Robert Lee Griffith
also known as Bob Griffin
(Schoolboy, Big Bill)
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 5", Weight 235 lb.
- School Tennessee A&I State College
Bob (Schoolboy) Griffith was a three-time Negro League All-Star pitcher. He played for 13 different clubs in a career that covered parts of three decades. He also played in several winter leagues, doing very well.
A tall spitballer, Griffith played for a local club known as the smithville Tigers and played trombone for the town band as well. After college, he signed with the Nashville Elite Giants. Debuting with Nashville in 1933, he had no decisions that year. He went 3-2 in 1934. He made his debut in the California Winter League that seasoin, winning one game with nine strikeouts in 9 innings pitched.
With the Columbus Elite Giants in 1935, "Schoolboy" went 3-4 but he still made it to his first East-West Game. Griffith relieved for the West in the 9th inning of the 1935 East-West Game and pitched a scoreless inning, but allowed four in the top of the tenth. Overall, he allowed three walks and four hits in the two innings while fanning three. He did not get the loss, though, as his club rallied to tie it, then win the game an inning later. It would be 13 years until his nex East-West contest.
In the 1935-36 California Winter League, Bob went 7-0 for Wilson's Royal Giants, striking out 99 in 91 innings; teammate Satchel Paige was even better, though (13-0, 113 K in 94 IP).
1936: Washington, California and Denver
Griffith was 8-4 for the Washington Elite Giants in 1936. Emerging as a star, he tied for fourth in the Negro National League in wins and was second in RA (2.50), trailing only Leroy Matlock. He also starred in the Denver Post Tournament, allowing two runs in 17 IP while striking out 29 in two wins. In an exhibition game against a strong white MLB group featuring Johnny Mize, Harlond Clift, Rogers Hornsby, Gus Suhr, Al Todd, Ival Goodman and Lynn King, Griffith won 6-4, beating Big Jim Weaver. He relieved in another game in the series and picked up the save with three scoreless innings out of the bullpen.
In California that winter, he struck out 15 on October 25 and the big spitballer completed all 12 of his starts, going 10-2 with 101 K in 95 IP for the Royal Giants.
1937-1938: Dominican Republic, Cuba, Baltimore and California
Griffith was 2-1 for the Elite Giants in 1937 before jumping to the Ciudad Trujillo club in the Dominican Republic, lured by high pay from dictator Rafael Trujillo. Griffith went 2-1 for the title-winning club.
Going to the Cuban Winter League in 1937-1938, Griffith went 12-6 for the champion Santa Clara club. He tied Ray Brown for the league lead in wins and paced the CWL in games pitched (24) and shutouts (5).
Bob was 5th in the 1938 NNL in RA (3.92), going 7-4 for the Baltimore Elite Giants as the club finally settled into one city. He was 4-5 for the Havana Reds in 1938-1939 and pitched his last two games in the California Winter League, winning both with a strikeout per inning.
1939-1942: Mexico, Baltimore and New York
Bob went 1-0 for Baltimore in 1939. He jumped that year to the Cafeteros de Córdoba, going 6-1 with a 4.77 ERA in 9 games in the Mexican League. The next season, Griffith had a 7-6, 4.80 mark for the Nuevo Laredo Owls. Playing the outfield at times, he hit .321.
1944-1947: Military service and New York
Bob then spent two years in Europe as a corporal in the Army during World War II. After a brief stint with the Kansas City Monarchs, Griffith hooked back up with New York, going 4-3 for the team. In 1947, Griffith hit .340 while posting a 2-9 record for a bad Black Yankees team.
1948-1949: Two more East-West Games
The 34-year-old veteran returned to the East-West Game after the 13-year absence. In the first 1948 East-West Game, he pitched the final two innings of a loss for the West, allowing one run in two innings, three hits, a walk and two strikeouts.
Moving to the Philadelphia Stars in 1949, Griffith went 9-3 while again hitting .340. Getting the start in the 1949 East-West Game for the East, Bob pitched three hitless innings, walking one and striking out one while he picked up the victory. Overall, he had a 1-0, 5.14 mark in his three East-West Game appearances.
1949-1953: Venezuela, Mexico, Canada, Philadelphia
Griffith helped the Navegantes del Magallanes to a Venezuelan League title in 1949-1950. He was 0-1 in the 1950 Caribbean Series, allowing three hits and two walks in three innings while whiffing three for the Venezuelans.
Bob pitched for Philadelphia in 1950 as well as for the Mexico City Red Devils. In 38 games (22 starts) for Mexico City, he struck out 100 in 198 innings but walked 105. He was 11-11 with a 3.77 ERA for the club. In 1951, Griffith played for the Philadelphia Stars and the Granby Red Sox, going 6-5 with a 4.39 ERA.
Griffith pitched for the Indianapolis Clowns in 1952. He was on the Venezuelan champs again, this time the Cervecería Caracas. In the 1952 Caribbean Series, he pitched two innings, allowing one hit and one walk.
At age 39, Schoolboy concluded his career by batting .347 for the Brandon club of the Mandak League and going 8-5 on the hill.
After he finished his pro baseball career, Griffith pitched semipro ball for years.
Overall, Griffith was 20-2 in 29 games in the California Winter League, striking out 228 in 214 innings. He was 2nd all-time in the CWL in winning percentage behind Bill Foster and right ahead of Paige and Walter Johnson. He ranks 5th in strikeouts even though he is not in the top 10 in innings. He had a 16-11 record in the Cuban Winter League and 2-1 in the Dominican League. He was 24-18 with a 4.20 ERA in the Mexican League. He was 1-0 with a save in exhibitions against white major leaguers. He won at least 40 and lost at least 35 in the Negro Leagues. In the minors, he was 6-5 and he was 8-5 in the ManDak League. This gives him a career mark in pro ball of at least 117-78.
After retiring from baseball, Griffith worked as a night watchman for various governmental buildings in Indianapolis. He stayed in the city after retirement. At age 64, he fell in the bathtub at his home and suffered life-ending head injuries.
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, The Mexican League: Comprehensive Player Statistics by Pedro Treto Cisneros, Black Baseball's National Showcase by Larry Lester