Pythias Russ

From BR Bullpen

Pythias Russ

  • Bats Right, Throws Right
  • Height 5' 11", Weight 195 lb.

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Biographical Information[edit]

Pythias Russ was one of the top contact hitters in the history of the Negro Leagues but had his life cut short by illness.

Russ was a multi-sport star in college, playing baseball, basketball, running track and making All-American in football in 1924. He was recruited by Candy Jim Taylor to join the Memphis Red Sox. In 1925, the 21-year-old rookie split catching chores with Larry Brown, hitting .327.

Rube Foster signed Russ to play for the Chicago American Giants and he hit .268 for them in 1926. In 1927, Russ was reunited with Brown behind the plate and batted .350. He only was 8 for 35 in the 1927 Negro World Series.

Russ moved to shortstop in 1928 and hit .405 to win the Negro National League batting title by 33 points over Huck Rile and Mule Suttles. He then batted .407 in the postseason to lead Chicago to the NNL title. In 1929, Russ hit .386, four points behind NNL leader Clarence Smith. His 11 triples were second to L.D. Livingston.

Russ hit .350 overall in the Negro Leagues, 10th all-time among players with under 2,000 AB. He was in the midst of a bunch of Hall of Famers and Hall of Fame candidates, trailing Ray Dandridge, Heavy Johnson and Ted Strong and just ahead of Willard Brown, Monte Irvin and Wild Bill Wright. Russ had spent his career in a high-offense era but in a Schorling Park known for being very pitcher-friendly. In adjusting statistics for park factor, Gary Ashwill has identieid Russ as being close to Willie Wells in offensive production.

Russ was recruited by a couple basketball teams in 1929. He also worked as an instructor at Sam Houston College in the last years of his life. He married and had a baby who died a few months before Russ lost his battle with tuberculosis in early 1930. Russ had moved back to his hometown of Cynthiana in his final months as his brother, a physician, tended to his care.

Sources: Research by Gary Ashwill, The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues by James Riley, The Complete Book of Baseball's Negro Leagues by John Holway