Joe Strong (Negro Leagues)

From BR Bullpen

Joseph Talton Strong (Tal, Baby Face, JT)

  • Bats Left, Throws Right
  • Height 5' 11", Weight 176 lb.

BR register page

Biographical Information[edit]

Joe Strong pitcher for 16 years and holds a major league record.

He debuted with the Cleveland Tate Stars in the 1922 Negro National League, going 2-5 with a 5.27 ERA (92 ERA+) but hitting .370/.469/.519 (153 OPS+) in 34 plate appearances. [1] In 1923, he was with the Milwaukee Bears (4-14, Sv, 4.81, 100 ERA+; .250/.292/.353) and Chicago American Giants (3-1, 1.67, 229 ERA+; 2 for 13, HR). Playing mostly for the last-place Bears, he led the 1923 NNL in losses (two ahead of George Boggs and Lucas Boada). He tied Ed Rile for 5th in games pitched (31), was 4th with 21 starts (between Bill Drake and Omer Newsome), tied Darltie Cooper for 6th with 13 complete games, was 5th in IP (187 2/3, between Charles Corbett and Drake), was 2nd with 121 runs allowed (four behind Newsome), was 2nd with 89 earned runs (four behind Newsome), was 2nd with 222 hits allowed (seven behind Rube Curry), was 2nd with 66 walks (11 behind Bullet Rogan), tied Andy Cooper for 8th with 68 K and was 6th in Wins Above Replacement (2.9) among people who were primarily pitchers (between Cool Papa Bell and Pedro Dibut).

Strong moved to the Baltimore Black Sox in 1924 and was 3-2 with a 4.03 ERA (94 ERA+) while batting .257/.435/.343 (124 OPS+). Against the 1924 Philadelphia Athletics, he lost a 4-2 game to Eddie Rommel. [2] In 1925, he was 11-10 with four saves and a 3.94 ERA (115 ERA+) for the Black Sox and hit .266/.329/.375 (85 OPS+). He tied for 4th in the 1925 Eastern Colored League in victories, was 2nd in losses (one shy of Rats Henderson), tied Nip Winters for 2nd in appearances (28, 4 behind Henderson), was 5th with 16 mound starts (between Bob McClure and Ping Gardner), tied Phil Cockrell for 3rd in complete games (11), led in shutouts (2), led in saves, was 4th with 146 1/3 IP (between Claude Grier and McClure), was 5th with 75 runs allowed (between Darltie Cooper and Curry), ranked 6th with 64 earned runs (between Curry and Gardner), tied Darltie Cooper for 4th with 140 hits allowed, tied Oscar Levis for 7th in walks (38) and was 7th among primary-pitchers in Wins Above Replacement (2.7, between Connie Rector and Gardner).

He slipped to 3-5, 4.18 (95 ERA+) and a .200 average in 1926 and was cut from the team along with Eggie Dallard due to their alcoholism issues. [3] Back in form for the 1927 Baltimore Black Sox, he went 7-9 with a 3.07 ERA (142 ERA+) though he batted .167, not helping his cause as much as usual. He was 9th in the ECL in WHIP (1.33, between Laymon Yokely and Bill Force), tied Cliff Carter and Yokely for third in losses, tied Pedro San and Henderson for 9th in games pitched (23), was 5th in ERA (between Red Ryan and Luther Farrell) and was 6th in ERA+ (between Carter and Willie Gisentaner). He made history on July 31 with a 11-inning no-hitter to beat the Hilldale Club, 2-1; Pete Washington hit the winning homer in the 11th. When the Negro Leagues were recognized as major leagues in 2020, that made it the longest no-hitter in MLB history, surpassing Sam Kimber, Hooks Wiltse, Fred Toney, Jim Maloney and Francisco Cordova/Ricardo Rincon, all of whom had 10-inning no-hitters. [4] He also injured his left arm in an auto accident that year. [5]

The Kentucky native slipped to 1-1, 4.98 (93 ERA+) in 1928 and moved to Hilldale (3-3, 4.64, 94 ERA+). He returned to Hilldale for 1929 and he was excellent at 9-2, 2.71 (194 ERA+) and hit .200/.265/.378 (51 OPS+). He was second in the American Negro League in ERA (.08 behind Martín Dihigo) and ERA+ (5 behind Dihigo); using different inning qualifiers, he was the leader in both. He was also tied for 6th in wins with Porter Charleston, 3rd in WHIP (1.30, behind Dihigo and Joe Williams), 2nd in winning percentage (behind Rector) and 10th in games pitched (20). He had his skull fractured in August when teammate Dick Jackson hit him in the head with a brick during a fight over 40 cents he allegedly owed another teammate, Sam Warmack. [6]

Strong was 9-4 with a save and a 4.42 ERA (114 ERA+) for the 1930 St. Louis Stars. He tied Andy Cooper, Army Cooper and Nelson Dean for 8th in the 1930 NNL in wins. He was roughed up for ten runs (seven earned) in six innings in losing Game 2 of the finals to the Detroit Stars but St. Louis triumphed in seven; they did not turn to Strong again. [7] The Stars repeated in 1931 and he went 4-3 with a 3.13 ERA (141 ERA+). He was 8th in the 1931 NNL in WHIP (between Dean and George Mitchell), 10th in ERA (between Ted Trent and Bert Hunter) and 9th in ERA+ (between Trent and Alto Lane). He did not pitch in the finals.

When the Stars and NNL both folded, he moved to the 1932 Homestead Grays. He was 4-4 with a 2.07 ERA (212 ERA+) and also backed up Bill Evans in CF and LeRoy Taylor in RF, batting .400/.495/.576 for a 193 OPS+. He led the 1932 East-West League in ERA (.40 ahead of William Bell), ERA+ (37 ahead of Bell) and Wins Above Replacement (3.0, .4 ahead of Hunter) and was 6th in WHIP (1.20, between Charleston and Terris McDuffie). He remained very good for the 1933 Homestead Grays but they left the revived NNL mid-season; he was 2-1 with a 2.45 ERA (185 ERA+) and hit .286/.333/.393 (103 OPS+); he was Homestead's most-used right fielder.

In 1934, the Grays were independent. He was 5-2 with a 4.19 ERA against other top competition and slipped to .196/.255/.314 at the plate. The 33-year-old was 5-5 for the 1935 Grays but his ERA skyrocketed to 6.17 (86 ERA+), only three years after his ERA title. He batted .318/.400/.432 for a 113 OPS+ still. In 1936, he saw little action for Homestead - 1-0, 4.09 (121 ERA+) on the mound; 3 for 16 with a walk and two doubles at the plate. He wound down with the champion 1937 Homestead Grays and Pittsburgh Crawfords. He was 1-1 with a 6.46 ERA (48 ERA+) and 1 for 11 at the plate.

Overall, he had gone 77-74 with 8 saves and a 4.05 ERA (113 ERA+) in 236 games against top competition and batted .259/.339/.375 (92 OPS+). From 1920-1948, he was among the Negro League leaderboards for ERA+ (113, tied for 62nd with Verdell Mathis, Dick Redding, Joe Black and Hunter), wins (tied for 19th with Henry McHenry), losses (3rd, behind Bill Holland and Drake), games pitched (7th, between Bell and Trent), starts (160, 10th), complete games (90, tied Darltie Cooper for 20th), shutouts (6, tied for 36th), saves (tied for 17th with Chet Brewer, Logan Hensley, José Méndez and Jim Jeffries), innings (1,320 2/3, 16th, between Trent and Drake), runs allowed (761, 6th, between Cockrell and Neck Stanley), earned runs allowed (595, 6th, between Cockrell and Stanley), hits allowed (1,437, 8th, between Ray Brown and Curry), homers allowed (49, 10th), walks (478, 2nd, 108 behind Willie Foster), strikeouts (550, 23rd, between Harry Salmon and Sug Cornelius), wild pitches (12, tied for 15th), hit batsmen (39, 10th) and Wins Above Replacement (20.3, 38th, between Ben Taylor and McHenry). Among pitchers, he was 17th in Wins Above Replacement, between Leon Day and McHenry.


  1. Seamheads DB (accessed 4/21/21; all Negro League stats are from this site unless otherwise indicated)
  2. The Complete Book of Baseball's Negro Leagues by John Holway, pg. 195
  3. The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues by James Riley, pg. 749
  4. No-no-hitters
  5. The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues, pg. 749
  6. SABR Bio of Jackson
  7. The Complete Book of Baseball's Negro Leagues, pg. 262-263; Seamheads DB