Sam Bankhead

Sam Bankhead

Sam Bankhead

Samuel Howard Bankhead

  • Nickname: Sam
  • Career: 1930-1950
  • Position: ss, cf, 2b, lf, rf, 3b, p
  • Teams: Birmingham Black Barons (1929, 1931-1932, 1938), Nashville Elite Giants (1930, 1932-1934), Louisville Black Caps (1932), Kansas City Monarchs (1934), Pittsburgh Crawfords (1935-1936, 1938), Santo Domingo (1937), Memphis Red Sox (1938), Toledo Crawfords (1939), Homestead Grays (1939, 1942-1950), Mexican League  (1940-1941), Canadian League (1951)
  • Bats: Right Throws: Right
  • Height: 5' 8''  Weight: 175
  • Born: September 18, 1905, Empire, Alabama
  • Died: July 24, 1976, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Sam was the oldest of the five ballplaying Bankhead brothers. He worked in the coal mines of Alabama as a young man. Brother #3, Dan Bankhead, was the first African-American pitcher in the major leagues. His other brothers Fred, Joe, and Garnett also played in the Negro Leagues.

Negro Leagues author John Holway contends that Sam inspired Troy Maxson, the lead character in August Wilson's award-winning play Fences. Sam died by gunshot after a quarrel in 1976.

The oldest of five brothers who played in the Negro Leagues, Sam Bankhead appeared in seven East-West all-star games between 1933 and 1946, during which time he played three different positions for three different teams and batted .346.

He was an integral part of the Pittsburgh Crawfords and Homestead Grays of the 1930s and 1940s.

He was known for his strong arm, consistent hitting, and versatility in the field. He interrupted his Negro National League career for several years to play in the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Cuban winter leagues. In 21 documented games against white major leaguers, he batted .342.

A hardnosed leader on the field, Sam became a manager late in his career. While still playing shortstop, he was skipper of the Vargas Sabios (Wise Men), champion of the Venezuelan winter league in 1946-47. Sam then led the Grays during their last two years as an independent club (1949-50).

In 1951, Bankhead signed with the Farnham Pirates in the Provincial League as player-manager. He is recognized as the first African-American skipper of a predominantly white team. The team went 52-71, finishing 7th in the eight-team league.


By The Baseball Page


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