St. Louis Stars (baseball)

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This article is about the St. Louis Stars baseball club of the Negro Leagues. For the NASL soccer team, see St. Louis Stars (soccer).
St. Louis Stars
19061931
St. Louis, Missouri
League affiliation(s)
Name(s)
  • St. Louis Giants (1906–1921)
  • St. Louis Stars (1922–1931)
Ballpark(s)
Titles
League titles 1931 • 1930 • 1928

The St. Louis Stars, originally the St. Louis Giants, were a Negro league baseball team that competed independently from as early as 1906 to 1919, and then joined the Negro National League (NNL) for the duration of their existence. After the 1921 season, the Giants were sold by African-American promoter Charlie Mills to Dick Kent and Dr. Sam Sheppard, who built a new park and renamed the club the Stars. As the Stars, they eventually built one of the great dynasties in Negro league history, winning three pennants in four years from 1928 to 1931.

After the demise of the original Stars, there were two attempts to resurrect the St. Louis Stars name. A one-season bust in 1937, and a reasonably successful team that lasted from 1938 to 1943 which was also based variously in Indianapolis, New Orleans and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

St. Louis Giants[edit]

In 1906, Charles A. Mills,[1] an African-American bank messenger and baseball fan who wanted to upgrade the team, approached Conrad Kuebler, a white man who owned a ballpark, and convinced him to invest in the team. He then persuaded the Leland Giants to visit St. Louis to play his team. Mills discovered that the Leland Giants' star third baseman, Dick Wallace wanted a change of scenery and persuaded him to join the St. Louis Giants as the team's playing manager. Wallace stayed with the team for most of its existence and assembled a core of veterans, including Ben Taylor, shortstop Joe Hewitt, first baseman Tullie McAdoo, catcher/outfielder Sam Bennett, pitchers Bill Drake and Bill Gatewood, and outfielders Jimmie Lyons and Charles Blackwell. Though they were a good club, winning the St. Louis City League championship in 1912 and 1913, they couldn't break the grip of the Chicago American Giants and, later, the Indianapolis ABCs on the unofficial western championship of black baseball.

Negro National League[edit]

In 1920, the Giants finished sixth in the eight-team NNL with a 25-32 record. For the next season, St. Louis acquired center fielder Oscar Charleston from Indianapolis. Led by an historic season by Charleston (the latest research shows him batting .436, with 12 home runs and a league-leading 32 stolen bases in 62 games), who was nearly matched by Blackwell (.430), and with Bill Drake contributing 16 wins, the Giants surged to second place with a 40-28 record. In October, they played a best-of-seven series with the second-place St. Louis Cardinals in Sportsman's Park, and lost four games to one even though Cardinals' star Rogers Hornsby did not participate. That would be both the club's high point and its swan song, as Mills gave up the NNL's St. Louis franchise that winter. In 1922 most of the Giants' roster would play for the new St. Louis Stars.

Barnstorming[edit]

Mills organized new, independent teams using the St. Louis Giants moniker, frequently signing old Giants' players. That team toured the east coast in both 1924 and 1928. An African-American industrial league team used the name in the late 1930s (it was also known as the St. Louis Titanium Giants), counting eventual major leaguer Luke Easter among its players.

St. Louis Stars[edit]

The Stars inherited almost the entire roster of the 1921 Giants (who had finished in second place), with the exception of Hall of Fame center fielder Oscar Charleston. Without Charleston, the Stars dropped to fourth place in 1922, though with a creditable 35-26 record. In 1923 they slipped badly, finishing with 28 wins and 44 losses, good for only sixth place. Midway through the year they acquired several players from the Toledo Tigers when that team folded, including new manager Candy Jim Taylor. A 37-year-old third baseman, Taylor tied for the 1923 league lead with 20 home runs (19 hit in St. Louis).

More importantly, over the next few years Taylor put together one of the most impressive assemblages of talent in Negro league history, including Cool Papa Bell, whom Taylor converted from a left-handed pitcher into a brilliant defensive center fielder and leadoff man; Mule Suttles, first baseman and all-time Negro league home run king; Willie Wells, considered by many historians to be John Henry Lloyd's only serious rival as greatest shortstop in Negro league history; and Ted Trent, pitcher and wielder of one of the most effective curve balls in the league.

Championship years[edit]

In 1924, the Stars improved to 42-34 and fourth place. The next year they won the second-half title with an impressive 38-12 record after only narrowly losing the first half (69-27 overall), but lost the playoff series to Bullet Rogan and the Kansas City Monarchs. When Taylor left to manage the Detroit Stars and Cleveland Elites in 1926, the Stars slumped to 49-30, good for third place overall, though Mule Suttles enjoyed an historic season at bat. According to John Holway's Complete Book of the Negro Leagues, he hit .498, and led the NNL in doubles (27), triples (21), and home runs (27, the all-time Negro league single season record). He returned in 1927, and in 1928 the Stars took over the league, winning the first half going away, and compiling the best overall record by a good margin (66-26). They defeated the Chicago American Giants, second-half winners (and Negro league world champions for two years running) in an exciting playoff series, 5 games to 4.

The Stars continued their winning ways in 1929, but were just edged out in both halves of the season by the Kansas City Monarchs, despite Willie Wells's 27 home runs (tying Suttles's 1926 record). The following year they took their second NNL pennant, defeating the Detroit Stars in the playoff. In 1931, the Stars were awarded the pennant when the league disintegrated partway through the season; unfortunately, the club folded along with the league.

Home fields[edit]

The Giants originally played at Giants Park the first month and a half of the 1922 season, and occasionally played some games in the 1920s at three nearby parks: Vandeventer Lot II, Easton Street Park and Market Street Park.[2]

The Stars played in Stars Park, located at the southeast corner of Compton and Laclede avenues (38°37′56″N 90°13′34″W / 38.632193°N 90.226014°W / 38.632193; -90.226014), was the primary home baseball park of the Stars from 1922 to 1931. It was completed in mid-season 1922 as one of the few ballparks built expressly for the Negro leagues. It had a capacity of 10,000 people.[2] The park became famous for its 269-foot left field wall, built to accommodate a trolley car barn. Despite special rules that in some seasons counted home runs hit over the car barn as ground-rule doubles, the park proved very friendly to power hitters over the years.

Hall of Famers[edit]

Below are the three men who played for the St. Louis Stars and were later inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. After the player's name is their primary position, years played with the Stars and year inducted into the Hall of Fame. An asterisk denotes the Stars were also their primary team.

NAL reincarnates[edit]

St. Louis Stars (II)[edit]

St. Louis Stars
1937
St. Louis, Missouri
League affiliation(s)
Ballpark(s)

In 1937, another club named the St. Louis Stars joined the Negro American League as a charter member, but this was an entirely different organization. They disbanded for the 1938 season due to financial difficulties.

St. Louis Stars (III)[edit]

New Orleans–St. Louis Stars
19381943
St. Louis, Missouri
League affiliation(s)
Name(s)
  • Indianapolis ABCs (III) (1938)
  • St. Louis Stars (III) (1939)
  • New Orleans–St. Louis Stars (1940-1941)
  • Harrisburg–St. Louis Stars (1943)
Ballpark(s)

The third incarnate of the Indianapolis ABCs relocated to St. Louis for the 1939 season in the NAL. This club suffered continual financial woes and resorted to splitting their home games between St. Louis and New Orleans in 1940 and 1941 (as the New Orleans–St. Louis Stars). In 1942, Allen Johnson, owner of the New Orleans-St. Louis Stars, quit the Negro American League to become part owner of the New York Black Yankees in the Negro National League. He brought George Mitchell along as business manager.[3] A dispute ensued about whether he was allowed to transfer the Stars players to the Black Yankees; the leagues decided that he could transfer ten players, with the remaining nine players to be distributed among Negro American League teams.[4] In 1943, Johnson and Mitchell established a new Negro National League franchise in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, although they played under the Harrisburg–St. Louis Stars moniker because the majority of the players had previously played for the St. Louis Stars.[5] By mid-season, they were in conflict with league officials over signing players that were reserved by other teams, and they received permission to drop out of the league in July to barnstorm as the "Bond Bombers" to raise funds for war bonds.[6] They disbanded for good after the 1943 season.

Later home fields[edit]

The reincarnate clubs played their St. Louis home games at Metropolitan Park (1937) and South End Park (1939, 1941);[2] their New Orleans home games at Pelican Stadium (1941);[7] and their Harrisburg home games at Island Stadium (1943).[8]

MLB throwback jerseys[edit]

The St. Louis Cardinals have honored the Stars by wearing replica uniforms during regular-season baseball games on several occasions, including July 4, 1997 (at home vs. Pittsburgh), August 1 and 2, 1998 (at Atlanta), June 29, 2003 (at Kansas City), August 12, 2006 (at Pittsburgh), and August 14, 2007 (at Washington), and July 23, 2011 (at Pittsburgh).

References[edit]

  1. ^ "LEADING BASEBALL CLUBS" Indianapolis Freeman, Indianapolis, IN, April 1, 1911, Page 7, Column 5
  2. ^ a b c Lowry, Philip J. (2006). Green Cathedrals: The Ultimate Celebration of Major League and Negro League Ballparks. New York: Walker Publishing Company, Inc. p. 203. ISBN 0-8027-1562-1. 
  3. ^ "Allen Johnson Invests in N. Y. Black Yanks: St. Louis Stars Owner Quits Western Body". The Chicago Defender. February 21, 1942. p. 23. 
  4. ^ "Allan Johnson Recites Grievances: Black Yanks Co-Owner in Fighting Mood". The Chicago Defender. March 21, 1942. p. 20.  "Eastern Ball Clubs Will Have to Beat Black Yanks". The Chicago Defender. March 28, 1942. p. 19. 
  5. ^ "Harrisburg New NNL Club; Season Opens May 15: Franchise Granted ex-St. Louis Stars". The Afro-American. April 17, 1943. p. 18. Retrieved March 6, 2013. 
  6. ^ "NNL Orders Starks and Williams to Yankees". The Afro-American. July 3, 1943. p. 23. Retrieved March 6, 2013. 
  7. ^ Lowry, Philip J. (2006). Green Cathedrals: The Ultimate Celebration of Major League and Negro League Ballparks. New York: Walker Publishing Company, Inc. pp. 144–145. ISBN 0-8027-1562-1. 
  8. ^ Lowry, Philip J. (2006). Green Cathedrals: The Ultimate Celebration of Major League and Negro League Ballparks. New York: Walker Publishing Company, Inc. p. 95. ISBN 0-8027-1562-1. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 38°37′57″N 90°13′35″W / 38.6326°N 90.2264°W / 38.6326; -90.2264