Monthly Archives: March 2012

Uncovering the history of the hidden leagues

This Robert Scott card was a mystery.

A couple of years ago, I felt the pull of my inner 10-year-old and bought a pack of Topps’ Allen & Ginter series baseball cards. Out of it I pulled a couple of current stars, a few rookies and a guy named Robert Scott. I’d never heard of Robert Scott. I immediately felt embarrassed.

The back of his card explained immediately that Scott had been a star in the Negro Leagues, the circuit created as a result of the exclusion of those whose skin was deemed too dark to compete in the majors. It’s the ugliest stain on the game’s history, but born out of a policy based on hatred is a rich history of some of the most entertaining baseball ever played.

There were untold talents in those leagues, players who would’ve dazzled in the national spotlight, forced instead to dazzle for fans across the country, playing side lots, school fields and the occasional Major League park for amazed crowds. That story is often told through oral histories and anecdotes, best absorbed in biographies and the occasional documentary.

But the people of have done a wonderful thing this week. As part of their already dizzying catalog of baseball history, they’ve unveiled their Negro Leagues statistics, a database of accomplishments official league games, pulled from more than 40 years of box scores and newspaper reports. Continue reading


Mel Parnell, 1922-2012

Mel Parnell has passed away.

Parnell was one of the stars of David Halberstam’s essential Summer of ’49, and that season was legendary. He racked up a league-leading record of 25-7 while also topping the junior circuit in innings (295.1) and complete games (27), while posting a 2.77 ERA, four shutouts and coming out of the bullpen to finish another five games.

He has more wins than any left hander in Red Sox history, and sits in the team’s top 10 list in wins, innings pitched, games started, complete games and shutouts.

But as a pitcher, his greatest legacy is his work in dispelling the myth that lefties couldn’t succeed in Fenway Park, due to the quick line and attractive presence of the left field wall. “Lefthanders have to pitch inside here,’’ Parnell told the Boston Globe in 1997. “Pitching inside, you keep the hitter’s elbows close to his body.’’

Parnell capped his career in 1956, throwing a no-hitter against the Chicago White Sox at Fenway on July 14, winning 4-0. After that, an elbow injury on top of myriad ailments forced him out of the game at 34.

As a constant student of the history of the game, I’ve always enjoyed reading about Parnell, part of a post-World War II generation of players who helped bring the game to new heights, pitched with the right amount of determination and abandon and played the game with pride.

He’ll be missed by many, there’s no doubt.