- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 9", 'Weight 163 lb.
- Debut 1937
- Final Game 1946
- Born January 27, 1904 in Clearview, OK USA
- Died May 31, 1972 in Houston, TX USA
Willie Jefferson was 19 years older than brother George Jefferson but, as a late bloomer, was part of a rotation with his brother for a period. Willie began his career with minor black teams in the south and midwest - the Arkansas City Oilers in 1928, the A. C. Beavers in 1929-1930, a Sioux City, IA team from 1931-1934, the Omaha Packers in 1935 and the Claybrook Tigers in 1936. At age 32 in |1937, he finally made it to the official Negro Leagues with the Cincinnati Tigers when Double Duty Radcliffe, his manager at Claybrook, brought him over to the Tigers when Radcliffe became the head there. Willie was 1-1 with Cincinnati. When the team folded, he moved to the Memphis Red Sox and was 0-1 there in 1938 and 1-1 in 1939.
At age 34 and having gone just 2-3 in the Negro American League, Jefferson went south and became an overnight success with the Monterrey Industrials in 1939. He went 8-5 with a 2.33 ERA to finish the 1939 year, completing 12 of 13 starts and walking just 17 in 119 2/3 innings. In 1940 Willie led the Mexican League with 22 victories; he broke Martin Dihigo's Liga record of 18 wins. The mark would only stand four years before Ramon Bragana shattered it by winning 30, something no one has done since. Jefferson's 22 wins still ranked tied for 10th in Liga history as of 2000. Additionally he set a record with 39 starts (tied 30 years later by Salvador Sanchez and never broken) and was second in the Liga in ERA (2.65, .07 behind Bragana) and complete games (24). Jefferson was 22-9 overall, a pretty impressive record on a third-place team.
After one year of success so late in his career, Willie faded to 9-16 with a 4.32 ERA in 1941 - a year after setting Mexico's win record, he was one of several pitchers to establish a new record for losses. This record lasted even less time, as it would be broken two years later by a couple other pitchers.
Jefferson returned to the USA at age 37 with the Cincinnati-Cleveland Buckeyes and went 9-3 for them in 1942 before being called into military service. He pitched a few weekends late that year for the Philadelphia Stars, going 2-1 for the NNL team.
Willie was discharged from the military after less than a year and in 1943 rejoined the Cleveland Buckeyes, going just 4-7. His kid brother George joined the rotation the next year but Willie was only 6-11 as he watched his younger relative serve as the club's ace. Jefferson returned briefly to Mexico with the Puebla Parrots and went 3-4 with a 4.07 ERA; overall in Mexico he was 42-34 with a 3.24 ERA.
Having been only 16-21 previously in his Negro League career, Willie suddenly found stardom in his home country at age 39. In 1945 Jefferson was 12-1 for Cleveland with a 2.17 RA; he was second in the Negro American League in both categories and joined brother George and Gene Bremer in forming a fine rotation that led Cleveland to the NAL title. In the World Series against the Homestead Grays, Willie got the Game 1 start and took a shutout into the 9th before winning 2-1 in Cleveland Stadium. It was Willie's second great season and his last one. His only significant time after that came in the 1951 Mandak League; at age 46-47 he was 4-7.
- The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues by James Riley
- The Complete Book of Baseball's Negro Leagues by John Holway
- The Mexican League: Comprehensive Player Statistics by Pedro Treto Cisneros