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Oliver Marcelle

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Oliver H. Marcelle
(The Ghost)

[edit] Biographical Information

Rated by some (including a 1952 Pittsburgh Courier poll and Pop Lloyd) as the greatest Negro League third baseman, Oliver Marcelle was known as a superb fielder with great range. He broke in with the 1918 Brooklyn Royal Giants, hitting .111 at the age of 21 and earning the regular job at third, next to SS Lloyd. He topped .400 with Brooklyn the next year, finishing fourth among eastern players in average. In 1920 he went to the Atlantic City Bacharach Giants, where he spent the main part of his career. He hit .323 for Atlantic City that first year and went 1 for 4 in a game against Carl Mays and Babe Ruth. Marcelle manned the hot corner for the Bacharach Giants when they were the top eastern team in 1921; he hit .299 (tied for 4th) with 5 doubles (5th) and 9 steals (the most). He went 6 for 15 with a homer in a championship series against the Hilldale Daisies. He hit .421 in 4 games against the Philadelphia A's as well. Oliver hit .265 for Atlantic City in 1922 and was tied for second with 3 doubles. He was 6 of 24 in a cross-country championship match with the Chicago American Giants and uncharacteristically dropped a throw one game to let Chicago score the winning run.

Oliver joined the New York Lincoln Giants in 1923 and hit .306 in the first Eastern Colored League season. In the 1923-1924 Cuban Winter League he hit .393 to take the batting title. He became the team's captain in 1924 and hit .316. That year he was with Dave Brown when Brown killed somebody in a bar; he was detained by the police but released when it was discovered that he was not involved. This was an indication of the somewhat shady lifestyle he had - his nickname (The Ghost) was due to his never being in the team hotel when he was expected there. In the Cuban Winter League he hit .310 that year. Oliver was 5th in the ECL in triples (5) in 1925; he hit .174 with the Lincoln Giants then was traded back to Atlantic City, where he batted .321 and joined with Lloyd and Dick Lundy to form a great infield. A #2 hitter for most of his career, he batted third for Atlantic City.

Marcelle hit .288 and his defense helped the Bacharach Giants to the ECL title in 1926 and he hit .333 in the Negro World Series, which the Baharach Giants lost to the American Giants. He hit .333 in Cuba that winter. In 1927 Atlantic City won another title as the 30-year-old infielder hit .326; in the World Series, which the Bacharachs won, he hit .235.

Marcelle batted .288 again in 1928, when the ECL folded. The next year he joined the Baltimore Black Sox of the American Negro League and batted .288 once more, the third time in 4 years he hit that figure. In Cuba he hit just .241 in the 1929-1930 season. During a craps game, Marcelle got into an argument with Frank Warfield. A fight broke out and Warfield bit off part of Marcelle's nose. He later wore a patch over the hole but the vain third baseman could not take the abuse from fans and other players and some argue that this helped contribute to his career ending soon thereafter. His statistics, though, show a 33-year-old in decline relative to his league and the claims that the nose injury led to his finish as a player may be overstated.

In 1930 Oliver still hit .308 in a return to the Brooklyn Royal Giants, but it was relatively unimpressive in a year when guys were hitting .400. He never played for another major black team again, his career over the age of 34. A comeback bid in 1934 failed. Overall he hit .302 in the Negro Leagues and topped .300 in Cuba and in games against white major-league pitchers.

After his baseball career ended, he became a painter. He died of arteriosclerosis in 1949; at the time he was living in poverty.

He is the father of Ziggy Marcel (the names were spelled differently)

Sources: The Complete Book of Baseball's Negro Leagues by John Holway, The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues by James Riley

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