Mackey was much better defensively, and no slouch offensively. But when selecting who is better in a position such as catcher, Mackey was the obvious choice.

    BTW I picked Paige as well, and like you I think Williams is a close 2nd.
    Hmmm, ok, that makes sense... I didn't take it that way but you are probably right.. I was looking at it as overall and not specifically defensively...
    "There are three things in my life which I really love: God, my family, and baseball. The only problem - once baseball season starts, I change the order around a bit.
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    God Bless America!

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    Click here to see the best pitcher NOT in the HOF!


  17. #17
    Nashua (New Hampshire) Telegram. 1966.

    Editorial Page.

    "SATCHELL PAIGE NEVER PITCHED HERE"

    "The item in this column as to whether of not the fabulous Satchell Paige ever pitched in Nashua has drawn several calls and replies.

    "The question was brought up in a recent session in a club here when one gentleman said he remembered Paige pitching against an industrial team at Textile field some 30 years ago.

    "Thanks to Fred Juknievich, the matter has been clarified. Paige never pitched here!

    "And Fred should know. He pitched in that game against the Philadelphia Colored Giants. He said the pitcher mistaken for Paige was none other than Jackman who also had a big time reputation.

    "The team that opposed the visiting Giants represented the Nashua Manufacturing company and was managed by the late Frank Phelan. Phelan asked Juknievich to hurl..."


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

  18. #18
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    Most would pick Satchel Paige, but I have to go with Smokey Joe Williams.
    Chop! Chop! Chop!

  19. #19
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    Dave "Impo" Barnhill gets my vote, I will let ya'll look him up and enjoy.
    I have Evan Longorias hat

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