Terris McDuffie

From BR Bullpen

Terris Chester McDuffie
(Speed, Elmer the Great, Terris the Terrible [1], Schoolboy [2], Payaso [3])

  • Bats Right, Throws Right
  • Height 6' 1", Weight 200 lb.

BR page

Biographical Information[edit]

Terris McDuffie spent over 20 years in baseball. Originally an outfielder noted for his speed, he became a pitcher, winning over 170 games. He would play in the Negro Leagues, Cuban Winter League, Mexican League, Puerto Rican League, Dominican League, Venezuelan League, California Winter League and the minor leagues. A three-time All-Star in the Negro Leagues, McDuffie drew as much or more attention for a series of off-field events as for his work on the mound.

There is some uncertainty about his date of birth. According to The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues and Black Baseball's National Showcase by Larry Lester, it is May 22, 1910. However, passenger lists for trips from Puerto Rico to New York City in 1935, 1937, 1939, and 1942 all list a 1907 birth year.

A showboating hurler, McDuffie wore a jacket with "The Great McDuffie" written on the back. [4] His antics on the mound would make him popular as his career went on - by the end, he was making $6,000 per year, the highest of any Negro Leaguer in the east. [5]

McDuffie served in the 24th Infantry in the United States Army before going into baseball. [6] He began his career in 1930 with the Birmingham Black Barons, hitting .296 as a starting outfielder and stealing 18 bases. He led the Negro National League in steals, one ahead of Willie Wells. [7] He fell to .240 in 1931. [8]

The right-hander bounced around in 1932, between the Baltimore Black Sox (4-1 as a pitcher, .400 at the plate), Hilldale (.316), Cuban Stars (.316) and Atlantic City Bacharach Giants. [9] He was a bit player for Baltimore in the next couple seasons. He also spent part of 1934 with the minor Pennsylvania Red Caps, for whom he once won a 18-inning affair. [10]

McDuffie got his first regular action on the mound in the Negro Leagues in 1935, going 0-1 for the Newark Dodgers and 1-1 for the Brooklyn Eagles. [11] The two teams would merge in the off-season to form the Newark Eagles. With Newark, McDuffie quickly became a favorite of Effa Manley, wife of Eagles owner Abe Manley. A flashy dresser noted for his gold watches and diamong rings, he became her favorite lover. [12]

In 1936, Terris was 2-8 for the while battling stomach ailments that would haunt him in later years as well. [13] [14] In 1937, he improved to 10-4 with a 3.07 RA. He was second in the NNL in wins behind Sad Sam Thompson and was third in ERA behind Roy Welmaker and Thompson. [15] That winter, he was 0-3 for Habana in the Cuban Winter League. [16]

The Mobile native completed all of his starts in 1938 [17], with a 13-2 record for Newark. [18] In August, though, he ran into off-the-field trouble. He and Effa Manley got into a lover's quarrel, which turned violent, with him pushing her to the ground and kicking her. Abe Manley promptly traded him to the New York Black Yankees for two broken bats and an old pair of sliding pads. [19] With New York, he finished the year 1-2. [20] Overall, his 1938 record of 14-4 was second in the NNL, one win behind Ray Brown. [21]

With the 1939 Black Yankees, McDuffie posted a 5-3 record with a 3.60 RA, the latter figure good for third in the league behind Max Manning and Leon Day. [22] McDuffie made his first East-West Game. Replacing Bill Byrd on the hill in the 4th inning for the East, he allowed one run in 3 innings before giving way to Day. At the plate, he was 0 for 2. The East went on to win, 10-2 [23]

McDuffie was 5-3 in the 1939-1940 California Winter League, leading the league in wins. In the finale, he topped Johnny Lindell. [24] The next summer, he went to Mexico for the first of three stints. He was 0-4 with a 9.08 ERA for Santa Rosa in a horrid campaign, with 66 hits allowed in 39 2/3 innings. [25]

"Payaso", as he was known in Cuba, was 7-6 for Cienfuegos and Almendares in 1940-1941. [26] He returned to the USA that summer with the Homestead Grays, going 12-8 with a 3.12 RA. He was fourth in wins behind Byrd, Brown and Dave Barnhill and third in RA behind Byrd and Barnhill. [27] He was the East's starting pitcher in the 1941 East-West Game, allowing one run in three innings before being overcome by heat and replaced by Barnhill. At the plate, he had a sacrifice hit. He wound up with the win in that Game, topping Hilton Smith of the West. [28]

McDuffie had a 5-3 record for the Philadelphia Stars in 1942 and hit .250 at the plate. [29] Back in Mexico in 1943, he was 9-11 with a 3.14 ERA for the Torreon Cotton Dealers, his best season south of the border. [30] He went 2-0 in the 1943-1944 California Winter League. [31] In 1944, he returned to Newark six years after the Manley affair and went 5-6. [32] He made his final East-West Game, again starting for the East. He tripled in his lone at-bat while allowing 5 hits and 2 runs (one earned) in three innings in a 7-4 East loss; he had a no-decision. [33] Overall, he was 1-0 with a 3.38 ERA and went 1 for 3 at the plate in his three East-West Games. [34]

Back with Cienfuegos in Cuba in 1944-1945, McDuffie went 7-6 with a 2.35 ERA. He was .05 behind co-leaders Jorge Comellas and Tommy de la Cruz, both of them major leaguers. He led the league with 68 strikeouts, 43 walks and 138 innings and his 9 complete games tied Cocaina Garcia for the most. [35]

McDuffie was part of an uninvited tryout (along with Showboat Thomas) for the Brooklyn Dodgers on March 25, 1945, arranged by writer Joe Bostic. Dodgers skipper Leo Durocher said "I would not be interested in a 34-year-old who has never played in professional baseball." [36] He concluded his Negro League career that summer, going 2-1 for Newark. [37] He also spent part of 1945 with Mexico's Nuevo Laredo Owls, sputtering at 1-4, 6.08 while missing time due to an appendix operation [38] [39]

The Alabama native, while done in the Negro Leagues, still had several years left in Latin America. He was 1-3 for Habana in 1945-1945, working in relief. [40] He was with Torreon in 1946, going 4-4 with a 5.02 ERA while having a stomach operation to remove an internal growth. [41] [42] In 1946-1947, he had a 3-3 record for Habana. [43]

Terry's final year in Mexico was in 1947 when he went 7-10 with a 4.29 ERA for the Veracruz Eagle. [44] He had a 9-12 record for the Leones in 1947-1948, leading the Cuban Players League in losses. [45] Going to Canada in 1948, he played in the Provincial League, a popular stop for former Negro Leaguers too old to be considered prospects by the majors. The 37-year-old was 19-8 and hit .342 while slugging .592. He tied major leaguer Jean-Pierre Roy for the most wins, one ahead of major leaguer Adrian Zabala. [46]

McDuffie pitched for the Navegantes del Magallanes in the 1950 Caribbean Series, going 0-2 and tying Dan Bankhead and Connie Marrero for the most losses in the Series. [47] In 1950-1951, he was 5-2 with a 3.00 ERA for Cuba's Almendares club. [48] He was MVP of the Venezuelan League with Caracas in 1951. [49] He was 6-1 with a 4.86 ERA in the summer of '51 with the Sherbrooke Athletics in Canada. [50]

Terris was MVP of the Dominican League in 1952, at age 41. [51] In 1952-1953, he was 5-8 with a 2.91 ERA for Marianao to conclude his Latin American career. [52] MCDuffie signed with the AA Dallas Eagles in 1954; while the former outfielder was only 1 for 26 with a walk at the plate, he showed his arm still at life at age 43/44, going 3-4 with a 3.04 ERA and 57 hits in 71 innings. He led the Texas League team in ERA to end his career. [53]

McDuffie once refused Cuban manager Dolf Luque's orders to start a game. Luque promtply pulled a gun on the hesitant hurler, who had a change of mind. He would go out and throw a two-hitter. [54] It is unclear when this incident took place as Luque managed McDuffie a few times in Cuba.

Overall, McDuffie had gone at least 172-143: 21-33, 4.29 in Mexico [55], 60-40 in the Negro Leagues, 37-43 in Cuba , 5-5 in Puerto Rico, 21-9 in the Dominican Republic [56] and 28-13 in the minor leagues [57].

McDuffie threw a sinker, curveball, changeup, slider and fastball. [58]

He died in 1968.[59]

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 3-time NNL All-Star (1939, 1941 & 1944)
  • NNL Winning Percentage Leader (1941)
  • 2-time NNL Saves Leader (1939 & 1944)
  • NNL Shutouts Leader (1937)


  1. First three nicknames listed in The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues by James Riley, pg. 534
  2. The California Winter League by William McNeil, pg. 197
  3. Cuban Baseball: A Statistical History by Jorge Figueredo, pg. 534
  4. Riley, pg. 536
  5. Riley, pg. 536
  6. Riley, pg. 535
  7. The Complete Book of Baseball's Negro Leagues by John Holway, pg. 259-260
  8. Holway, pg. 283
  9. Holway, pg. 291
  10. Riley, pg. 535
  11. Riley, pg. 319
  12. Riley, pg. 535
  13. Riley, pg. 535
  14. Holway, pg. 330
  15. Holway, pg. 343-344
  16. Figueredo, pg. 221
  17. Riley, pg. 535
  18. Holway, pg. 355
  19. Riley, pg. 536
  20. Holway, pg. 356
  21. Holway, pg. 355
  22. Holway, pg. 363-364
  23. Black Baseball's National Showcase by Larry Lester, pg. 138
  24. McNeil, pg. 199-200
  25. The Mexican League: Comprehensive Player Statistics by Pedro Treto Cisneros, pg. 402
  26. Figueredo, pg. 239-240
  27. Holway, pg. 385-386
  28. Lester, pg. 169
  29. Holway, pg. 396
  30. Cisneros, pg. 402
  31. McNeil, pg. 216
  32. Holway, pg. 417
  33. Lester, pg. 237
  34. Lester, pg. 444
  35. Figueredo, pg. 258-261
  36. Holway, pg. 421
  37. Holway, pg. 425
  38. Riley, pg. 535
  39. Cisneros, pg. 402
  40. Figueredo, pg. 265
  41. Cisneros, pg. 402
  42. Riley, pg. 535
  43. Figueredo, pg. 281
  44. Cisneros, pg. 402
  45. Figueredo, pg. 300
  46. BR Minors
  47. Figueredo, pg. 331-334
  48. Figueredo, pg .342
  49. Riley, pg. 535
  50. BR Minors
  51. Riley, pg. 535
  52. Figueredo, pg. 369
  53. BR Minors
  54. Riley, pg. 535
  55. Cisneros, pg. 402
  56. McNeil, pg. 268 for the latter three figures
  57. BR Minors
  58. Riley, pg. 534
  59. "McDuffie Baseball Star Dies" in New York Amsterdam News, 5/11/68

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