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Gene Benson

Gene Benson

Gene Benson

  • Born October 2, 1913 in Pittsburgh, PA USA
  • Died April 5, 1999 in Philadelphia, PA USA

Eugene Benson (October 2, 1913 – April 6, 1999) was an American center fielder in baseball's Negro Leagues. He played for the Philadelphia Stars in 1937, moved to the Homestead Grays in 1938, and returned to the Stars from 1939 to 1948. He stood 5-foot-8 and weighed 185 pounds at the peak of his career.

Playing career
At age 19, Benson joined Louis Santop's Philadelphia semi-pro team, Santop's Bronchos, for which he played first-base switching to centerfield after the 1932 season. Benson, was an all-around performer in the Negro National League, was a 5'8" 185-lb outfielder who displayed great range in center while popularizing the basket catch.

He tried out for and signed with the Brooklyn Royal Giants. Veteran Highpockets Hudspeth played first for the Royal Giants and Benson played in left field. In 1934, Benson signed with the Boston Royal Giants.

He was a starter on the 1940 and 1946 Eastern all-star squads. While he spent most of his career with the Philadelphia Stars, he was one of the players added to the Washington Elite Giants roster for the 1936 Black Title series with the Pittsburgh Crawfords, which was aborted when each club attempted to replace three defecting regulars. He also played winter ball in Venezuela (1945) and Cuba (1947-48). Available data places his lifetime batting average at more than .300, with a peak mark of .370, fifth-best in the NNL in 1945, when he shared the league lead with 57 hits.

He was often cited as a mentor of young Jackie Robinson.

Contemporary honors
The Wilmington Blue Rocks have hosted a "Judy Johnson Night – A Tribute to Negro League Baseball" since 1996 in which the team, the City of Wilmington, and the Judy Johnson Memorial Foundation honor a Negro Leagues player. The Blue Rocks honored Benson in 1998.

The Marian Anderson Recreation Center at 17th and Fitzwater Streets in Philadelphia, near Marian Anderson's birthplace, has a baseball field called "Anderson Yards". Benson was invited to throw out the first pitch on opening day of the 1998 little league season at the field. The league "retired" and placed on the outfield wall, Jackie Robinson's number 42 and Benson's number 16.

In 2003, baseball historian Bill James identified Benson as the top Negro League player of the 1944 season.

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Gene Benson, Philadelphia Stars

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