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Negro Leagues Baseball, A to Z

Guest Submission by Philip A. Ross

A is for Andrew, Rube Foster’s first name.

He started the league that organized the first black game.

B is for Cool Papa Bell, the speedster of which you’ve heard.

Even on an intentional walk he could wind up on third.

C is for Oscar Charleston, he played centerfield then first base.

Wherever he played, he was always an ace.

D is for Leon Day, whose strong right arm could fire the ball.

His outstanding career got him elected to the Hall.

E is for Luke Easter, as a hitter he was elite.

He would hit blasts out of the park and onto the street.

F is for Willie Foster, whose left arm threw smoke.

It would have been easier for the batter to use a fork to drink Coke.

G is for Josh Gibson, he hit home runs prodigious.

When he got up to bat, the pitchers got religious.

H is for the Homestead Grays, a Pittsburgh team under Cumberland Posey.

Gus Greenlee’s Crawfords were their cross-town rivals. Relations weren’t always rosy.

I is for Monte Irvin, with the Newark Eagles he got his start playing ball.

He went to the “show” now he’s in the Hall.

J is for J.L. Wilkinson of the Monarchs, he was the president.

Kansas City was his home. There he was a resident.

K is for Henry Kimbro, a five tool player by trade.

On the field he made his mark in each game that he played.

L is for Buck Leonard, his first name was Walter.

This power hitting first baseman rarely did falter.

M is for Lefty Mathis, he had a pick off move that couldn’t be beat.

If you got to first, glue the base to your feet.

N is for all of the Negro Leagues, their seasons weren’t very long.

But they kept the fires burning ’til Jackie came along.

O is for Buck O’Neil, he played the game with grace and style.

In his heart and on his face, he always wore a smile.

P is for Spot Poles, in the outfield many he did rob.

A great all around player he was called the “black Ty Cobb.”

Q is for Quincy Trouppe, who was finely tuned on all gears.

He just felt he was born too soon, by twenty years.

R is for Double Day Radcliffe, pitcher and catcher supreme.

The only player anywhere to play both positions on all star teams.

S is for Satchel, Leroy Paige never got older.

Remember his words, “Don’t look over your shoulder.”

T is for the Taylor brothers: Ben, Candy Jim, Steel Arm Johnny and CI.

Their legacy and standard is still riding high.

U is for the Brooklyn Uniques, a foundation team from yesteryear.

We stand on their shoulders so let’s give them a cheer.

V is for Armando Vasquez, the outfielder who hit with power.

He could get up and slug the ball, any day, any hour.

W is for Smokey Joe Williams, a giant of a man on the mound.

When opponents saw him warm up, they wanted to turn around.

X marks the spot of the Negro League Museum in KC at 18th and Vine.

On your trip to see the Royals stop in you’ll have a great time.

Y is for Bill Yancey, he played second, third and shortstop.

He could pivot and throw and catch the short hop.

Z is for Jim Zapp, after the Navy he joined the Elite Giants of Baltimore.

This big hit slugger was hard to ignore.

So there’s the poem that scratches the surface.
I gave it some thought and a great deal of purpose.
With thanks to the players who played through the strife,
You made baseball better and enriched my life.

Philip A. Ross is a negro leagues baseball historian and speaker. He is a retired New York City public school teacher.

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