José Méndez: Wikis

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José Mendez
Pitcher
Born: March 19, 1887(1887-03-19)
Cardenas, Matanzas, Cuba
Died: October 31, 1928 (aged 41)
Havana, Cuba
Bats: Right Throws: Right
Professional debut
Negro Leagues: 1908 for the Brooklyn Royal Giants
Last professional appearance
1926 for the Kansas City Monarchs
Teams
Member of the National
Empty Star.svgEmpty Star.svgEmpty Star.svg Baseball Hall of FameEmpty Star.svgEmpty Star.svg Empty Star.svg
Inducted     2006

José de la Caridad Méndez (March 19, 1887 – October 31, 1928) was a Cuban right-handed pitcher and manager in baseball's Negro Leagues. Born in Cárdenas, Matanzas, he died at age 41 in Havana. Known in Cuba as El Diamante Negro (the "Black Diamond"), he became a legend in his homeland. He was one of the first group of players elected to the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939. He was elected to the U.S. National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.

Contents

Dominating pitcher: 1908–14

In 1907 Méndez was discovered by Bebé Royer of the Almendares team in the Cuban League. A relatively small man (5 feet, 9 inches), he threw a hard fast ball with a deceptively easy motion and a snapping curve. His first Cuban League season (from January through March 1908), he went 9–0, and, along with veteran Joseíto Muñoz, led the Almendares Blues to the Cuban League pennant. That summer he made his United States debut with the Cuban Stars and also went 3–0 for the Brooklyn Royal Giants.[1]

In the fall of 1908, Méndez pitched the games that established him as a legend. The Cincinnati Reds were visiting Havana playing the Cuban League teams, and Méndez completely dominated, pitching 25 consecutive scoreless innings in 3 appearances. In his first start, he allowed just one single, by Miller Huggins in the 9th inning, while striking out nine. His next appearance came in relief, where he held the Reds scoreless for 7 innings on just 2 hits. He concluded with another shutout. His record from the Cincinnati Reds series was W-2, L-0, ERA-0.00, G-3, IP-25, H-8, R-0, BB-3, SO-24. Several days later Almendares played a minor league all-star team from Key West, and Méndez pitched two more shutouts, the second a no-hitter, giving him 43 consecutive scoreless innings against major and minor league competition.[2]

Over the next 6 Cuban League seasons Méndez continued to dominate, with records of 15–6, 7–0, 11–2, 9–5, 1–4, and 10–0, leading the league in wins 3 times. His Almendares team won pennants in 3 of 6 campaigns. In the United States during the summers he pitched just as well. Some sources say that he achieved a 44–2 record with the Cuban Stars in 1909, though a recent partial compilation of box scores by Scott Simkus shows a more modest, but still impressive, 14–2 record (with 2 saves). He pitched a 10-inning no-hitter on July 24, 1909.[3] One of his losses came on July 1 in Chicago when Rube Foster and the Leland Giants defeated him 1–0, when a dropped fly ball led to an unearned run against him.

Other major league teams visited Cuba over these years and Méndez continued to pitch against them. According to a compilation of box scores by Gary Ashwill, during 1908–13 against major league competition Méndez compiled a record of 9–11 in 24 games, pitching 18 complete games and 204 innings, with a total run average of 3.26. He allowed 150 hits and 51 walks, while notching 123 strikeouts. His opponents were top major league teams, including the 1909 and 1910 Detroit Tigers, the 1910 and 1912 Philadelphia Athletics, the 1911 Philadelphia Phillies and New York Giants and the 1913 Brooklyn Dodgers. The average major league winning percentage of the opposing pitchers he faced was .595; he faced star pitchers including Eddie Plank, whom he beat twice, and Chief Bender, whom he beat once.[4]

In an article in Baseball Magazine in March 1913, Ira Thomas (a catcher with the Philadelphia Athletics who had visited Havana twice) wrote the following about Méndez:[5]

Méndez is a remarkable man. More than one big leaguer from the states has faced him and left the plate with a wholesome respect for the great Cuban star. It is not alone my opinion but the opinion of many others who have seen Méndez pitch that he ranks with the best in the game. I do not think he is Walter Johnson's equal, but he is not far behind. He has terrific speed, great control and uses excellent judgment. He is a natural ballplayer if there ever was one and with his pitching it is no wonder that the Cubans win games...At that, he is a remarkable pitcher, and if he were a white man would command a good position on any Major League club in the circuits.

Injury and recovery: 1914–28

In late 1914 Méndez developed arm trouble and cut back on his pitching, eventually stopping altogether. A slick fielder, Méndez moved to shortstop and joined J.L. Wilkinson's All Nations. He played with several other teams, including the Chicago American Giants and the Detroit Stars, before finally signing on in 1920 as playing manager with J.L. Wilkinson's Kansas City Monarchs in the new Negro National League. He continued to split his time between shortstop and pitching, and under his leadership the Monarchs won pennants in 1923, 1924, and 1925. He gradually adjusted and became a very effective pitcher again, albeit with lighter pitching loads than he had carried during his 1908–14 pitching prime. In 1923 Méndez had a 12–4 record, followed by 4–0, 2–0, and 3–1 in the next three seasons.

Méndez became the star of the first Negro League World Series in 1924 against the Hilldale Club of the Eastern Colored League. He appeared in 4 games, with a 2–0 record including a shutout victory in the deciding final game.

During the winters, Méndez returned to pitching in the Cuban League in 1920/21. He pitched for the 1923/24 Santa Clara Leopards team that is considered the most dominant in the history of Cuban baseball; other members of that team included Oscar Charleston, Alejandro Oms, Dobie Moore, Bill Holland, and Eustaquio Pedroso.

Méndez won his last game in Cuba on January 21, 1927. Less than 2 years later he was dead at the age of 41. His career Cuban League record was 76–28, and he ranks first all-time in career winning percentage (minimum of 40 wins) with .731.

Career pitching statistics

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Negro National League

Statistics for the Negro leagues were compiled decades later by historians working from newspaper box scores. These sources are sometimes inaccurate or incomplete; some games may be missing; and there may be uncertainty about which games counted as part of the official playing season. Consequently, there are disagreements among the statistics. The following represent recent attempts to compile nearly "complete" statistics for certain leagues or seasons. The first set of statistics was published by the National Baseball Hall of Fame in association with the nomination of Méndez and other Negro league players to the Hall of Fame.

Year Team W L Pct G GS CG SHO SV IP H BB SO ERA
1920 Kansas City 3 1 .750 8 5 3 0 0 50.7 44 8 9 3.37
1921 Kansas City 1 0 1.000 3 2 0 0 0 15.7 15 1 6 2.87
1922 Kansas City 1 2 .333 4 1 0 0 0 20.0 30 3 13 4.95
1923 Kansas City p 11 4 .733 23 15 10 1 2 129.7 132 29 57 3.54
1924 Kansas City c 6 1 .857 17 3 1 1 2 63.0 49 9 37 2.57
1925 Kansas City p 3 2 .600 10 3 0 0 0 26.7 34 5 12 6.41
1926 Kansas City 2 2 .500 7 2 2 0 3 32.0 36 4 13 2.53
Total 7 seasons 27 12 .692 72 31 16 2 7 337.7 340 59 147 3.52
    p = pennant; c = pennant and Negro League World Series championship.

Source: Negro Leagues Ballot Pitcher Stats

The next table presents recent alternative compilations for certain seasons by Negro league researchers.

Year Team W L Pct G GS CG SHO SV IP H BB SO ERA RA
1921 Kansas City 1 1 .500 3 2 0 0 0 15.7 15 3 3 5.74
1922 Kansas City 2 0 1.000 4 1 0 0 0 15.3 27 5 11 6.46
1923 Kansas City p 12 4 .750 24 16 11 1 2 138.7 138 30 60 3.18 4.28

Sources:

Pre-league play in the United States

The following statistics, compiled from box scores by John Holway, provide an incomplete record of games played against other major black teams. Because black teams of that era played most of their games against white semi-pro or professional teams, the available statistics represent a very small sample.

Year Team W L Pct RA
1909 Cuban Stars 0 1 .000
1910 Cuban Stars 2 0 1.000
1911 Cuban Stars 4 0 1.000 3.65
1912 Cuban Stars 3 1 .750
1919 Detroit Stars 2 0 1.000 2.61
Total 5 seasons 11 2 .846

Source: Holway, pp. 63, 74, 76, 84, 88, 128–129.

The next table is from a compilation by Scott Simkus of the 1909 Cuban Stars games against all competition. The compilation is missing games during the first month of their tour and for some games is compiled from line scores rather than box scores.

Year Team W L Pct G GS CG SHO SV IP H BB SO RA
1909 Cuban Stars 10 1 .909 17 11 9 3 2 106.0 54 31 108 1.19
1909 Cuban Stars 4 1 .800     Record from games with line scores but without box scores.
Total 14 2 .875

Source: 1909 Cuban Stars statistics compiled by Scott Simkus. "1909 Cuban Stars". 2007-07-08. http://agatetype.typepad.com/agate_type/2007/07/1909-cuban-star.html. Retrieved 2008-06-17. 

Cuban League

Year Team League W L Pct G CG SHO
1908w Almendares p Cuban 9 0 1.000* 15 6
1908/09 Almendares Cuban 15* 6 .714* 28* 18* 5*
1910w Almendares p Cuban 7* 0 1.000* 7 7 1*
1910/11 Almendares p Cuban 11* 2 .846* 18* 12* 4*
1912w Almendares Cuban 9 5 .643 18 12* 2*
1913w Almendares Cuban 1 4 .200 7 2
1913/14 Almendares p Cuban 10 0 1.000* 12 7 3*
1914/15 Almendares Cuban 2 0 1.000 2
1915/16 Almendares p Cuban 1 1 .500 6 1
1920/21 Almendares Cuban 1 2 .333 5 1
1923/24 Santa Clara p Cuban 3 1 .750 9 1
1924w Santa Clara p Special (Gran Premio) 1 2 .333
1924/25 Santa Clara/Matanzas Cuban 2 3 .400 19 2
1925/26 Habana Cuban 1 1 .500 6 1
1926/27 Alacranes p Triangular 3 1 .750 10 1
Total 14 seasons 76 28 .731 162^ 71^
   w – winter; * – led league; – all-time league leader; p = pennant; ^ = totals incomplete.

Source: Figueredo, pp. 72, 78–79, 86, 91–92, 98, 104, 108–109, 114, 118–119, 139, 148, 150, 154–155, 160, 165, 172, 503.

For a few seasons, more complete statistics are available. For 1908w and 1908–09, Gary Ashwill compiled statistics from box scores, though the record is incomplete because box scores were not available for all games. For 1914–15 and 1925–26, Jorge Figueredo presents a more complete set of statistics than for the other seasons.

Year Team W L Pct G GS CG SHO SV IP H BB SO ERA RA
1908w Almendares 8 0 1.000* 13 7 5 2 0 75.0 38 32 45 0.24* 1.68*
1908–09 Almendares 14* 7 .667 27* 18* 16 3* 3* 192.0* 122* 45 116* 0.56 2.20
1914–15 Almendares 2 0 1.000 2 13.0 14 1 3 1.38
1925–26 Habana 1 1 .500 6 1 31.7 34 8 5 3.03
    w – winter; * – led league.

Sources:

Series against major league teams visiting Cuba

Year Opponent W L Pct G GS CG SHO SV IP H BB SO ERA RA
1908 Cincinnati Reds 2 0 1.000 3 2 2 2 0 25.0 8 3 24 0.00 0.00
1909 Detroit Tigers 1 2 .333 3 3 3 0 0 27.0 21 9 18 2.00 4.67
1909 All Stars* 1 0 1.000 1 1 1 0 0 9.0 2 2 10 1.00 1.00
1910 Detroit Tigers 0 2 .000 3 3 3 0 0 28.0 21 4 9 3.54
1910 Philadelphia Athletics 2 0 1.000 2 2 2 0 0 18.0 14 8 7 3.50
1911 Philadelphia Phillies 2 1 .667 3 2 2 1 0 26.0 22 6 18 0.69 3.12
1911 New York Giants 0 3 .000 4 3 2 0 1 32.0 22 9 21 3.66 3.66
1912 Philadelphia Athletics 1 2 .333 4 3 2 0 0 30.0 30 9 11 4.50
1913 Brooklyn Superbas 0 1 .000 1 1 1 0 0 9.0 10 1 5 3.00 4.00
Total 9 11 .450 24 20 18 3 1 204.0 150 51 123 3.26

Source: Ashwill, Gary (2006-05-02). "José Méndez vs. Major League Teams, 1908–1913". http://agatetype.typepad.com/agate_type/2006/05/jos_mndez_vs_ma.html. Retrieved 2008-06-17. 

Series against Negro league teams visiting Cuba

Year Opponent W L Pct G GS CG SHO SV IP H BB SO ERA RA
1908 Brooklyn Royal Giants 1 1 .500 2 2 2 0 18.0 11 5 17 3.00
1910 Leland Giants 3 1 .750 4 2 2 1 31.0 23 4 12 2.03
1912 Lincoln Giants 0 1 .000 2 2 1 0 0 12.0 13 4 1 6.00
1914 Lincoln Stars 1 1 .500 2 2 2 0 0 18.0 9 6 15 2.00
1915 Indianapolis ABCs 0 1 .000 1 0 0 0 0 4.0 4 2 3 4.50 6.75
Total 5 5 .500 11 8 7 1 83.0 60 21 48 3.04

Sources:

Notes

  1. ^ Figueredo, pp. 71–73. González Echevarría, pp. 129–131. Holway, p. 57. Peterson, pp. 211–213. Riley, p. 545.
  2. ^ Ashwill. Figueredo, pp. 76–77. González Echevarría, pp. 131–133. Holway, p. 59.
  3. ^ Figueredo, pp. 77–79, 85–87, 91–92, 97–99, 102–104, 107–109. Riley, p. 545. "1909 Cuban Stars". 2007-07-08. http://agatetype.typepad.com/agate_type/2007/07/1909-cuban-star.html. Retrieved 2007-07-09. 
  4. ^ Ashwill.
  5. ^ González Echevarría, p. 133–134.

References

  • Ashwill, Gary (2006-05-02). "José Méndez vs. versus major league teams, 1908–13". http://agatetype.typepad.com/agate_type/2006/05/jos_mndez_vs_ma.html. Retrieved 2007-07-07. 
  • Figueredo, Jorge S. (2003). Cuban Baseball: A Statistical History, 1878–1961. McFarland & Company. ISBN 078641250X. 
  • González Echevarría, Roberto (1999). The Pride of Havana: A History of Cuban Baseball. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195146050. 
  • 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 0803820070. 
  • Peterson, Robert (1984). Only the Ball Was White. McGraw-Hill Book Company. ISBN 0070495998. 
  • Riley, James A. (1994). The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues. Carroll & Graf. ISBN 0786709596. 

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