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Negro Leaguer of the Month
Elvis "Bill" Holland, aka "Speed" Holland
When Holland got a bit older, he mixed in a great drop ball and was known to scuff a ball or two in his day!
Holland was born in Indianapolis and played semi-pro ball with the local Jewel ABCs as a teenager before being signed by the Negro National League’s Detroit Stars in 1920, joining a pitching staff with Bill Gatewood, Submarine McDonald and Andy Cooper. Holland won 11 league games, second on the team to Gatewood’s 16. At bat, Holland couldn’t break .100. In 1921 and '22 Holland led the Stars with 18 complete games each season, and in '22 he led the team in wins (16) and innings pitcher (204). His 39 lifetime league wins with the short-lived Stars ranks him second all-time in team history behind Andy Cooper's 91. Holland's lifetime ERA with Detroit was approximately 2.77.
After a few years with Detroit and the Chicago American Giants, Holland joined the powerful New York Lincolns in 1929. 1930 might have been Holland’s best professional season as he went 13-3 in league games, with 29 wins overall. The Lincolns of 1930 were one of the strongest teams in Negro League history, with an offense led by Chino Smith, Turkey Stearnes, Pop Lloyd, John Beckwith and Clint Thomas. The Lincolns played some of their home games at Yankee Stadium, and on July 10th of ’33 Holland became the first black pitcher in Yankee Stadium history.
In 1931 Holland switched to New York’s other Negro League team, the New York Black Yankees, and he stayed with them for a decade. The 1933 Black Yankees were especially tough with a pitching staff of Holland, Ted Trent and Double Duty Radcliffe. Offensively, Radcliffe led the Yanks with a .333 average, and other stars included John Beckwith, Showboat Thomas and player-manager George Scales.
Holland played a total of 21 seasons in the Negro Leagues, and was fortunate to appear on pitching staffs with legends Double Duty Radcliffe, Smokey Joe Williams, Sam Streeter, Dick Redding and Dave Brown, and he threw to some of the greatest catchers in Negro League history including Radcliffe, Larry Brown, Bruce Petway, Biz Mackey and Jim Brown.
Holland was a better than .500 pitcher in league games during his career, and he won more than 70% of his non-league decisions.
No less an expert than Cool Papa Bell said that Holland was one of the best pitchers he faced in the Negro Leagues, among a small group that included Satchel Paige, Bullet Joe Rogan and Smokey Joe Williams.