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Schoolboy with the 1951 Indianapolis Clowns

"Our ace was a tall, tireless black sidearmer named Jim Tugerson, and Jim had to be one of the nicest guys I've ever met, along with being one helluva pitcher. He threw sidearm and was the only righthanded sidarmer I ever saw who backed lefthanders out of the batter's box."
--Ken Buckles, pitcher on the 1953 Knoxville Smokies, quoted from "Schoolboy: Jim Tugerson, Ace of the '53 Smokies" by R.S. Allen

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Negro Leaguer of the Month archives
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3, Kyle McNary, McNary Publishing




Negro Leaguer of the Month

January, 2013

Jim "Schoolboy" Tugerson
Position: pitcher
Batted: Right; Threw: Right
Height: 6 ’-4”, Wt. 200
Born: March 7, 1923 in Florence Villa, Florida
Died: April 7, 1983
Career: 1943-19
Teams: Bartow All-Stars, Orlando All-Stars, Indianapolis Clowns, Knoxville Smokies, Negro League Western All-Stars, Artesia Numexers, Dallas Eagles, Amarillo Gold Sox, Dallas Rangers

Jim Tugerson got started a bit too late in Organized Baseball, but he still made history in several respects.

Tugerson was born in Florence Villa, Florida in 1923 and, despite his nickname, dropped out of school at a young age. He served in the army in World War II and when the war ended he played semipro ball in Florida.

Schoolboy was huge for his era, stainding six-four, and he threw gas with a side-armed motion, much like Don Drysdale a decade later. Right-handed batters had an especially hard time hitting Tugerson, and in his prime Tugerson often struck out 10 or more batters per game.

In 1950, Turgerson joined the Orlando All-Stars of the Florida State Negro Baseball League and led them to the league pennant, beating out the Tampa A's, Saint Pete Pelicans, Bradenton Nine Devils and West Palm Beach Lincoln Giants.

In 1951, Tugerson and his brother, Leander, also a pitcher, both signed with the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro American League. The Tugersons led the Clowns to first and second half pennants with Jim going 10-5 and his brother going 15-4, including a no-hitter against the Birmingham Black Barons. Schoolboy was selected to pitch in the East-West game in '51, receiving the fifth most votes of all Negro American League pitchers, and he threw three shutout innings in the game with one strike out.

In 1952, Jim went 8-2 with the Clowns with help from his rookie teammate Hank Aaron, and he ended the season playing in the Dominican Republic.

In 1953, both Tugerson brothers finally entered Organized Baseball, but not without controversy. The pitchers were signed by the Hot Spring Bathers of the Class C Cotton States League, made up of teams from Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana.

Almost immediately, Mississippi's Attorney General announced that integrated teams did not have a right to appear in Mississippi ball parks, and after a meeting the Bathers team was kicked out of the league. After blowback from the public and the baseball commissioner's office, the Bathers were reinstated, but the Tugerson's were not allowed to play and Schoolboy, at the urging of a lawyer, sued the league for $50,000, citing a Civil Rights violation.

Schoolboy reconsidered his lawsuit and both brothers were optioned to the Knoxville Smokies of the Class D Mountain States League. At age 30, Schoolboy was the second oldest player on the team, and he dominated the league, going 29-11 on the mound, the most wins in all Major and Minor League baseball, he then added four more wins in the playoffs to help the Smokies win the league championship. At bat, Schoolboy batted .308 with five homers.

Brother Leander suffered an arm injury during the year, went 3-5, and returned to his home in Florida before the season ended.

After the '53 season, Tugerson toured with Roy Campanella's All-Stars, which also featured Don Newcombe, Bob Boyd, Joe Black, Jim Gilliam, Pat Scantlebury, George Crowe, Bill Bruton, Suitcase Simpson, Jim Pendleton and Dave Hoskins; only Schoolboy never played in the Majors.

It was obvious after the season that Schoolboy needed to be playing at a higher classification, and he spent 1954 with the Class C Artesia Numexers and Class AA Dallas Eagles, going 18-15 combined.

From 1955-1958, Schoolboy was a better than .500 pitcher for the Dallas Eagles and Amarillo Gold Eagles, and in 1959, at age 36, he went 5-12 and retired from baseball. Tugerson's second career was as a Winter Haven, Florida police officer, the second black man ever on the force. At the beginning of his career Tugerson was only allowed to arrest black suspects, but by the time he died of a heart attack in 1983 at age 60 he had risen to the position of lieutenant, and was considered one of the best cops on the force.


Schoolboy (left) and his brother in their Hot Springs Bathers
uniforms. Neither would be allowed to play for the team.