Speed Whatley

From BR Bullpen

Claude David Whatley (Speed, Hammerman)

  • Bats Left, Throws Right
  • Height 5' 10", Weight 170 lb.

Speed Whatley was a Negro League outfielder for a decade. He was noted for his speed and small-ball skills.

Whatley debuted in 1936 as a 21-year-old starter for the Birmingham Black Barons. In 1937, he was the cleanup hitter for Birmingham and had his big year. He led the Negro American League in average (.428, 39 points ahead of Newt Allen), was third with five homers (behind Willard Brown and Parnell Woods), was second with eight doubles (behind Brown) and was second with seven triples (one behind Brown). Had there been a MVP, he would have likely been a major candidate. He hit .353 for the Black Barons in 1938.

In 1939, Speed had stints with the Jacksonville Red Caps and Cleveland Bears before winding up with the Homestead Grays (hitting .302 for them). He fell to .265 in 1940 and .254 in 1941. He hit .318 in 1942 but was 0 for 1 in the 1942 Colored World Series as Homestead went with an outfield of Jerry Benjamin, Howard Easterling and Vic Harris.

Whatley's career declined with alcohol playing a prominent role and he never was a starter again. He left Homestead for the New York Black Yankees in 1944. By 1946, he was with the Pittsburgh Crawfords, a minor club by that point. It was his last season.

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