“No player, black or white, could handle bunts like Newt!”
--Quincy Gilmore, KC Monarchs business manager, quoted in “Baseball’s First Colored World Series” by Larry Lester
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©Copyright 2012, Kyle McNary, McNary Publishing
Negro Leaguer of the Month
Bats: Right, Throws: Right
Height: 5' 9", Weight: 175 lb.
Born: July 12, 1918 in Columbia, TN
Died: September 2, 1997 in Nashville, TN
Teams: Nashville N & T Tigers, Kansas City Monarchs, Boston Blues, Indianapolis Clowns, San Francisco Sea Lions, New York Cubans
Robert Abernathy was a fine slugging outfielder in the late 40s before his career came to an abrupt end when he was only 30 years of age.
Abernathy was born in Columbia, Tennessee and played semipro ball in Nashville in the late 1930s. While playing semipro ball in the early 1940s in California he was discovered by the Kansas City Monarchs and played with them in 1945, joining Jackie Robinson, Satchel Paige and Double Duty Radcliffe, among others.
After a salary dispute, Abernathy jumped to the Boston Blues of the United States League run by Branch Rickey, and he jumped again to the Indianapolis Clowns where he played left field and batted fourth. Despite his modest size, Abernathy had good power and was extremely fast, leading to many inside and outside-the-park homers.
The ’47 Clowns had one of the fastest outfields in Negro League history with Abernathy in left, Henry “Speed” Merchant in right, and Verdes Drake in center.
Abernathy was named the starting left fielder for the West in the 1947 East-West Game, though he went hitless in four at bats.
In 1948, Abernathy was playing with the New York Cubans when he broke his leg while sliding into home which ended his career.
After baseball, Abernathy retired to Nashville where he worked as a dry cleaner.