Gentry Jessup

"[Jessup] is the best pitcher in the [Manitoba-Dakota] League."

--Ex-Major Leaguer Lefty Lefebrve in 1950, from the book "The Man-Dak League," by Barry Swanton

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Negro Leaguer of the Month

June, 2007

Joseph "Gentry" Jessup

Born: July 4, 1914 in Mount Airy, NC
Died: March 26, 1998 in Springfield, MA
Ht:6'-0", Wt: 175
Batted right and threw right
Position: outfield
Years: 1936-1953
Teams: Birmingham Black Barons, Chicago American Giants, Carman Cardinals, Almanaque (Cuba), Panama

A solid hitter and great pitcher, Gentry Jessup was one of the top Negro Leaguer pitchers in the late 1940s.

Born in Mount Airy, North Carolina, the hometown of actor Andy Griffith and the town on which Mayberry was based, Jessup played semipro ball with the Winston-Salem Pond Giants, before making the big time with the Birmingham Black Barons in 1940.

Jessup moved to the Chicago American Giants in 1941, and played with them through the end of the decade.

A tall, lean hard-throwing righty, who walked and struck out many, Jessup represented the American Giants in five East-West All-Star games (1944-48), allowing only three runs on nine hits in 14-2/3 innings, posting a 1.84 ERA. Jessup was also chosen by Satchel Paige in '46 to barnstorm with his All-Stars against Bob Feller's Major League stars.

Jessup was apparently never on a pitch count while in the Negro Leagues, and in one game pitched all 20 innings of a game that ended in a tie due to darkness.

When the Negro Leagues struggled after the Major Leagues integrated, Jessup traveled north to play in the Manitoba-Dakota League.

Jessup pitched for the Carman Cardinals in 1950, '51 and '52, batting .278 with a 10-4 record in '50, .298 with a 9-6 record in '51, and .324 with a 8-8 record in '52; he belted one homer in each season. The Man-Dak was a great semipro league, considered by some experts to be as good as Double or Triple-A in the Minors, and in '50 Jessup was considered by many to be the best pitcher in the league.

Jessup pitched one winter in Panama, and several seasons in Cuba, and was inducted into the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998.