Monday, August 29, 2005

Another Great Researcher Joins Up

Great. Count me in. I am very tired of the "sabrmetric revolution" and a great minor league site that I can check daily will hit the spot.
Let me fill you in on my latest project. I hope it will turn into a full biography on Negro League pitcher Bill Jackman. He was born in Texas in either 1894 or 1897, depending upon which set of conflicting data you wish to believe. He began pitching professionally/semipro in Houston in 1917. He slowly moved north. By 1924 he was pitching for the Boston Monarchs and settled in Boston, where he spent the rest of his life.
Starting in 1925 he toured New England with the Philadelphia Colored Giants. While they roamed all of the New England states, New York and Canada, they performed mainly in southeastern Massachusetts, playing in the old New England League industrial cities like Worcester, New Bedford, Brockton, Fall River, Taunton and Quincy. They also showed up a lot in Rhode Island.
While Jackman made a brief stop in the formal Negro Leagues in 1935 and 1936, he usually stuck to Massachusetts and was still pitching in the Boston Park League in the 1950s when he was in his 60s.
He was a legend in his day, and while the Philly Colored Giants would have to be classified as semipro, they often faced intact New England League squads, Cape Cod League all-star teams, and the best teams from the Boston Twilight League.
So far I have about 150 Jackman pitching boxscores ranging from 1925 through 1947. I have him pitching in both Braves Field and Fenway Park; likely the first African-American to do so.
I have 18 of his games from 1925, 24 from 1926, 15 from 1927, 20 from 1928 and 23 from 1929. Those are the seasons I have been focusing on lately. It wasn't unusual for him to face team semipro squads with as many as five or six guys with big league experience. It also wasn't unusual for him to fan 10-15 batters virtually any time out.
Jackman was a true hybrid. Likely 90% of his work was versus white opponents. Thus far I have him 11-1 in decisions in which the opposing starter had major league experience. So far I have him pitching versus the following major league pitchers: Bump Hadley, Chippy Gaw, Buck O'Brien, Cyril Morgan, Earl Hansen, Al Pierotti, Bill Vargus, King Bader, Haskell Billings, John "Lefty" Shea, Charlie Caldwell, Steve White, Frank Bennett, Vito Tamulis, Allyn Stout and Pat Scantlebury. Needless to say, the list of offensive major league players he faced is much larger.
He was also a teammate of Hank Greenberg on the 1929 East Douglas, Massachusetts team in the Blackstone Valley League. Jackman in 1929, like Lefty Grove in 1927, was brought in by the East Douglas management for big games. Wes Ferrell, Bump Hadley, Foster Edwards, Billings, Shirt Smith, Bots Nekola and Tim McNamara -- all with big league experience -- pitched for East Douglas in that period.
I expect his to be a lengthy project but a fun one. Every Saturday morning I am pouring over the old newspapers. I have found plenty of great material along the way, most recently a full obituary of Henry Gero who pitched in the New England, Canadian, Colonial, Eastern and Michigan-Ontario Leagues from 1911-1919. He died in the Cushing Veterans Administration Hospital in Framingham, MA. on April 4, 1951. He lived all of his adult life in New Bedford, MA.
So feel free to post this to the new site in its entirety. I would greatly appreciate any information anyone might run across on the Philly Giants and Jackman. His longtime batterymate was catcher Burlin White.
Dick Thompson


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