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"Lee is a submariner with an ocean-in-the-motion delivery. From this angle he delivers a three gears curveball, a sinking fastball, and a butterfly knuckler."
Negro Leaguer of the Month
Holsey Scranton Scriptus "Scrip" Lee
Batted and threw right
Ht: 6 ’-0”, Wt: 185
Born: January 29, 1899 in Washington, DC
Died: February 13, 1974 in Washington, DC
Positions: pitcher, umpire
Teams: Nolfolk Stars, Baltimore Black Sox, Hilldale Daisies, Richmond Giants, Atlantic City Bacharachs, Philadelphia Giants, Cleveland Red Sox, Philadelphia Stars
One of the top submarine-style pitchers the Negro Leagues ever produced, Scrip Lee was a star for almost 20 years for various teams.
Lee grew up in Washington, DC, and went to school with future band leader and piano player Duke Ellington. Lee was a great athlete during his formative years, excelling in baseball and football, and he reportedly once drop-kicked a football 100 yards!
Lee played semipro ball in D.C. with future Hall of Famer Jud Wilson, and in 1916 he joined the National Guard and fought with General Pershing during Pancho Villa's raid on Columbus, New Mexico. Lee also fought heroicly in World War I, serving in France with the Army's 372 Infantry, earning two Battle Stars and a Purple Heart.
In 1920, pitcher Nip Winters recommended that Lee join him on the staff of the Norfolk Stars, and Lee was an immediate sensation.
Lee had his greatest success from 1923-27 with the Hilldale Daisies, going 24-8 in '23, and helping the Daisies win the Eastern Colored League pennant in '24 and '25; Lee had a combined 2.30 ERA in World Series play as the Daisies lost to the Kansas City Monarchs in '24, but beat KC in '25. The winning share in '25 was about $65 per player ($875 in today's dollars), and the losing share about $57 ($767 in today's dollars).
Lee's once stated that his greatest thrill in baseball came when he relieved in game three of the '24 Series, as he allowed only one run in nine innings of relief as the game ended in a 6-6 tie after 13 innings due to darkness.
Lee was maybe second among submariners to superstar Webster "Submarine" McDonald, and his reportoire included a sinking fastball, a curve that broke up, a knuckler and a screwball. Lee averaged fewer than four strikeouts per nine innings during his career, but consistently got the best batters in black baseball to pound his pitches into the ground. Like most top pitchers of his era, Lee usually finished what he started, completing more than half of his starts.
Lee could help himself at the plate, too, as he was a fantastic bunter and line drive hitter. Dick Powell, former owner of the Baltimore Elite Giants, said of Lee: "Scrip Lee was just a good ballplayer. Scrip could pitch and play outfield. A good hitter, too!" Lee batted as high as .308 in a season, and in his prime usually batted from .260-.285.
In 1926, Lee played with a Hilldale team that featured four future Hall of Famers (Oscar Charleston, Judy Johnson, Biz Mackey and Louis Santop), and he batted .288 with a homer, while also going 9-5 on the mound in league games. The Daisies, however, were beaten out for the Eastern Colored League pennant by the Atlantic City Bacharachs.
In 1929, Lee went 27-4 with the Baltimore Black Sox, stayed with them until 1933, then finished his playing career with the Philadelphia Stars in 1934. According to Lee, the two hardest hitters he ever saw during his career were Babe Ruth and Negro League slugger John Beckwith. According to many who saw Lee pitch, he never had much trouble with Hall of Famer Josh Gibson.
Lee became a fine umpire in the late 1930s and 40s, then became a cab driver in Washington, DC, and worked for the Veteran's Administration for more than 30 years.