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"People seemed to think I was pretty good...The movement on the ball kept the hitters from hitting it..."
Negro Leaguer of the Month
Negro Leaguer of the Month
A good left-handed pitcher is worth his weight in gold, and Lefty Lamarque was one of the best of the 1940s. Lamarque combined a fine fastball with late movement with a crackling curve to become the Negro Leagues version of Warren Spahn for more than a decade.
After pitching for an all-white team in his hometown in Potosi, Missouri for two seasons, in 1942 Lamarque joined what many believe is the greatest pitching staff ever assembled, with the Kansas City Monarchs suiting up Satchel Paige, Hilton Smith, Connie Johnson, Jack Matchett and Booker McDaniels; Lamarque was the only lefty among the group. Legendary catcher Frank Duncan was also the team's manager and he led them to a Negro League World Series sweep of the Homestead Grays. The young Matchett mostly watched during the series as Matchett won two games and Satchel and Hilton each won once.
After missing much of '43 and '44 due to military service and an arm injury, Lamarque went 5-5 in league games in '45 when the Monarch's top hitter was Jackie Robinson who batted over .400 in league games during his only season in the Negro Leagues.
Lamarque became a star in 1946, going 8-2 with an ERA under 2.00 in league games, and he added a victory in the World Series, but the Monarchs lost to the Newark Eagles in seven games; Lamarque, a lifetime .250 hitter, also collected three hits in six at bats.
After the '46 season, Lamarque played for the Satchel Paige All-Stars against Bob Feller's Major League All-Stars, and he allowed one run in five innings during one game against a lineup that included Stan Musial, Phil Rizzuto, Charlie Keller and Ken Keltner.
Over the winter of '46-'47, Lamarque went 7-6 while pitching for Havana in the Cuban Winter League, and in '47 he went 12-2 for the Monarchs in league games, and his 99 strikeouts were good enough for second in the league.
Over the winter of '47-'48, Lamarque went 11-7 in Cuba, then went 15-5 with a 1.96 ERA with the '48 Monarchs.
There were two East-West games in '48, and Lamarque pitched in both. In the first all-star game, Lamarque threw three shutout innings for the winning West squad, allowing only two hits, a double to Buck Leonard and a single to Minnie Minoso. In the second game, Lamarque allowed two unearned runs in an East victory.
In the winter, Lamarque played for the Santurce Crabbers in the Puerto Rican Winter League, the team that over the years featured Josh Gibson, Willie Mays and Roberto Clemente.
in '49, Lamarque pitched the final inning for the West in the East-West game, allowing no runs on one hit.
In 1950, Lamarque jumped to the Mexico City Red Devils of the Mexican League where he went 19-6 in a hitter's league. Retiring to the United States in the fall, Lamarque joined Negro League pitcher Pat Scantlebury on the semi-pro Fort Wayne Capeharts and helped them win the National Baseball Congress World Series in Wichita, Kansas. The Capeharts then traveled to Japan and beat a Japanese All-Star team; the Capehards were the the second American team since World War II to play in Japan.
Lamarque pitched briefly for the Monarchs in '51, then finished his career with the Capeharts, finally retiring in 1956.
Combining his Negro League, semi-pro and foreign pitching careers, Lamarque won close to 300 games, and during his prime from '45-'49 he went 55-19 in league games.
Lamarque worked for the Ford Motor Company for more than 30 years after retiring from baseball.