Ed Steele

“Steele of Birmingham drove in [the game's] first run when he blasted a 415-foot triple over center fielder Colas' head.”
--Pittsburgh Courier, reporting on the
1951 East-West All-Star game

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Negro Leaguer of the Month

February, 2009

Ed "Stainless" Steele

Born August 8, 1916 in Selma, AL
HT: 5'-9", WT: 185
Bats left, throws right
Positions: outfield, manager
Career: 1940-1954
Teams: Acipco Company (Birmingham Industrial League), Birmingham Black Barons, Detroit Stars, Satchel Paige All-Stars, Hollywood Stars (Minors), Denver Bears (Minors), Guelph (Canada) Terriers

Outfielder Ed Steele was a flat-footed slugger and reliable RBI man for several strong teams of the 1940s and 50s.

Steele grew up in Selma, Alabama, and first was paid for playing ball with the Acipco factory of the Birmingham Industrial League.

Steele was soon discovered by the Negro American League, and was chosen, along with Double Duty Radcliffe and pitcher Gentry Jessup to be added to the Birmingham Black Barons roster in 1943 for the Negro League World Series versus the Homestead Grays; the Grays prevailed, but the Barons liked what they saw in Radcliffe and Steele and signed them for the '44 campaign.

In 1944, Steele batted mainly in the 5th and 6th spots of the Barons order, batted over .300, helping his team to the World Series again, batting .368 in another losing effort against the Grays.

In his prime, Steele batted from .320-.350, and had a slugging percentage of close to .500 because of his fine power (he was more of a doubles hitter than a home run hitter).

In 1948, Steel was a wily veteran on a Barons team that featured youngsters Artie Wilson and Willie Mays, and Birmingham won the Negro American League to take a spot in the very last Negro League World Series. Deja-vu! They lost again to the Grays, this time four games to one.

In his mid-30s, Steele started to get some of the attention he had long deserved as one of the Negro Leagues' top slugging outfielders, being selected for the 1950 and 1951 East-West Games.

In the '50 game, Steele went two for three and an RBI to help the West to a 5-3 win; in '51, Steele was the leading hitter at the break (.382), garnered more votes that any player in either league, and blasted an RBI triple in another West victory.

In 1952, Steele, starting to slow down at age 36, was signed by the Hollywood Stars of the Pacific Coast League in Organized Baseball where he started out slowly, batting .213 with two homers and 10 RBIs in the first few weeks of play. The Stars optioned Steele to the Denver Bears of the Western League where he batted .254 with 18 RBIs before jumping to the Guelph Terriers in a top Canadian semipro team.

Though the Negro Leagues were dying a slow death, a few teams survived in the mid-1950s, and Steele was coaxed back to the league as a manager of the Detroit Stars.

The '56 Stars featured a promising young pitcher named Charley Pride of country music fame.

Steele stayed with the Stars until 1959 when they changed their name to the Detroit Clowns, which was appropriate since their three best players were Sherwood Brewer, an infielder who years before had played with the Harlem Globetrotters baseball team, and Goose Tatum and Sweetwater Clifton, both better known for their clown-like antics with the Globetrotters basketball teams.