Leaguer of the Month
Frank "Pee Wee" Austin
Born: May 22, 1917 in the Panama Canal Zone
Died: Jan. 15, 1960 in Panama City
Ht: 5'-7", Wt: 160
Batted right and threw left
Playing Years: 1944-56
Teams: Philadelphia Stars, Portland Beavers, Newark Bears, Vancouver Mounties
A slick-fielding shortstop with a great bat and fine foot-speed, Frank "Pee Wee" Austin was one of a handful of players considered to integrate the Major Leagues.
In hindsight, it's obvious that Jackie Robinson was the correct choice by Branch Rickey to integrate the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, but there were few players in the years following World War II who were more talented than Austin.
One of the greatest players to ever come out of Panama, the diminutive Austin was scouted and signed by the Philadelphia Stars of the Negro National League in 1944, and he was an immediate star, batting .390 to lead the league, while ranking near the top of the league in stolen bases.
In 1945, Austin batted .354 and was named the starting shortstop for the East squad in the East-West All-Star game, while the West started Jackie Robinson. Neither had a hit during the game, but both fielded brilliantly.
Austin played in six East-West games during his career, going 2 for 10. In 1948's game, Austin went two for three, and scored on a homer by the Homestead Grays' Luis Marquez.
In 1949, at age 32, Austin and Marquez both entered Organized Baseball with the Portland Beavers, and Austin would spend most of the rest of the career with the Pacific Coast League team.
Austin led the Beavers in runs and hits in 1952, '53 and '54, and stolen bases in 1952 and '53.
In 1952, the Beavers were managed by Clay Hopper, Jackie Robinson's manager when he broke into Organized Baseball with the Montreal Royals in 1946.
In 1956, Austin's last year in professional baseball, he played with the Vancouver Mounties managed by legendary Lefty O'Doul.
59-year-old O'Doul, one of the greatest hitters in major league history, put himself into a game to pinch hit one time during the year and he tripled!
Austin was 39 years old when he played with the Mounties, and he had slowed enough that he was switched from shortstop to third base. Three seasons later, the Mounties' third baseman was another pretty fair third baseman: Brooks Robinson.
Some information compiled from www.baseball-reference.com
Frank Austin sitting front row, far left, sitting
next to another Negro League star, Luis Marquez