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John Beckwith

John Beckwith

John Beckwith

  • Bats Right, Throws Right
  • Height 6' 3", Weight 220 lb.
  • Born June 20, 1902 in Louisville, KY USA
  • Died January 4, 1956 in New York, NY USA

Beckwith was a 230-lb righthanded slugger who smashed some of the longest and most memorable home runs in Negro League baseball during the 1920s and early 1930s. A pull hitter who swung a huge 38" bat, he hit against a severe fielder shift that did little to curtail his effectiveness. In 1921, as a 19-year-old rookie with the Chicago Giants, he became the first player, white or black, to hit a ball over the laundry roof behind Cincinnati's Crosley Field. His longest blast, according to Hosely Lee, who pitched against Beckwith in the Eastern Colored League, came at Washington's Griffith Stadium, which had the longest leftfield fence in the majors at the time. Beckwith's home run hit an advertising sign, approximately 460' from home plate and 40' above the ground, behind the leftfield bleachers. Negro League great Ted Radcliffe said of Beckwith, "Nobody hit the ball any farther than him - Josh Gibson or nobody else."

Beckwith played several positions, yet, despite his great size, appeared most frequently at shortstop. The core of his career spanned 1921-31, for which time only partial statistics are available. Only twice during those years did he hit less than .322, but though he topped the .360 mark six times, he never won a batting title. He finished second three times - twice to Hall of Famer Oscar Charleston, and once to Chino Smith. In 1925, he hit .419 to Charleston's .430. He won two HR crowns, with nine in 1930 and seven in 1931, but lost two others to Charleston by one HR. He batted .398 as a rookie in 1921, and in 1924 batted .417 for the Baltimore Black Sox of the Eastern Colored League, hitting 40 HR against league and non-league competition. In 1927, he hit 12 HR in league competition, but reportedly hit an astounding 72 for the whole year. In 1930, with the N.Y. Lincoln Giants, he is said to have batted .546, including a documented .494 (40-for-81) in 20 league games.

Beckwith was temperamental, and had the reputation of being somewhat lazy and mean. He once punched out teammate Bill Holland, a pitcher, who had thrown his glove when Beckwith's fielding error cost him a game. Because of his fiery disposition, he was traded often. In his last appearance documented by a newspaper boxscore (1934), he went 1-for-3 against Hall of Famer Dizzy Dean. He played a handful of games from 1932 to 1934, and supposedly finished his career in 1938 with the Brooklyn Royal Giants, though no records of his last four years exist.

Negro Leagues Career Statistics

Year Team League G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB BA SLG
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
1920 Chicago Giants NNL 19 70 2 19 4 0 1 1 1 6 .271 .371
1921 Chicago Giants independent 24 91 11 32 4 3 1 4 0 6 .352 .587
1922 Chicago American Giants NNL 46 145 32 52 14 3 6 16 8 19 .359 .621
1923 Chicago American Giants NNL 72 270 36 82 21 9 8 77 5 19 .304 .537
1924 Baltimore Black Sox ECL 33 124 33 46 6 1 7 31 9 13 .371 .605
1925 Baltimore Black Sox ECL 46 172 46 70 11 1 16 42 2 20 .407 .762
1926 Baltimore Black Sox ECL 25 81 19 30 5 1 4 11 1 13 .370 .605
1926 Harrisburg Giants ECL 25 96 21 30 5 3 3 15 2 9 .313 .521
1927 Harrisburg Giants ECL 46 181 41 62 10 2 5 25 2 15 .343 .503
1928 Homestead Grays independent 18 71 8 21 2 1 1 5 0 2 .296 .394
1929 Homestead/Lincoln Giants ANL 29 117 31 46 9 2 8 20 1 7 .393 .709
1930 New York Lincoln Giants independent 22 70 22 33 5 2 5 20 3 8 .471 .814
1931 Baltimore Black Sox independent 30 110 26 40 6 1 11 30 0 8 .364 .736
1932 Newark Browns EWL 1 4 1 1 0 0 1 2 0 0 .250 1.000
1933 New York Black Yankees NNL 5 20 1 7 0 0 0 2 0 0 .350 .350
1934 Black Yankees/Newark Dodgers NNL 8 17 1 3 1 0 0 1 0 2 .176 .235
1935 Homestead Grays NNL 3 8 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .125 .125
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Total 16 seasons   452 1647 331 575 103 29 77 302 34 148 .349 .587
  per 162 g 2.79 162 590 119 206 37 10 28 108 12 53 .349 .587

Source: Committee on African-American Baseball

Sources:

BR Bullpen and Baseball Library

By Baseball Library

 

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John Beckwith, Negro Leagues

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