Joseph Gentry Jessup (Jeep)
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 0", Weight 180 lb.
Jessup was 1-2 as a rookie for Birmingham in '40, then was 0-1 his first year in Chicago. In 1942, he lost all three of his decisions. At age 28/29, he finally established himself in '43 by going 8-8 and leading the Negro American League in RA (2.44), well ahead of more famous pitchers like Satchel Paige and Hilton Smith. He was loaned to Birmingham for the 1943 Negro World Series and was the starter in a 5-5 tie in game two. Afterwards, he was deemed ineligible to appear again. That winter, he beat a Great Lakes Navy team including Johnny Mize and three other major league hitters by a 7-3 score.
In 1944, the right-hander posted a 14-9 record to tie Alfred Saylor for the NAL lead in victories. His 2.32 ERA was second to George Jefferson and his 102 strikeouts led the league by 22. In his first East-West Game, he pitched three innings of one-run ball and got the win for the West in the 1944 edition. Known for his poor control at times, he walked two in that contest.
Gentry was arguably the top pitcher in the NAL again in 1945, going 15-10 with 99 strikeouts to lead the circuit in both wins and K's. He did not finish in the top five in RA. He pitched three scoreless frames in the 1945 East-West Game, walking two and allowing three hits while fanning one, as the West won 9-6.
In '46, Jessup had a 7-6 record, tied for second in wins, two behind Connie Johnson. His 3.08 RA trailed only Paige and was ahead of Dan Bankhead, Hilton Smith and Gene Bremer. In one game, he pitched 20 innings at Comiskey Park in a 3-3 tie versus the Indianapolis Clowns. Chicago was 20-39 that year when other pitchers got the decision. In the 1946 East-West Game (First Game), he allowed two runs in 2 2/3 IP, allowing three hits and a walk, striking out one and throwing a wild pitch as the West lost 6-3. With Paige's All-Stars that fall, he lost a game in relief of Satchel on October 1, beat the Bob Feller All-Stars 7-4 five days later and lost on October 13 in relief of Paige. The Feller All-Stars included Mickey Vernon, Charlie Keller, Ken Keltner, Jeff Heath, Sam Chapman, Phil Rizzuto, Johnny Berardino and Frankie Hayes.
In the 1946-47 Cuban Winter League, Jessup was 5-3 with the Almendares Blues, the title-winning team. He was only fifth on the team in wins, trailing Agapito Mayor, Max Lanier, Jorge Comellas and Tommy de la Cruz.
In 1947 in the Negro Leagues, Jessup was on decline, going 5-5 and not among the league leaders. He pitched three perfect innings of middle relief for the West in a 5-2 win in the 1947 East-West Game (First Game). In '48, he went 6-9 with a 3.10 ERA and hit .300. In the last of five consecutive All-Star appearances, he pitched three hitless innings (one walk, one K) to conclude the 1948 East-West Game (First Game) to pick up the save in a 3-0 whitewash by the West. He had shut down an attack including Minnie Minoso, Buck Leonard, Monte Irvin, Luis Marquez and Junior Gilliam.
After the intergration of the white baseball leagues and the resultant weakening of the Negro Leagues, Gentry, like many of the other Negro Baseball League greats, joined the Mandak League playing out of Manitoba, Canada. He hit .278 and went 10-4 in 1950 and 9-6 in '51 while hitting .298. He was 0-2 for the Spur Cola team in the 1951 Caribbean Series and finished his playing career in the Mandak in '52.
Gentry's brother, Sherman Jessup, pitched for the minor Winston-Salem Pond Giants, and another brother, Tom Jessup, was a prize fighter who had bout with Henry ("Hank") Armstrong.
Sources: The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues by James Riley, The Complete Book of Baseball's Negro Leagues by John Holway, Black Baseball's National Showcase by Larry Lester and Cuban Baseball: A Statistical History by Jorge Figueredo