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Negro Leagues Photo Gallery
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1939 Negro League East-West All-Star Game
Every so often, I like to repost this great photo from the 1939 Negro League East-West All-Star game.
There were two Negro League All-Star games in 1939. Pictured here is the East team from the first game, played at Comiskey Park on August 6, 1939, in front of an estimated 40,000 fans. The West team won the game, 4-2. The winning pitcher was Ted “Doubleduty” Radcliffe, and the loser was Roy Partlow. The West team hit two home runs, the first by Neal Robinson of the Memphis Red Sox, and the second by Ted Strong of the Homestead Grays.
I count five Hall-of-Famers in the photo. I was able to do complete player identifications, so see how many you can pick out before looking at the names below. One hint: The great Josh Gibson is in the top row, third from right.
Because league structures were so shaky during the Great Depression, votes were not counted by league, but by geographical location, East and West; and that’s how the games became known as the East-West All-Star games. Votes were tallied by the two major African-American weekly newspapers, the Chicago Defender and the Pittsburgh Courier. The top vote-getters for this game were Ted Strong (506, 327), Pepper Bassett (502, 394), and Willie Wells (226,514).
Here’s a wonderful quote from Buck O’Neil which shows just how important the East-West All-Star game was to the African-American community:
“The game was something very special. It was the greatest idea Gus Greenlee ever had, because it made black people feel involved in baseball like they’d never been before. While the big leagues left the choice of players up to the sportswriters, Gus left it up to the fans …. That was a pretty important thing for black people to do in those days, to be able to vote, even if it was just for ballplayers, and they sent in thousands of ballots …. Right away it was clear that our game meant a lot more than the big league game. Theirs was, and is, more or less an exhibition. But for black folks, the East-West Game was a matter of racial pride. Black people came from all over Chicago every year — that’s why we outdrew the big-league game some years, because we almost always had 50,000 people, and almost all of them were black people …. The weekend was always a party. All the hotels on the South Side were filled. All the big nightclubs were hopping.”
Standing, L-R: Buck Leonard (Homestead Grays), Willie Wells (Newark Eagles), Jose Fernandez (New York Cubans), Sammy Hughes (Baltimore Elite Giants), George Scales (New York Black Yankees), Mule Suttles (Newark Eagles), Pat Patterson (Philadelphia Stars), Josh Gibson (Homestead Grays), Wild Bill Wright (Baltimore Elite Giants), Roy Partlow (Homestead Grays).
Kneeling, L-R: Bill Byrd (Baltimore Elite Giants), Leon Day (Newark Eagles), Bill Holland (New York Black Giants), Cando Lopez (New York Cubans), Homer “Goose” Curry (New York Black Yankees), Red Parnell (Philadelphia Stars).
Hall-of-Famers: Buck Leonard, Willie Wells, Mule Suttles, Leon Day, and Josh Gibson.
Photo Credits: All from Google search
Information: Excerpts edited from the Negro Leagues Wikipedia page.