A Very American Coup By Michael – Louis...
Beyond Satchel: Part Two
However, for a two-year period between 1935 and 1936, there may not have been a better pitcher than Leroy Matlock. During that time, the 5-foot-9 lefty fashioned the greatest winning streak by a pitcher in baseball history.
Matlock began his career in 1929 with the St. Louis Stars. He helped lead St. Louis to three straight pennants during his run with the Stars before going to play with the Pittsburgh Crawfords.
While playing for Pittsburgh, Matlock compiled a 26-game winning streak that stretched out for nearly three seasons. Hall of Famer Carl Hubbell holds the major league record when he won 24 straight during 1936-37.
The win streak actually began late in 1934 when Matlock won his final three games en route to a 14-3 mark. When Satchell Paige left the Crawfords at the start of the 1935 season, Matlock stepped in and became Pittsburgh’s ace.
While Matlock didn’t have the same flair as the legendary Hall of Famer, he more than made up for it by having a season for the ages. The little lefty complied a 17-0 mark along with a league-leading 2.04 ERA.
He was named the George Stovey Award as the league’s top pitcher. He would later toss a 5-hit shutout in Game 3 of the Negro League World Series. Pittsburgh outlasted the New York Cubans to win the crown in seven games.
In 1936, Paige returned to reclaim his spot as ace of the Crawfords’ staff. The tandem of Satch (11-3) and Matlock (9-3) helped lead Pittsburgh to another Negro League crown. Matlock was the winning pitcher in the East-West All-Star Classic and again led the league with a 1.50 ERA.
He opened the season by winning six straight to stretch his winning streak to 26 before he fell to the Philadelphia Stars in early May. Matlock would win his next start and only lose twice more the entire season.
Over the next five seasons, Matlock became a baseball vagabond playing in the Negro Leagues, the Puerto Rican leagues, and the Mexican League. His best season came in 1941, a year before he retired from the game.
Matlock went 15-9 for Mexico City and he again led his league in ERA. While he was never able to duplicate his phenomenal run in the 30′s, Leroy Matlock was arguably baseball’s best pitcher from late 1934 to the end of the 1936 season.
He would pass away at the age of 61 on February 6, 1968.
NEXT: Jose Mendez.
NOTE: The Complete History of Baseball’s Negro Leagues and The Biographical Encyclopedia of The Negro Leagues all contributed to this story.