NEW HAVEN, Ct. — During the late 1920′s and early 1930′s, the St. Louis Stars were one of the dominant teams in the Negro National League. Winning pennants in 1928, 1930 and 1931, the Stars were led such dominant players as “Cool Papa” Bell, “Mule” Suttles, and Willie Wells.
The Stars’ best pitcher during that era was a Jacksonville, Florida native that Ted “Double Duty” Radcliffe called “one of the best curve ball pitchers that ever lived.” At 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds, Ted “Highpockets” Trent was one of the Negro Leagues’ tallest players and one of the game’s best right handed pitchers for more than a decade.
While he pitched for five other teams (Detroit Wolves, Homestead Grays, Cole’s American Giants, Chicago American Giants, Washington Pilots), Trent is recognized more for his work in St. Louis.
Born on December 17, 1903, Trent began playing the game as a youngster and pitched for two seasons with Bethune-Cookman College in 1925-26. He began his professional career toiling for the West Palm Beach Giants.
After just one season with the club, team owners Jimmy Reel and Morty Clark recommended Trent to the Stars. The rest, as they say, was history. As a rookie in 1927 for St. Louis, Trent immediately established himself as the ace.
He went 15-11, which tied him with K.C.’s “Bullet” Rogan for the second most wins in the league. Trent was known for his biting curve ball, but he actually had three different variations (a long curve, a short curve, and shorter curve) of the pitch.
Using a straight overhand delivery, Trent also had a good fastball and a drop pitch that players said “broke like it dropped off a table”. Because of the strain on his arm, Trent needed an extra day between starts.
Throughout his career with the Stars, he was primarily their “Sunday” pitcher.
Trent’s best season would come a year later when he led the St. Louis staff in virtually every pitching category and topped the league with a 21-2 mark. He was the George Stover Award winner and helped lead the Stars to the first of their three National League pennants.
He would win three more games during the playoffs against the Chicago American Giants. In the series-clinching win at St. Louis, Trent out dueled future Hall of Famer Willie Foster in a 9-2 victory.
Over the next two seasons, Trent remained the Stars’ top hurler going 12-9 in 1929 and 12-2 in 1930. Like many other Negro Leaguers during that time, Trent pitched overseas and in many barnstorming tours.
During the winters of 1928-29, Trent pitched in Cuba. One notable exhibition game for Trent came during the winter of 1930 when he pitched against an all-white team made up of major leaguers.
Against a squad that featured Bill Terry, Paul Waner, Lefty O’Doul, and Billy Herman, the tall righty tossed a 5-0 shutout. Along the way, Trent would strikeout Terry three times during the game.
After the Negro National League disbanded in 1932, Trent would ironically join the team he dominated during the postseason of 1929. Signing with the Chicago American Giants a year later, Trent continued to be one of the Negro League’s elite pitchers.
During his time in Chicago (1933-37), Trent was a four-time selection to the East-West All-Star Classic. He was tabbed as the West’s starter in consecutive seasons (1934-35) as well.
His best season for the Giants came in 1934 when he went 12-6 with a 2.94 ERA. He added another win in the postseason, but Chicago would lose an eight-game playoff series to the Philadelphia Stars.
The only major blemish throughout Trent’s career was a reoccurring drinking problem. He would attribute his drinking to the constantly difficult traveling conditions that the Negro Leaguers has to endure.
Unfortunately, the lifestyle and related problems would lead to Trent’s early death. At the end of his playing career, Trent would develop tuberculosis. Four years later, Trent would take ill and on January 10, 1944, he died just days after his 40th birthday.
Despite passing away at a young age, Trent’s pitching career should be remembered as one of the most consistent ones in Negro League history.
NOTE: The Complete Book of Baseball’s Negro Leagues, The Encyclopedia of Negro League Baseball, and the Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues all contributed to this story.