A Very American Coup By Michael – Louis Ingram, Editor-in-Chief...
Second To None
NEW HAVEN, Ct. — Back in 2005, one of baseball’s best second baseman was inducted into Cooperstown. Chicago’s Ryne Sandberg joined such luminaries as Joe Morgan and Bill Mazeroski in baseball’s Hall of Fame.
However, all three men should be joined by a Texas native who dominated his position during the 1920′s and 1930′s. Henry Newton Allen, better known as “Newt”, was considered the best second baseman in the Negro Leagues during that era.
In a career that began in 1922 and spanned over two decades, Allen spent most of his time with the Kansas City Monarchs. He sparked the defense in the Monarch’s championship seasons of 1923-25 and 1929.
Allen also played with four other teams, including the St. Louis Stars where he and future Hall of Famer Willie Wells formed one of the game’s greatest double play combinations. The pair helped lead the Stars to the last Negro National League pennant in 1931.
Known for his slick fielding, Allen was primarily a second baseman. However, he was such a excellent fielder that he played all four infield positions at some point in his career.
A switch-hitter with a career .296 average, Allen was acknowledged as a good bunter with good bat control who went with the pitch and he was also an ideal player to have hit in the second slot in the line-up.
Like many players, Newt’s career would begin in the sandlots. His family moved to Missouri during his younger days. Allen attended Lincoln High School in Kansas City along with future Monarch teammates Frank Duncan and Rube Currie.
The three organized a local team called the Kansas City Tigers, named after the school mascot. After a brief amateur career, in 1921 Allen joined the semi-pro Omaha Federals, for whom he was playing second base when discovered by Monarch owner J.L. Wilkinson.
Allen then signed with the All-Nations Team, toured with them for most of 1922, and was then promoted to the Monarchs in October. In his first full season in Kansas City in 1923, he was named the team’s captain.
That season was the beginning of an incredible run for the Monarchs. In the Negro League World Series of 1924 and 1925 he hit .282 and .259, respectively. The following year, when the Monarchs won the first-half championship, he hit .264 for the season and in 1929 he hit an even .300.
Allen, who also played for the Detroit Wolves, Homestead Grays, and Indianapolis Clowns, would have a second tour of duty with the Monarchs. In 1936, he rejoined Kansas City and promptly hit .290.
The next year, the Monarchs entered the newly formed Negro American League and promptly began to dominated the new league by winning five of the first six pennants. He hit a career high .363 in 1935.
In 1942 and now primarily playing third base, the 41-year old Allen hit .267 during the Negro World Series as the Monarchs defeated the Homestead Grays.
He remained a popular player with the fans even in the latter years of his career. Newt was selected to the East-West All-Star Classic four times: 1936-38 and 1941.
His playing career ended in 1947 while serving as a player-manager for Indianapolis. Wherever he played, Allen was always considered a catalyst offensively and solid defensively.
Former teammate Chet Brewer once said, “Newt was a real slick second baseman, he could catch the ball and throw it without looking.”
“Newt used to catch the ball, throw it up under his left arm; it was just a strike to first base. He was something! Get that ball out of his glove quicker than anybody you ever saw.”
Allen spent most of his later days involved in politics in the Kansas City area before he passed away on June 11, 1988. While many of his teammates and contemporaries are inshrined in Cooperstown, many feel that time is long overdue for Newt to join them as well.
NOTE: BlackBaseball.com, Baseball Library, and the Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues contributed to this story.