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Negro Leaguer of the Month

Negro Leaguer of the Month
March, 2014

Allen “Lefty” Bryant
Position: Pitcher
Ht: 5’-10”, Wt. 160
Batted and threw left
Born: March 29, 1918 in Chicago, IL
Died: March 22, 1992 in Kansas City, MO
Career: 1937-1952
Teams: All-Nations, Memphis Red Sox, Kansas City Monarchs, Minot Merchants, Edmonton Eskimos, Estevan Maple Leafs, Winnipeg Giants, Minot Mallards

On the Kansas City Monarchs’ pitching staffs of the 1930s and 40s, it was easy for a pitcher to be overlooked. Lefty Bryant drew little attention on staffs with Paige, Hilton Smith, Connie Johnson, Jack Matchett and Booker McDaniels, but he was a fine pitcher in his own right.

A left-handed finesse pitcher who liked to work quickly--along the lines of Whitey Ford--the five-foot, ten-inch Bryant grew up in Kansas City, and first played professionally with the All-Nations when he was a teenager. After a few years with the All-Nations and a single season with the Memphis Red Sox, where he played for player-manager Double Duty Radcliffe, Bryant joined the Kansas City Monarchs in 1939 and stayed with them until 1947 with time out for service during World War II.

The ’39 Monarchs were full of stars, such as Buck O’Neil, Turkey Stearnes, Ted Strong and Hilton Smith, and the 21-year-old Bryant was used mostly in non-league affairs. In ’40, Bryant pitched more often, but Paige had returned to the team after recovering from a serious arm injury and stole the spotlight as the Monarchs won the pennant. The Monarchs repeated as pennant winners in ’41 and ’42, with Bryant pitching well in the former year (1-0 in league games, 15 wins overall) before joining the army and eventually reaching the rank of sergeant.

After the war, Bryant returned to the Monarchs, and in ’46 they lost to the Newark Eagles in the Negro League World Series. During the regular season Bryant won two league games without a loss, but didn’t appear in the World Series as Paige, Hilton Smith, Ford Smith, Ted Alexander and Lefty Lamarque ate up all of the innings.

In 1948, Bryant ventured to North Dakota and played with the Minot Merchants independent team where he was the only black player. In ’49, Bryant was joined by Negro League veterans Ted Strong and his brother Othello Strong, and he had some great outings during the season; he beat the Regina Caps, 2-1, in one hour and 25 minutes, allowing four hits; in August, Lefty helped Minot win the Saskatchewan Baseball Tournament and its $1000 prize money (about $9500 in today’s dollars) as well a similar tourney at Indian Head, and in an exhibition game against the black Ligon All-Stars, Bryant won on a seven-hitter while Ted Strong blasted two singles, a double and triple. In late August, Bryant beat the Brandon Greys and their black star pitcher Dirk Gibbons, and in September, Bryant beat the Greys again, 4-3, and helped his cause with a booming triple.

In 1950, Bryant pitched for the integrated Estevan Maple Leafs of the Southern League (Canada), joining black stars Coney Williams from the Brooklyn Cubans Giants and Santa Fe Morris of the Kansas City Monarchs. Bryant led the league in winning percentage, going 4-0 with four complete games; he beat the Weyburn Beavers, 5-4 in ten innings, the Moose Jaw Cannucks, 7-1 (he also drove in two runs), the Wilcox Cardinals, 7-3, and Weyburn again, 5-0. Bryant’s fine pitching led the Maple Leafs to the Southern League pennant.

Bryant was a fine hitter for a pitcher, and in an exhibition against Muskogee, he drove in the eventual winning run as a pinch hitter, and in another game he knocked in three runs with a single and double.

In ’51, Bryant went 5-5 and batted .175 with the Maple Leafs and in ’52 he was back with Minot, who were now named the Mallards and in the Manitoba-Dakota League. With the integrated Mallards, Bryant joined a pitching staff with Negro League standouts Jonas Gaines, Al Spearman and Sugar Cain. With Minot, Bryant batted a shade under .200, and was 3-2 in league games. Teammate Hal Price led the league with 10 wins, Cain won seven, Gaines four and Spearman one.

In the middle of the season, Bryant was traded to the Winnipeg Giants where he was reunited with manager Double Duty Radcliffe. In his first game with Winnipeg, Bryant threw a four-hitter over the Brandon Greys in an hour and 38 minutes. He then lost, 4-3, to the Carmen Cardinals, and followed that with a four-hitter over Brandon again, helping the Giants win a $3000 invitational tournament.

In August, Bryant pitched against his former team, Minot, and allowed just four hits, but the game was called due to curfew, tied 3-3. Bryant and Hal Price combined to beat the Mallards, 9-8, five days later, with former Negro League slugger Lester Lockett leading the offense with three singles, a double and four RBIs. The next day Bryant threw a complete game 8-6 win to complete a sweep of Minot.

In the playoffs, Winnipeg lost to the Carman Cardinals four games to three, and Carman would lose to Minot in the finals. The end of the ’52 season would end Bryant’s pro career.

After retiring from baseball, Bryant worked as a park ranger in Missouri’s Jackson County Parks Department before retiring in 1979.

*Some information from aththeplate.com

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