A Very American Coup By Michael – Louis...
A Beltway Tradition
The Homestead Grays and Baltimore Elite Giants are just two teams that quickly come to mind. One of the first teams to play in the area were the Baltimore Atlantics, a black ball club that began in the 1880′s.
In 1887, the Washington Capital Citys began play in the League of Colored Ballplayers. Among some of the players on that original roster was Frank Leland, who later helped form the Chicago Union Giants.
Later in 1916, an independent black squad named the Baltimore Black Sox began play. They stayed that way until joining the Eastern Colored League in 1923. Six years later, now members of the American Negro League, the Black Sox went 53-29 and won the pennant.
While the Philadelphia A’s had their famous “$100,000 Infield” during that era, the Black Sox’s infield of first baseman Jud Wilson, second baseman Frank Warfield, shortstop Dick Lundy, and third baseman Oliver Marcelle formed baseball’s “$1,000,000 Infield”.
Team owner George Rossiter had acquired Lundy, Marcelle, and pitcher Laymon Yokely from Atlantic City Bacharach Giants during the off-season after the Black Sox finished a mediocre 20-22 in 1928.
Known as “King Richard” in his heyday, Lundy served as Baltimore’s player-manager and was the catalyst of the team. A perennial All-Star, Lundy was one of the league’s best shortstops and a tremendous hitter.
In 1926 as a player-manager for the Atlantic City, Lundy hit .329 and helped lead the Bacharach Giants to Eastern Colored League pennant. Atlantic City lost an 11-game World Series that year to Rube Foster’s Chicago American Giants team.
In that first season with Baltimore, Lundy had another outstanding season hitting .336. However, it was the Black Sox’s powerful first baseman who truly had an outstanding season at the plate.
THE MAN CALLED “BOOJUM”
Jud Wilson was known around the league as “Boojum” for the sound of the line drives that came off his booming bat. A native of D.C., Wilson finished in the top five in all major offensive categories in 1929.
He led Baltimore with a .405 batting average, 11 homers, and a league-high 22 triples. His 20 doubles were just one behind team leader Rap Dixon. A career .345 hitter, no less than Satchel Paige considered Wilson one of the best hitters he ever faced.
Second baseman Frank Warfield hit .271 that season for the Black Sox, but that average doesn’t tell his whole story. While he had a quiet and unassuming personality off the field, Warfield was a slick fielder and fierce competitor on the field.
While playing in Cuba during the off-season of 1927, he got into a run-in with his one of his teammates involving a dice game. The fight was so intense that Warfield bit off part of his antagonist’s nose in the altercation.
The incident earned Warfield the nickname “The Weasel” by his friends and enemies. However, he channeled that intensity to become a successful manager as well. Earlier in his career, he helped lead Hillsdale to three straight pennants from 1923-25 including a World Series crown in 1925.
Ironically, the teammate that Warfield had the confrontation with in Cuba would later play along side him for the Black Sox in 1929. Oliver Marcelle was also known to have a mean streak in him, but he also was one of Black baseball’s brightest stars.
Known as “The Ghost”, Marcelle was regarded one of the best third baseman in Negro League history. In a 1952 Pittsburgh Courier poll, Marcelle was chosen by fans over future Hall of Famers Ray Dandridge and Judy Johnson as the greatest third baseman in league history.
A lifetime .305 hitter, Marcelle was a tremendous fielder who had the good fortune of being around great teams during his career. He played in back-to-back World Series with Atlantic City in 1926-27.
While there have been several teams in the Washington-Baltimore area that made an impact in the Negro Leagues, the “$1,000,000 Infield” of the Baltimore Black Sox are truly one of the most memorable.
NOTE: The Complete Book of Baseball’s Negro Leagues, The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues, and The Encyclopedia of Negro League Baseball all contributed to this story.