Winter League Teams
When the Negro “League” season was over, the ball players needed to find another job or source of income until next years season began. Therefore, baseball was a twelve month a year job for many Negro League ball players. There is a saying in Negro League baseball “that the sun is always shining somewhere.” When the Negro “League” season was over, many players would go south to Florida to play for one of the hotel teams or Latin America to play winter baseball in Cuba, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Panama or Venezuela.
Palm Beach, Florida (1915)
The Cuban Winter League and the Puerto Rican Winter League were the two most popular places for Negro League ball players to play. One of the most interesting aspects of the Latin leagues was that all the teams were integrated. Blacks and whites played with and against each other without any problems.
Ponce Leones (c. 1920's)
Ciudad Trujillo (Dominican Republic) (1937)
Winter league baseball was also played in the United States on the West Coast. The California Winter League which started in 1910 and ended after the 1947 season brought some of the best white and black ball players together to play in an integrated league in the United States. Traditionally there would be one “all black” team in the league. Over the years the teams made up of Negro “League” players dominated league play. Dominant Negro “League” teams in the California Winter League included:
Philadelphia Royal Giants – won 9 championships
Wilson’s Elite Giants - won 6 championships
Other black teams that won at least one league championship included: Chicago American Giants, Lincoln Giants, Colored All-Stars, St. Louis Stars, St. Louis Giants, Cleveland Giants, Baltimore Elite Giants, Birmingham Black Barons, Elite Giants and Kansas City Royals.
It was in the California Winter League that many of the great Negro “League” stars shined against their “white” counterparts. Some of the Negro “League” players that feasted on California Winter League pitching included:
George “Mule” Suttles - .378 B.A. and 64 homeruns ( 8 seasons)
Burnis “Wild Bill” Wright - .375 B.A. and 15 homeruns (12 seasons)
Norman “Turkey” Stearnes - .373 B.A. and 56 homeruns ( 9 seasons)
James “Cool Pappa” Bell - .368 B.A. and 16 homeruns (12 seasons)
Raleigh “Biz” Mackey - .366 B.A. and 28 homeruns (18 seasons)
Wilbur “Bullet Joe” Rogan - .362 B.A. and 15 homeruns ( 6 seasons)
The Negro “League” players also dominated when it came to pitching.
Satchel Paige – 56-7 pitching record (17 shutouts)
Chester “Chet” Brewer – 43-13 “
Wilbur “Bullet Joe” Rogan - 42-14 “
James “Cannon Ball” Willis - 41-10 “