Spoon Carter

Spoon Carter with the 1950 Winnipeg Buffaloes of the Man-Dak League
Image from Winnipeg Free Press, June 14, 1987, published on

“A right thumb permanently bent back at a right angle was the result of catching some of the great pitchers of the Negro Leagues for more than fourteen years. He was the last [surviving member] of the Jacksonville Red Caps and the Dublin Athletics.”
--Laurens County African-American History Blog

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Negro Leaguer of the Month

December, 2011

Ernest “Spoon” Carter
Position: pitcher
Bats: Left, Throws: Right
Height: 5’- 10 “, Weight: 170 lb.
Born: December 8, 1902 in Harpersville, Alabama
Died: January 23, 1974 in Birmingham, AL
Career: 1931-1950
Teams: Philadelphia Hilldales, Atlanta Black Crackers, Louisville Black Caps, Memphis Red Sox, Birmingham Black Barons, Akron Tyrites, Bismarck Capital Citians, Valley City Hi-Liners, Pittsburgh Crawfords, Cleveland Giants, Cleveland Red Sox, Philadelphia Stars, Santo Domingo (D.R.), Toledo Crawfords, Indianapolis Crawfords, Newark Eagles, Homestead Grays, Mexico, Winnipeg Buffaloes

Spoon Carter was a man of a thousand pitches, and he threw his fastball, curve, slider, drop-ball and God only knows what else until he was almost 50 years old.

After growing up in Alabama and playing years of semipro ball, Carter first played top black baseball with the 1931 Philadelphia Hilldales with Hall of Famers Martin Dihigo and Biz Mackey, as well as standouts Webster “Submarine” McDonald, Phil Cockrell, Jesse Hubbard and Chaney White.

In 1932, Carter played on an excellent Atlanta Black Crackers team on a pitching staff that included Roy Welmaker and slugging catcher Joe Greene.

In 1934, Carter played with the integrated Bismarck, North Dakota team, joining Negro Leaguers Lefty Vincent, Quincy Trouppe and Red Haley, and white stars Beef Ringhoefer and Joe Desiderato. Bismarck and Jamestown battled for the title of the state’s best during the season, but Jamestown had a slight edge at the end of the season and were named state champs. Bismarck finished with a a 61-19 record, and Carter won three out of his four mound decisions.

Carter also pitched a few games for Valley City, North Dakota in '34, including a game in which Jamestown’s Double Duty Radcliffe homered off both him and Jonus Gaines.

After leaving North Dakota, Carter spent time with two of the greatest teams in Negro League history, the 1935 Pittsburgh Crawfords and Homestead Grays of the 1940s. With the ’35 Craws, featuring Hall of Famers Cool Papa Bell, Josh Gibson, Judy Johnson and Oscar Charleston, Carter went 2-4 in league games and batted a shade over .200.

In 1943, Carter was one of the oldest pitchers on the Grays’ staff which included Ray Brown, Johnny Wright, Roy Partlow and Bill Byrd, yet he went 8-1.

In 1944, at age 41, Carter went 7-1 in league play, the best in the Negro National League.

At his advanced age, Carter didn’t start many games in the late 40s, but he did go 6-2 with a 3.15 ERA in 1948 with the Memphis Red Sox.

In 1950, Carter played with the Winnipeg Buffaloes in the Manitoba-Dakota League; Carter went five for eight at the plate (.625), and 4-2 on the mound as a reliever and spot starter. Winnipeg featured Leon Day, Willie Wells Senior and Junior, Lyman Bostock, and Frazier Robinson, among others, and won the league championship. Carter’s best game that year came against the Carman Cardinals when he threw a complete game and won 8-2, while also belting three hits. Wells, Jr. hit a three-run homer to add support.