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WJackman on Bill Jackman

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  • WJackman on Bill Jackman



    Some partial stats for Baseball's greatest unknown - Cannonball Bill Jackman.

    1925: 15-2 record in known games for the Philadelphia Giants. Victories over major league pitchers Buck O'Brien (2), King Bader and Earl Hanson. No decisions or saves versus major league pitchers Bump Hadley, Chippy Gaw and Cy Morgan.

    1926: 14-6 in known games for the Philadelphia Giants. Victories over major league pitchers Haskell Billings and King Bader. 2-0 record versus Class B New England League teams. 14-strikeout game versus top semi-pro team. 2-hit shutout and 14 K game versus Cape Cod League (with major leaguers) All-Star team.

    1927: 18-6 record in known games for the Philadelphia Giants. 3-0 versus opposing pitchers with big league time. 16-K game versus a semi-pro team that had 7 players in the lineup with big league time. 10 or more strikeouts in 7 of 22 known starts.

    1928: 12-8 record in known games for Philadelphia Giants. Tossed 3-hit shutout versus Pop Lloyd-lead Lincoln Giants and 2-hit shutout versus Boston Colored Tigers. Lost a one-hitter with 12 K's versus Cape Cod League All-Star team. 3-2 record versus Cape Cod League teams and 1-4 record versus Lincoln Giants. Note that players with professional experience, including many with big league time, were eligible and did play in the Cape Cod League up through 1934.

    1929: 16-7 record in known games for the Philadelphia Giants. 0-1 versus Lincoln Giants and 1-0 versus Brooklyn Cubans. Pitched perfect game versus the Philadelphia Red Caps. 15-K, 3-hit shutout versus Cape Cod League all-star team in which Vito Tamulis was the opposing pitcher. Also had 14-K game while pitching for the East Douglas team in the Blackstone Valley League where future major league Hank Greenberg was his first baseman and Gene Desautels was his catcher.

    Keep in mind this data just reflects a small portion of Jackman's career, and that he pitched professionally from 1917 to 1952.

    Schoolboy Johnny Taylor tossed a no-hitter verus Satchel Paige in the Polo Grounds in 1937. A few years earlier Taylor beat Jackman, 5-4 in 22 innings. In 1938 Taylor told the Boston Chronicle that he win versus Jackman, and not his no-hitter versus Paige, was his biggest accomplishment to date. He also called Jackman a "smarter" pitcher than Paige.
    Last edited by Brian McKenna; 01-15-2008, 10:17 AM.

  • #2
    In January of 1927 Joe Williams and Bill Jackman were teammates in the Palm Beach winter league. The Philly Tribune reported 4 victories for Jackman and one for Williams.

    In May of 1929 Ted Trent and Bill Jackman were teammates on the Philly Giants touring New England. Jackman was the name player/ace before Trent headed back to St. Louis.

    In 1938 Johnny Taylor (who in 1937 beat Satchel Paige with a no-hitter in the Polo Grounds and Jackman in a 5-4, 20-inning contest) called Jackman a better pitcher than Paige.

    Jackman said his biggest thrill in baseball was facing an intact major league squad and fanning 18. While this game has not been confirmed, a boxscore in which Jackman fanned 16 batters, 6 of which had big league time, has.

    Most recent pickup was two 1931 games in which Jackman faced a "big league all-star" squad which consisted of Del Bissonette, Jack Russell, Milt Gaston, Don Brennan and Danny MacFayden. The teams split two games with Jackman tossing two complete games and the four big league pitchers splitting up the innings. The big leaguers fanned 8 in 18 innings while Jackman fanned 20 in 17 innings.

    Currently Jackman's documented record is 171-60 with 62 games with 10 or more K's and a 21-3 record when the opposing starter had big league time. This total likely represents only 20-25% of Jackman's career.

    I do not think it unreasonable to start adding Cannonball Bill Jackman to any discussion regarding the greatest hurlers of all time, black or white.


    • #3
      Jackman was African-American. He pitched professionally from 1917 to 1953. He was born in Texas and began his career there with black teams in Dallas and Houston. He arrived in Boston in 1924 and spent the rest of his career pitching mostly for the Philadelphia (Colored) Giants (originated in Philly but mostly toured New England) and the Boston (Colored Giants), although he often hired himself out to whatever top white semi-pro team that was willing to pay him. He pitched just 1935 and then a couple of games in 1936 in the the more officially recognized Negro Leagues. At various times he was compared to Walter Johnson, G. C. Alexander, Paige, Bob Feller and even Babe Ruth. Jackman was a big guy who hit the long ball, prompting John McGraw in 1927 to declare that the biggest problem he would have managing Jackman would be the decision to pitch him in the rotation or use him every day in the outfield.

      Glenn Stout, author on "Red Sox Century" expressed the opinion that Jackman was Boston's greatest baseball star between Babe Ruth and Ted Williams. Jackman worked against hundreds of major league players and all the top Negro Leaguers, and virtually all raved about him, declaring him major league star timber.


      • #4
        Jackman did do the clowning around bit as did most of the Negro Leaguers of the time. It was show biz and Jackman was the big draw. When not pitching he coached at 3b and was known for his interactions with the paying customers. On the mound he would do things like pull out a big rabbit's foot he kept in his back pocket and rub it on the ball. He would call in his outfielders and then strike out the last batter of the inning. He would verbally challenge opposing benchs and batters. He was the show and every local newspaper announced a week ahead of time that he was to be the starting pitching. This often led to him just pitching the first or last innings of games on five or six consecutive days. He frequently drew crowds of ten to 15,000 fans in small communities all over New England.

        Jackman never lacked top notch oppostion. He just did not pitch in the travelled Negro League areas so the documentation is sketchy. That doesn't mean it didn't happen, it just means it still needs to be recovered. While the recovery stage will be time-consuming, the actual documentation is easily retrievable for the mainstream white newspapers in New England were very extensive and complimentary in the coverage of Jackman. This was the reason he stayed in New England. Just because one can't find it via a google search doen't mean it didn't happen.

        So far to the tune of 285 pitching boxscores, 171-60 won lost record, 62 games with 10 or more K's and a 21-3 record versus opposing starters with big league time.

        John Holway, certainly among the foremost Negro League historians, writing about Johnny Taylor in SABR's BRJ, said, "..against legendary Will Jackman, the lanky black submarine pitrcher who toured New England every year with his Colored Giants."

        Robert Peterson, the man who started it all with "Only the Ball was White," said, "Jackman is not often mentioned among the select few, but there are men like Bill Yancy who consider him the best of all."


        • #5
          I'm not really sure that many have a true understanding of the caliber of semipro baseball in the 20s and 30s. In 1927 the East Douglas, Massachusetts team of the Blackstone River Valley was considered the top semipro team in the nation. It is estimated that at least 75 players with major league experience played for the team. Former big leaguer Jean Dubuc managed the team and in 1927 employed major leaguers Tim McNamara, Bots Nekola, Haskell Billings, Shirt Smith and Wes Ferrell on his pitching staff. At the end of the 1927 season Lefty Grove was hired to work at $300 a game with a $10 bonus for each strikeout.

          In 1929 Dubuc had Hank Greenberg and Gene Desaultes on his team. For big games at the end of the season, Jackman was brought in under the same pay scale that Grove had worked for two years earlier.


          • #6
            Well that is not an unreasonable view at this point as there is still a lot more data gathering to take place. The quality of oppostion will always be a question mark for any of the Negro Leaguers and I think the most important thing is to boil down all of the data and emerge with the cream of the talent. Newspapers reports say that Jackman had three seasons of 50+ victories but the best seasons I have for him have but 15-20 victories. If there truely are seasons of 50+ wins then I would hope to find at least ten of those victories against top-notch oppositiion; meaning teams made up of recognizable major and negro league names. If his currently documented 21-3 record against major league pitchers grows to four or five times that amount with the same winning percentage then baseball historians will be forced to consider Jackman among the elite. Until then much of his fame remains speculative, and at this point I am simple not ready to release all of my better boxscores and other pertinent data.


            • #7
              Jackman wasn't any more a hired gun then any other Negro League hurler. His base of operations team was the Philadelphia Giants and though they were not in the "Negro League," they played the recognizable teams like Hilldale, Pennsylvania Red Caps, Cuban Stars, Pop Lloyd's Lincoln Giants, Boston Tigers and the Providence Giants. The Philly Giants also appeared in NYC under the name of the Quaker Giants. All of these teams were made up of recognizable and legitimate Negro League name players. Jackman worked with and against the biggest names in the Negro Leagues. He was a teamate of Joe Williams, Satchel Paige, Hank Greenberg, etc. While in New England the Giants faced intact minor league squads and major league teams that played exhibiton games on Sundays when major leagues games could not be held in Boston. People like John McGraw and Jesse Burkett were openly complimentary with their praise of Jackman, as were dozens and dozens of major league players. Most of the various "official" Negro League schedules at Jackman's peak were often only 30-40 games and the other 80-100 games they played - and the teams that guys like Paige and Williams faced - were the same caliber semipro squads that guys like Jackman faced. Jackman was a ringer or hired gun only in the same sense as guys like Paige, Williams, Dick Redding, etc. - they all played for the highest bidders in and around their Negro League starts. The all worked at times against top notch competition and at times against weak competition.


              • #8
                Not that I am answering for Holway but let me talk about my Jackman database in which I have nearly 300 boxscores. Most of the boxscores are complete but some lack certain things like strikeouts, walks, hits allowed. Sometimes I will be reading one newspaper and there will be a mention like "last Tuesday Jackman fanned 13 in a game in Worcester." Now there is nothing more than that, not even a win or loss. So this of course goes into the database with hopes that I will eventually run across the game when I get to the Worcester paper. Lots of stuff like this pops up when compliling Negro League, minor league or semipro stuff. This is not an exact science like looking something up on retrosheet. I have even run across a game in a town that has two newspapers. One will say 13 strikeouts and the other might say 15. This also happens in major league games, especially when a town like Boston circa 1920 had seven or eight dalies.


                • #9
                  Latest figures for Cannonball Bill Jackman.

                  336 recovered pitching boxscores.

                  199 wins and 85 losses.

                  22-3 record when opposing hurler had big league time.

                  48 shutouts and 78 games with 10 or more strikeouts.

                  The Boston Globe announced in May of 1949 that Jackman had just pitched in his 1,200th career game. Since he pitched through the 1953 season, an estimate of 1,350 games seems reasonable. So let's multiple his numbers by four.

                  800 wins, 200 shutouts and 250 games with 10 or more strikeouts. So far 40 homers have also been recovered. So likely he hit 120 career homers.

                  So how can Jackman be omitted from any list of top African-American players?

                  Competition factor? He played with and against the top major, minor and Negro League players that Paige or Joe Williams did. Literally hundreds and hundreds.

                  There were plenty of top Negro League players and teams operating and barnstorming about New England in Jackman's day. For some reason, it has just remained untapped as anyone's research project.

                  No discussion of baseball's top hurlers will be complete without Jackman's inclusion.


                  • #10
                    As much clout as a quote from John McGraw should mean, it becomes diluted because he said the exact same things about John Donaldson and Bill Jackman. Now maybe because it was, as I believe, that they were all the same outstanding caliber of pitcher, but McGraw's standard lines were very smiliar for all three (were there more?); "He is (one of) the greatest pitcher I ever saw," and "I'd pay $50,000 to the man who can make (fill in name) white."


                    • #11
                      It's going very well. I have almost 350 boxscores documented for Jackman. I project him at 800 career wins, 200 shutouts and 250 games with 10 or more strikeouts. Doing mainly microfilm research. Right now it is Rhode Island papers at URI Kingston library.


                      • #12
                        The Greatest "What if".... Bill Jackman

                        From "The Encyclopedia of Negro League Baseball" by Thom Loverro.

                        New York Giants manager John McCraw wanted Jackman and in a newspaper interview lamented the color barrier that prevented him from signing the pitcher. "I never predict pennants, but I saw a young fellow the other day, and if I had him things would be so much better," McGraw said. When asked by the reporter why he wouldn't try to trade for the player, McGraw replied, "Young man, I wish I could. His name is Jackman, and he's a Negro, but if there wasn't a color line, Jackman could be a regular on any major league team in the United States. That young fellow has the speed and curve for a major league pitcher, but he'd probably be like Babe Ruth. I would probably go crazy deciding whether to use his big bat every day, or have him pitch every four days. Either way he would be a star. I have used Cubans, and some of them were good, too, but this Jackman is the greatest natural, all-around baseball player I ever saw."

                        Jackman's career numbers, albeit forced to face mostly semi-pro squads among his man games against major and negro leaguers, project out to 800 wins, 150 homers as a batter, 200 shutouts, 250 games with at least 10 strikeouts, and 200 shutouts.

                        For more, please see the article on Jackman in the latest edition of SABR's The National Pastime


                        • #13
                          And 8,000 strikeouts!


                          • #14
                            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.


                            • #15
                              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.


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