“Newberry took the mound in the bottom of the inning and complete a seventeen-inning shutout. He may have been crazy, but when Newberry put his mind to it, he could pitch.”
“Willie’s Boys: The 1948 Birmingham Black Barons, The Last Negro League World Series” by John Klima
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©Copyright 2012, Kyle McNary, McNary Publishing
Negro Leaguer of the Month
Bats: Both, Throws: Right
Height: 5’- 7 “, Weight: 170 lbs
Born: June 26, 1919 in Camden, AL
Teams: L&N Stars (Birmingham, AL), Birmingham Black Barons, Hankyu Braves (Japan), Winnipeg Buffaloes, Carman Cardinals, Lloydminster Combines, Abilene Blue Sox, Port Arthur Sea Hawks, Amarillo Gold Sox, Big Spring Cosden Cops, El Paso Texans
Jim Newberry was five-foot, seven-inches and 170 pounds, almost the exact same size as Leon Day, but while Day could throw fire, Newberry was a knuckleball pitcher who was successful for 20 years, and while Day could hit in the heart of any line-up, Newberry was usually lucky to bat .200. There was no doubt that Newberry could pitch; his biggest problem was usually his love of alcohol.
Newberry was born in Camden, Alabama, birthplace of Hank Aaron, and played semipro ball with the L&N Stars before joining the Birmingham Black Barons during World War II. The Black Barons’ pitching staff in the mid-40s featured Newberry, Double Duty Radcliffe, Dan Bankhead, Al Saylor, Al Gipson and Gread McKinnis, among others, and had a powerful offense with Lester Lockett, Piper Davis, Ed Steel and Artie Wilson.
Wilson was slightly better than a .500 pitcher during his first few years with Birmingham, but he reached stardom in 1948 when he went 14-5 with a 2.38 ERA and a league-leading strikeout total, and helped the Black Barons to the Negro American League pennant. His most memorable game came in Centralia, Illinois versus the Indianapolis Clowns. Newberry threw 17 scoreless innings against the Clowns for a complete game win!
The Barons, featuring rookie center fielder Willie Mays, lost to the Grays
in the Negro League World Series with Newberry losing his only decision.
After another season with the Black Barons, Newberry started 4-1 with Birmingham in ’50 before jumping to the Winnipeg Buffaloes of Canada’s Manitoba-Dakota League.
The ’50 Buffaloes were led by player-manager Willie Wells, and featured one of the best lineups in all of baseball with Lyman Bostock, Frazier Robinson and the league’s best slugger in Butch Davis. The pitching staff was also impressive with Negro League stars Andy “Pullman” Porter, Spoon Carter and Taylor Smith. Newberry went 10-7 on the mound with 13 complete games, and batted an anemic .133. His first start of the year was impressive as he threw a complete game eight-hitter over the Brandon Greys with 11 strikeouts; he won his first three starts of the season.
As the season winded down, the Buffaloes needed to beat the Minor Mallards to solidify their spot in the playoffs. Newberry took care of things by himself as he pitched complete game wins in both ends of a double-header, 14-2 on four hits in the opener, and a 5-0 shutout in the nightcap.
In the first round of the playoffs (best of five), Newberry again tormented the Mallards, winning two games in a three game sweep.
In the finals against Brandon, Newberry pitched in the first three game picking up two wins and a save, and in game five Leon Day threw a complete game, 1-0, 17-inning shutout to win the championship.
In ’51, Newberry went 6-3 with several saves, and before the season ended he was signed by the Hankyu Braves in Japan where he spent the ’52 season, posting a 11-10 mound record with a 3.22 ERA.
In ’53, Newberry returned to the Man-Dak league, going 5-9 on the mound, but leading the league with 30 appearances.
Newberry took a shot at Organized Baseball in ’54 at age 33, playing Minor League ball with the Abilene Blue Sox, going 2-6. In ’55 Newberry played with three different Minor League clubs, the Port Arthur Sea Hawks, Amarillo Gold Sox and Big Spring Cosden Caps, with a combined 7-11 record.
In ’56, Newberry’s last in the Minors, the 37-year-old lost his only decision for the El Paso Texans of the Southwestern League.
For the next few seasons Newberry played semipro ball in the States, but he returned one last time to Canada in 1959, pitching briefly for the Lloydminister Combines of the independent Canadian-American League; Newberry was paid $325 a month.
Newberry retired from baseball as he neared age 40.
Some information for this article from www.attheplate.com