Analysis

Five Notable Negro Leagues No-Hitters

MLB integrated Negro Leagues statistics into its official historical record on Wednesday. Seven different Negro Leagues from1920 to 1948 were elevated to major league status in 2020, so this means other notable achievements like no-hitters should be added to the major league total.

NoNoHitters.com compiled an evolving list of official Negro Leagues no-hitters courtesy of research by the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) Negro League Committee and others. More than two dozen no-hitters should be added to the official major league total of 323.

Feel free to check out the entire list from NoNoHitters.com, but here are five notable Negro Leagues no-hit performances.

Bill Gatewood Throws First Negro National League No-Hitter

Gatewood was no stranger to tossing no-hitters. By the time he threw the first Negro National League no-hitter on June 6, 1921, Gatewood threw one confirmed no-hitter in 1916 with the St. Louis Giants and a possible second one six years earlier with the same team.

Gatewood left St. Louis and joined the Detroit Stars in 1920 for the league’s inaugural season. The Stars went 35-22 that year and Gatewood had a 15-6 record pitching for the team.

A year later, Gatewood made history pitching against the Cincinnati Cuban Stars. On a comfortable Monday afternoon, Gatewood used all his skills and some extra help from pitch doctoring tools like saliva for spitballs and bottle caps to make small nicks in the baseball, to strike out 10 batters and only walk two on his way to a no-hitter. He also helped himself by hitting a home run and driving in another run with a single on the way to a 4-0 victory.

Gatewood went on to play for 15 different teams in his professional career and became the manager of the Birmingham Black Barons in 1927. There he mentored a young Satchel Paige.

Phil Cockrell Tosses First of Two No-Hitters

Later that year on September 5, 1921, the Hilldale club’s Phil Cockrell threw a no-hitter against Gatewood’s squad. Hilldale played a doubleheader on Labor Day against the Detroit Stars and in the first game, they routed the Stars on the way to a 10-2 win.

With the Phillies and the Athletics out of town that day, the nearby Darby, Pennsylvania team was the only ticket for locals. Cockrell was a hard-throwing pitcher and one of the most successful spitball practitioners in Black baseball. He put on a show for the Philadelphia faithful.

Cockrell’s spitball induced soft contact all day. The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote that Cockrell didn’t yield anything close to a hit during his no-hitter. He induced 16 groundballs, five outfield putouts, and recorded five strikeouts on the way to a 4-0 victory.

The 5-foot-8-inch, 160-pound right-handed pitcher was a constant presence on Hilldale, pitching for the successful Black major league team for 15 seasons, from 1918 to 1932. He threw his second no-hitter against the Chicago American Giants, winning that contest 5-0 on August 19, 1922.

Cockrell lost the opening game of the first Negro League World Series in 1924 to Bullet Joe Rogan and the eventual champion Kansas City Monarchs. He’d exact revenge the next year, winning the deciding game against the Monarchs in the 1925 Negro League World Series.

Jesse Winters‘ First of Two No-Hitters

One of the greatest pitchers in Negro League baseball history was Jesse “Nip” Winters. Even after his career ended in 1932, a poll conducted by the famous Black Pittsburgh Courier newspaper in 1952 listed Winters on the second team of the all-time greatest Black players. He’s listed after pitchers like Paige, Rogan, John Donaldson, Bill Foster and Joe Williams, but on the same second team as future Hall of Fame pitcher Don Newcombe.

Winters, a 6-foot-5-inch left-handed pitcher, was primarily a fastball-curveball thrower. A member of the Bacharach Giants in 1922, Winters held the Indianapolis A.B.C.s (American Brewing Company) hitless for a 7-1 victory.

Two days prior to his no-hitter, Winters pitched a complete game and lost against the A.B.C.s 11-8. On Wednesday, July 26 ,1922, Winters shrugged off any fatigue he had and held the explosive A.B.C.s lineup, who batted .289 that season, to zero hits. He punched out eight hitters, walked four batters and suffered his only run allowed when the Giants’ left fielder bobbled a fly ball in the fifth inning.

Winters went on to toss the first no-hitter in the Eastern Colored League on September 3, 1924, holding the Harrisburg Giants hitless in a 2-0 victory as part of a double hitter.

Satchel Paige’s First Recorded No-Hitter

The mythical Satchel Paige has books worth of anecdotes describing his dominance across multiple decades as an ageless pitcher. While Paige estimated he threw 55 no-hitters throughout his career, his first recorded no-hitter came on July 8, 1932, as a member of the Pittsburgh Crawfords.

When Paige lost a game 1-0 to the New York Black Yankees in April earlier that year, he took the loss hard. When he got his chance to exact revenge later that summer, he struck at the opportunity. On that Friday in July, Ted Radcliffe pitched the first game of a doubleheader against the Black Yankees and lost 9-7. However, when “Double Duty” Radcliffe moved behind the plate to catch the 26-year-old Paige later that day, he knew the outcome of this game would be different from the first pitch.

“Now why would you want to insult Satchel like that by bringing a bat to the plate?” Radcliffe asked batters.

Radcliffe’s intuition was right because Paige struck out 11 Black Yankees and only walked three hitters on the way to a 6-0 shutout. It was New York’s first time being shutout that season.

The Pittsburgh Courier reported that the last out of Paige’s no-hitter was a strikeout and the roar of the crowd could be heard a half-mile away. While teammates celebrated with Paige on the mound, fans at the Crawfords’ Greenlee Field had to be held back from rushing the field.

Leon Day‘s Opening Day No-Hitter

Before Wednesday’s integration of Negro Leagues statistics, Bob Feller‘s Opening Day no-hitter for the Cleveland Indians against the Chicago White Sox on April 16, 1940, was the first and only Opening Day no-hitter in major league history.

Six years after Feller’s no-hitter, Newark Eagles right-handed pitcher Leon Day accomplished the feat, no-hitting the Philadelphia Stars on May 5, 1946, Opening Day for the Negro National League.

Day, a World War II vet honorably discharged in February 1946, joined other vets including Larry Doby, Monte Irvin and others on the Eagles that year. While their fighting days overseas were over, controversial umpire calls throughout the game caused fights to break out between players on the Eagles and the Stars.

With Doby on second base in the bottom of the sixth inning, he advanced to third on a groundout to the Stars second baseman. However, Doby didn’t stop at third, he sprinted home towards Stars catcher Bill “Ready” Cash. The umpire called Doby safe in a close play at home and Cash, in the heat of moment, hit the home plate umpire.

When the Black player hit the White umpire, the mixed crowd in attendance started a riot. Irvin later wrote “Regardless of whether it was intentional or not, the ump went down.”

Both benches emptied, fans spilled onto the field and a fight broke out. Mounted police officers and foot patrolmen spend the next 30 minutes restoring peace at the ballpark.

Irvin noted “I guess the most interesting thing about that incident was that Leon Day just sat calmly in the dugout watching the whole thing until it was over. Then he went back out and finished his no-hitter.”

Day was dominant, striking out six hitters and only allowing three men on base via a walk and two errors. None of the baserunners reached second base that day en route to a 2-0 Eagles victory.

Day, Doby, Irvin, executive Effa Manley, manager Raleigh “Biz” Mackey and the rest of the Eagles went on to beat the Kansas City Monarchs in the 1946 Negro League World Series. The National Baseball Hall of Fame elected Day on March 7, 1995, six days before he died in Baltimore at 78 due to heart failure. Those four other 1946 Eagles are eternally enshrined in the Hall of Fame with Day.

Jonathan Hoffman

Jonathan Hoffman is a graduate student at Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism. He's a lifelong Dodgers fan from Los Angeles who grew up in a family full of Phillies fans. Follow on Twitter/X and Instagram @JHoff100 if you also obsess over Clayton Kershaw and sports uniforms.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Back to top button