||This article is written like a personal reflection or opinion essay rather than an encyclopedic description of the subject. (March 2012)|
January 17, 1890|
|Died: January 22, 1942
|Batted: Left||Threw: Right|
|Negro leagues: 1909 for the Philadelphia Giants|
|Last professional appearance|
|1926 for the Hilldale Daisies|
Louis Santop Loftin (January 17, 1890 – January 22, 1942) was an African-American baseball catcher in the Negro leagues. He became "one of the earliest superstars" and "black baseball's first legitimate home-run slugger" (Riley), and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.
Santop was born in Tyler, Texas. At age 19 he played for teams in Fort Worth, Texas and Guthrie, Oklahoma before joining the Philadelphia Giants. In 1910, his only full season with Philadelphia, Santop and Dick Redding formed a "kid battery", catcher and pitcher.(Riley)
An amazing .406 lifetime hitter, Santop would often hit long home runs. In 1911, he hit an astonishing .470 and then, three years later, hit .455 for the Lincoln Stars. At this time, he was catching the two players considered the hardest throwing pitchers in the league: Smokey Joe Williams and "Cannonball" Dick Redding.
After military service in the U.S. Navy in World War I, Santop went on to have many more powerful years. After the war, he was the league's biggest drawing card and received $500 a month, one of the highest salaries paid, playing for the Hilldale Daisies. Hilldale won pennants from 1923 to 1925, but an error in the 1924 Colored World Series basically ended Santop's career.
With Hilldale leading a game 2–1 in the bottom of the ninth with one out and the winning runs on base, Santop dropped a popup off the bat of Monarchs catcher Frank Duncan that would have been the second out. On the next pitch, Duncan delivered the game-winning hit. In addition to the embarrassment, Santop was berated by his manager, Frank Warfield, in a public, profanity-filled tirade. The following year, Biz Mackey took over as starting catcher, and Santop was released by the team the next season. He also managed for some time.
The 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m), 240-pound Santop was noted for his outlandishness and his confidence while playing. He was reported to have called home runs while in the batter's box. In a 1912 game, he was credited with a tape-measure 500-foot bomb - a remarkable feat in the dead-ball era. In another game, Santop was the recipient of a knockdown pitch from ex-New York Giant Jeff Tesreau in an exhibition game. Both Tyler, Texas natives, Santop yelled to Tesreau, "You wouldn't throw at a hometown boy, would you?" The gentle giant could, however, become perturbed if provoked. On another occasion, he broke three of Oscar Charleston's ribs in an altercation.
While fairly accurate, almost none of Santop's seasons were fully documented, with the exception of 1924, while he was playing for Hilldale and batted .389.
In 14 exhibition games against white major leaguers, he hit .296.
Santop was a match for Josh Gibson. Gibson was often called "The Black Babe Ruth", but he wasn't the first to bear that title. It was a Santop original. When Ruth and Santop faced each other in 1920, Ruth went 0–4, while Santop had 3 hits in 4 at-bats.
Post-playing career and death
Santop became a broadcaster and eventually a bartender in Philadelphia after retiring from the game, before falling ill and eventually dying in a Philadelphia naval hospital in 1942, at age 52.
- Holway, John (2001). The Complete Book of Baseball's Negro Leagues. Fern Park: Hastings House. ISBN 0-8038-2007-0.
- Lester, Larry (2006). Baseball’s First Colored World Series. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co. ISBN 0-7864-2617-9.
- Riley, James A. (1994). "Santop, Louis (Top, Big Bertha)". The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues. Carroll & Graf. pp. 695–97. ISBN 0-7867-0959-6.
- (Riley.) Louis Santop, Personal profiles at Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. – identical to Riley (confirmed 2010-04-14)
- Louis Santop at the Baseball Hall of Fame
- Negro league and Cuban League statistics and player information from Seamheads.com, or Baseball-Reference (Negro leagues)
- 2006 Hall of Fame Inductee Bio: Louis Santop (video) – unknown content, URL confirmed 2010-04-16
- Louis Santop at Find a Grave