Bonnie Clinton Serrell (William, Barney, El Grillo, El Cura, The Vacuum Cleaner) last name also listed as Sorrell
- Bats Left, Throws Right
- Height 5' 11", Weight 160 lb.
Barney Serrell was a Negro League and Mexican League infielder from 1942-1958, also spending parts of two seasons in the minors. A one-time Negro League All-Star, he was noted for his fine glovework. He also was a good contact hitter and baserunner; his biggest weaknesses were power and walk-drawing ability, but he was not horrible in either area.
Serrell broke in with a bang during the 1942 season with the Kansas City Monarchs. He hit .406, leading the Negro American League by .040 over Joe Greene. His 7 doubles tied Neil Robinson for the NAL lead, his 3 home runs ranked 4th and his four triples paced the loop. In the 1942 Negro World Series, he went 10 for 18 to lead the triumphant Monarchs. He was 0 for 4 in an exhibition game that summer against white major leaguers including Dizzy Dean. He had been exempted from military duty that year due to a rash.
Serrell slumped to .267 in 1943 though his six doubles did tie Hank Thompson for second in the NAL, trailing only Sam Jethroe. He played in the 1943-1944 California Winter League, going one for six. In 1944, Serrell hit .410 for Kansas City but did not qualify for the league lead in average. He played in the 1944 East-West Game, batting sixth and playing second base for the East. He went 2 for 3 with a run, RBI and a walk while playing error-free ball in a 7-4 victory.
Barney went 5 for 20 with a double in the 1944-1945 California Winter League.
Serrell went to Mexico in 1945 and hit .313/.393/.448 with only 7 strikeouts in 281 AB; Jackie Robinson took his spot on the Kansas City infield. He was sent an induction notice by the US Army but did not receive it due to his being out of the country. When he got back to the States, he was fined for not reporting. He went to Cuba that winter and hit .249 for the Marianao Tigers, slugging .359. His 29 RBI tied Bobby Estalella for second on the team and his 14 doubles tied Andrés Fleitas for the Cuban Winter League lead.
Serrell was back with the Tampico Lightermen for another season in 1946 and batted .272/.341/.348, comparable to many of the major leaguers who came to Mexico that season. In 1946-1947, Serrell hit .325 for Matanzas in the Cuban National Federation. In 1947, "El Grillo" hit .264/.302/.372 with 12 triples and 19 steals. He struck out 24 times in 519 AB. He was one behind Amado Ibanez for the Mexican League lead in triples. He hit .356 in the Mexican Pacific League and became the first position player to win MVP honors.
Serrell batted .293/.341/.461 with 15 steals for a couple Mexican League teams in 1948; he hit a career-high 11 home runs. He then returned to Kansas City for three seasons, but as the Negro Leagues were dying, statistical records are limited. He did not make another East-West Game appearance during this period. He spent 1949-1950 in the Puerto Rican League, hitting .289 for Ponce.
"The Vacuum Cleaner" left Kansas City during 1951 to play in the minors. He hit .302 for the Yakima Bears and also batted .243/~.273/.320 for the San Francisco Seals in 62 games at AAA, far worse than their other second base options, Eddie Lake.
Serrell returned to Mexico in 1952 with the Nuevo Laredo Owls and hit .370/.420/.473 in 44 games in a fine return; had he qualified, he would have led the league in average. In 1953, the left-handed infielder batted .322/.374/.464 and led the Mexican League with 9 triples and hits (109).
Barney repeated as the League leader in three-baggers in 1954 with 9 once more; he also again led in hits (126). He produced at a .350/.414/.533 clip with a league-best 33 doubles and 79 runs in 80 games. He struck out in just twelve of 360 AB. He was 5th in the league in average, just .009 behind leader Rene Gonzalez.
Serrell remained productive at age 35 with a .338/.394/.469 batting clip and 8 triples. The next year, he hit .326/.361/.419 for Nuevo Laredo and stole 20 bases. In 1956-1957, he hit .330 in winter ball in Mexico. He concluded his summer career in Mexico in 1957 by batting .299/.344/.399 with 8 triples for two teams. He hit .265 that winter in Mexico. Overall, he had hit .311/.366/.434 with 90 steals in 863 games in the Mexican League with just 171 strikeouts in 3,539 AB. He hit 66 triples, just missing the top 20 all-time (through 2000).
In 1958, Serrell came back to the US and hit .376 with 20 home runs and 90 RBI for the Indios de Ciudad Juárez in the high-scoring Arizona-Mexico League. He also briefly managed the team, when African-American managers were still very rare in the minors. He ranked third in the AML in average, tied for 8th in home runs and missed the top 10 in RBI.
Serrell married a woman from Mexico and settled there after his playing career ended.
According to the Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, Serrell refused to return to the US after his first summer in Mexico due to the racism in the US. James incorrectly claims that Serrell never played in Organized Baseball (he did so in 1951 and 1955-1958) and still lived in Mexico at the time of the book's publication, though he had died in California the prior decade, so James's information about Serrell is questionable. Other Negro Leaguers have described the Mexican culture as being much less racist, which is why others did settle there or play there instead of in the USA.
- The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues by James Riley
- The Complete Book of Baseball's Negro Leagues by John Holway
- The California Winter League by William McNeil
- Cuban Baseball: A Statistical History by Jorge Figueredo
- Black Baseball's National Showcase by Larry Lester
- The Mexican League: Comprehensive Player Statistics by Pedro Treto Cisneros
- Branch Rickey Papers
- Pat Doyle's Professional Baseball Player Database