Hurley McNair

“Pressure situations failed to shake him….he was a little man with a big head and hit with the power of a big man.”
-- The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues by James Riley

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Negro Leaguer of the Month

February, 2011

Hurley McNair

Positions: outfield, pitcher
Bats: Both, Throws: Right
Height: 5' 7 ", Weight: 150 lb.
Born: October 28, 1888 in Marshall, TX
Died: December 2, 1948 in Kansas City, MO
Career: 1911-1937

Teams: Chicago Giants, Chicago Union Giants, Chicago American Giants, Detroit Stars, All-Nations, Gilkerson’s Union Giants, Arkansas City Beavers, Kansas City Monarchs, Cincinnati Tigers

Hurley McNair was a pint-size dynamo who spent more than a quarter of a century as one of the best outfielders in black baseball.

McNair grew up in Texas and was a star pitcher on the sandlots before signing with the Chicago Giants and switching to the outfield while occasionally still taking the mound. McNair had great speed, a strong arm, and was a great switch-hitter with surprising power for a man his size, often leading the league in doubles and triples. In 1914 McNair played for Rube Foster’s Chicago American Giants where he batted in the heart of the order.

During World War I, McNair played baseball for the army’s 25th Infantry team at Fort Huachuca, Arizona with Joe Rogan, Heavy Johnson and Dobie Moore, all future Kansas City Monarchs.

McNair is most identified with the Kansas City Monarchs, and he spent eight of his prime seasons with them, batting from .280-.375 during his stint.

In 1924 McNair was in the Monarchs outfield with Heavy Johnson and John Donaldson and helped lead them to the first Negro League World Series where they beat the Hilldale Daisies. In ’25 the Monarchs repeated as Negro National League champs, but this time lost to the Daisies in the World Series.

In the late 1920s McNair jumped the Negro National League and joined the traveling Gilkerson’s Union Giants team which also featured Double Duty Radcliffe, George Giles, Steel Arm Davis, Red Haley, Eddie Dwight and Cristobel Torriente. The ’29 Gilkerson team won 115 games against only 15 losses.

McNair finished his career with the 1937 Cincinnati Tigers under manager and old pal Double Duty Radcliffe, then retired as a player and became one of the best umpires in the Negro Leagues.