Willie Wells

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Willie Wells
Born: (1906-08-10)August 10, 1906
Austin, Texas
Died: January 22, 1989(1989-01-22) (aged 83)
Austin, Texas
Batted: Right Threw: Right
MLB debut
1924 for the St. Louis Stars
Last MLB appearance
1948 for the Memphis Red Sox
Career statistics
Plate appearances 3144
Batting average .319
Slugging percentage .510
Home Runs 100

Negro leagues

Mexican League

  • Veracruz (1940–41, 1944)
  • Tampico (1943)
  • Mexico City (1944)

As Manager

Career highlights and awards
  • 10× All-Star (1933, 1934, 1935, 1937, 1938, 1939(1), 1939(2), 1942(1), 1942(2), 1945)
  • 2× Cuban League MVP Award (1929/30, 1939/40)
  • Negro National League record for most home runs in a season, 27 in 1926.
Induction 1997
Election Method Veterans’ Committee

Willie James Wells (August 10, 1906[1] - January 22, 1989) was an American shortstop who played from 1924-48 for various teams in the Negro Leagues.

Wells was born in Austin, Texas. A star in both baseball and football in high school, Wells first played professional baseball in 1923, playing one season for the Austin Black Senators of the Texas Negro League, a minor league for the Negro National League. He entered the NNL with the St. Louis Stars in 1924, playing for the Stars until the franchise dissolved after the 1931 season. In 1926 he hit 27 home runs, a Negro League single-season record. From 1932 to 1935 he played for the Chicago American Giants and played for the Newark Eagles from 1936 to 1939. While a player with the Eagles, Wells was part of the "Million Dollar Infield," consisting of Wells, Ray Dandridge, Dick Seay, and Mule Suttles.[2]:p.55 He played in Mexico in 1940 and 1941, returned to the Negro Leagues in 1942 as a player-manager for the Eagles and then went back to Mexico for the 1943 and 1944 seasons. He returned to the U.S. in 1945 and played for various Negro League teams through the 1950 season. He then went to Canada as a player-manager for the Winnipeg Buffaloes of the Western Canadian Leagues, remaining there until his retirement from playing baseball in 1954. Wells returned to the U.S. and continued with the sport as manager of the Birmingham Black Barons.

Nicknamed El Diablo by Mexican fans for his extraordinary intensity, Wells was a superb all-around player. He was a fast baserunner who hit for both power and average. But Wells was at his finest with his glove, committing almost no errors and having the speed to run down anything that came in his direction. He is widely considered the best black shortstop of his day. He also taught Jackie Robinson the art of the double play.

He was also notable as being the first player to use a batting helmet after being hit and getting a concussion while playing with the Newark Eagles. His first helmet was a construction helmet.

After his baseball career, Wells was employed at a New York City deli before returning to his birthplace of Austin to look after his mother. He died at age 83 in Austin. Willie Wells was originally buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Austin, Texas, and was re-interred in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin.

He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1997 for his play in the Negro Leagues.

Known statistics: .319 career batting average, .510 slugging percentage, 98 home runs, 644 runs scored, 399 runs batted in, and 756 games played.[3]


  1. ^ See Luke 2007, which cites the Texas Department of Health as the source for the 1906 birth year, and Hogan 2006, p. 398. Other sources report a birth year of 1905.
  2. ^ Grigsby, Daryl Russell (2012). Celebrating Ourselves: African-Americans and the Promise of Baseball. Indianapolis, IN: Dog Ear Publishing. ISBN 978-160844-798-5. Retrieved 8 August 2012. 
  3. ^ Hogan 2006, pp. 398–401.


  • Clark, Dick; Lester, Larry (1994), The Negro Leagues Book, Cleveland, Ohio: Society for American Baseball Research 
  • Hogan, Lawrence D. (2006), Shades of Glory: The Negro Leagues and the Story of African-American Baseball, Washington DC: National Geographic, ISBN 0-7922-5306-X 
  • Holway, John B. (2001), The Complete Book of Baseball's Negro Leagues: The Other Half of Baseball History, Fern Park, FL: Hastings House Publishers, ISBN 0-8038-2007-0 
  • Luke, Bob (2007). Willie Wells: "El Diablo" of the Negro Leagues. University of Texas Press. ISBN 978-0-292-71751-0. 
  • Treto Cisneros, Pedro (2002), The Mexican League: Comprehensive Player Statistics, 1937–2001, Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, ISBN 0-7864-1378-6 

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