Max Manning

From BR Bullpen

Maxwell Manning (Dr. Cyclops, Emilio)

  • Bats Left, Throws Right
  • Height 6' 4", Weight 185 lb.

Nicknamed Dr. Cyclops due to his thick glasses, Max Manning was a Negro League pitcher. Using a fastball, curveball and slider, Manning had a good career that spanned three decades. A Pleasantville, NJ high school star on a team where he was the long black player, he was approached with an offer by Detroit Tigers scout Max Bishop, who had heard of the youngster's exploits but quickly rescinded the offer when they discovered that Manning was black.

In 1938 the 19-year-old sidearm pitcher was signed by Abe Manley and beat the Homestead Grays in his debut. He saw only limited time with the Newark Eagles that year but the next season became a sensation. Though he was just 4-4, his RA was a miniscule 0.93. In 1940 Manning went 14-7 with a 2.97 RA. He was tied for third in the Negro National League in victories, fourth in RA and third with 36 strikeouts. Max was 5-2 in '41 and 6-7 in 1942 with a 2.54 RA, third in the NNL.

Drafted into the US military that year, Manning was with the 316th Air Squadron in the Quartermaster Corps. He served in England and France and deliered supplies to the Third Army for two years. He injured his back during an accident once and also was put in the stockade for 15 days for insubordination during an incident involving some white racist soldiers. Manning professed gladness when the war ended and he didn't have to serve any more.

In 1946, Dr. Cyclops returned to Newark in fine form. He went 13-1 with a 2.79 RA; he was tied for fifth in the NNL in RA, fourth in wins and first in winning percentage. He won game two of the Negro World Series 7-4 over the Kansas City Monarchs to even the series, but he lost game 5 by a 5-1 score against Hilton Smith; it was his first loss in his past 15 decisions. Newark won the series 4 games to 3, with Manning going 1-1, 3.64 against KC. He was also 4-0 in the Cuban Winter League.

1947 was another great year for Manning. At age 28, he went 15-6 to lead the NNL in victories. Starting for the east in the East-West Game, Max was shelled, allowing 5 hits, 2 walks and a hit batter in 2 1/3 innings and taking the defeat.

Alex Pompez offered Max a deal with the New York Giants but he said that Pompez would have to arrange things with Newark, who properly had rights to his services. That didn't fit with how the white teams enjoyed raiding the Negro Leagues so they didn't follow up on it. He separated his shoulder early in the 1948 season after rushing spring training and never bounced back completely, despite surgery. Manning went 13-5 in the '48-'49 Negro Leagues, 5-9 with a 3.70 in the 1951 and 1953 Mexican League and also appeared in the 1951 Provincial League, fading away after the injury.

Overall, Max was 70-32 against top black teams during his career. His .686 winning percentage is 7th all-time among pitchers with 50 or more victories in the Negro Leagues.

After his career ended, Manning went back to school on the GI Bill and became a teacher. Working in the Pleasantville school system (where he had been educated), he taught for 28 years before retiring. Not one to stand quietly in the face of injustice, he was active in fighting for civil rights. He died in 2003 after a long illness.

Sources include The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues by James Riley, The Mexican League: Comprehensive Player Statistics by Pedro Treto Cisneros and The Complete Book of Baseball's Negro Leagues by John Holway