Bunny Downs

From BR Bullpen

McKinley Downs

  • Bats Right, Throws Right
  • Height 5' 5", Weight 158 lb.

Bunny Downs was a Negro League infielder of the 1910s and 1920s. He also managed in the Negro Leagues. Downs was noted for his hustle and small ball skills.

Downs debuted in 1915, hitting .276 as the starting shortstop for the West Baden Sprudels. He split 1916 between the Indianapolis ABCs and St. Louis Giants (.292, playing 2B). He moved to Hilldale in 1917. He was 4 for 12 against Bullet Joe Bush that fall. He hit .250 as their second baseman in 1918, teaming with Dick Lundy at shortstop. He spent the latter part of 1918 in the US military. Returning to the diamond in 1919, he batted .227 for Hilldale. He was 1 for 8 that year in an exhibition against Herb Pennock and Bob Shawkey.

Bunny batted .070 in 1920 while moving to shortstop for Philly, but hit .319 and slugged .514 in the 1920-1921 California Winter League. He moved back to second base in 1921 with Judy Johnson coming in at short and hit .228. Downs hit only .112 as the Hilldale second baseman in 1922.

Downs shot and killed a woman in self-defense in Philadelphia before the 1923 season and left the Hilldale club. He moved to the Atlantic City Bacharach Giants and batted .225 as their second baseman. He hit .236 with the Brooklyn Royal Giants in 1924 and .263 for them in 1925. He spent the remainder of his playing career with teams of lesser quality.

The Morehouse alumnus later became an officer with the Clowns franchise. In 1942, he managed the Cincinnati Clowns when they were part of the Negro Major Baseball League, and managed them for part of 1943 when they joined the NAL, splitting the role with Fred Wilson. Downs was the business manager of the Indianapolis Clowns in 1951 when he got a report on a young player named Hank Aaron with a minor black team. Downs went to see Aaron play and was impressed enough to offer him a contract right away - Aaron's mother told him that he needed to finish school first. Downs did wind up signing Aaron for the Clowns to start the Hall of Famer on his professional baseball career.

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