1948 Negro World Series
Negro World Series
Negro World Series (4-1): Homestead Grays (NNL) over Birmingham Black Barons (55-21, NAL)
The 1948 Negro World Series was the last Negro World Series between the champions of the Negro American League and Negro National League, as the National League was absorbed by the American the following year, owing to a decline in both attendance and quality of play caused by most of the leagues' best players and prospects being siphoned off into Organized Baseball.
Birmingham Black Barons
Birmingham had gone 55-21 to beat out the Kansas City Monarchs for the Negro American League title. Managed by Piper Davis, who also played second base and hit .353, the team introduced a young Willie Mays (.262 in a part-time role). SS Artie Wilson (.402) led the NAL in average, while Davis was 5th in both average and doubles (19) and tied for third with 8 triples. Jimmy Newberry (14-5, 2.18) was second in ERA and wins while Bill Powell (11-11) was third in victories. Alonzo Perry went 10-2 and also hit .325 as a 1B-P. John Britton manned third base, Ed Steele (.300) and Jim Zapp patrolled the outfield and Pepper Bassett was the catcher. In the playoffs, they swept second-half champion Kansas City 4 games to 0.
Homestead's record is unknown as record-keeping had fallen drastically in the couple years since baseball was integrated. They were also managed by an infielder, SS Sammy Bankhead, who would soon be the first black manager of a white minor league team. The outfield had three future major leaguers in Luke Easter (.363), Bob Thurman (.345) and Luis Marquez, while old-time 1B Buck Leonard led the Negro National League in both average (.395) and homers (13) in winding down his Hall of Fame career. The staff was led by two-way threat Wilmer Fields (7-1, .311 avg).
- September 26 in Kansas City, MO: Homestead wins the opener, 3-2.
- September 29 in Birmingham, AL: Home field advantage is no advantage for the Black Barons, who drop a 5-3 game.
- September 30 in Birmingham: The Black Barons win for the only time, ekeing out a 4-3 victory.
- October 3 in New Orleans, LA: Fields wins a 14-1 decision after driving for almost 24 hours from Washington, DC.
- October 5 in Birmingham: The game is knotted at six until Homestead scores four in the 10th to wrap up the Series.
Fields, Thurman and R.T. Walker were all 1-0 for the Grays. Bill Greason (1-2) had Birmingham's lone win, with both Newberry and Powell going 0-1.
Source: The Complete Book of Baseball's Negro Leagues by John Holway
- Frederick C. Bush and Bill Nowlin, ed.: Bittersweet Goodbye: the Black Barons, the Grays, and the 1948 Negro League World Series, SABR, Phoenix, AZ, 2017. ISBN 978-1-943816-55-2
- John Klima: Willie's Boys: the 1948 Birmingham Black Barons, the Last Negro World Series, and the Making of a Baseball Legend, John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken, NJ, 2009.
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