Lester Lockett

(©Lester Lockett)

“[At third base], I practiced rushing in and throwing. I always believed in perfection. I used to play back just to get a guy to bunt. I just loved that. Kind of think I'd like to go back and do it again. But I better change a bit here--get another body, hadn't I?”
--Lester Lockett

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©Copyright 2004, Kyle McNary, McNary Publishing


Lester Lockett and the author in 2002
(©Kyle McNary)

Negro Leaguer of the Month
June, 2004

Lester Lockett

Born: 3/26/1912 in Princeton, IN
Resides in Chicago
Ht:5'-10", Wt: 190
Batted right and threw right.
Position: outfield, third base
Years: 1937-1955
Teams: Joe Green’s Giants (Chicago), Chicago American Giants, Cincinnati Clowns, Birmingham Black Barons, Baltimore Elite Giants, Carmen Cardinals, Fort Wayne Capeharts, Winnipeg Elmwood Giants

Lester Lockett grew up loving baseball and idolizing Jimmy Dykes, a great Major League third baseman for the Philadelphia A’s and Chicago White Sox. Lockett was a great all-around athlete at Lincoln High School in Princeton, Indiana, lettering in baseball, basketball and football, but his first and true love was baseball.

After high school and a year of semipro ball in Indianapolis, Lockett moved to Chicago where he still resides today.

Lockett’s first team was Joe Greene’s Giants who played at Washington Park in Chicago. As a result of his slugging reputation, Lockett was offered a tryout with the Chicago American Giants in 1937, and he would play with them, off and on, until 1950.

Lockett spent one summer with the Cincinnati-Indianapolis Clowns barnstorming through the Dakotas with Buster Haywood and Goose Tatum, but he chose not to “clown” or participate in the silly routines performed by the players.

In 1941, Lockett joined the Birmingham Black Barons, and batted in the heart of an order that included Piper Davis, Artie Wilson and Pepper Bassett.

In 1943, Lockett helped lead the Black Barons into the Negro League World Series, which they lost to the Homestead Grays. In 1944, the Barons again played in the World Series, and again were defeated by the Grays.

Lester played in 4 East-West All-Star Games (’43, ’45, and two in ’48), going 1 for 10. He represented the Black Barons in ’43 and ’45, and the Baltimore Elite Giants in ’48.

In ’48, Lockett finally won his championship as a member of the Fort Wayne Capeharts who won the National Semipro Championship in Wichita, Kansas. The Capeharts also featured Negro League pitchers Bill Ricks and Pat Scantlebury.

After the Negro Leagues started to crumble in 1950, Lockett played several seasons in the Manitoba-Dakota League. While playing with the Carmen Cardinals in Kirchener one day, one spectator’s language was especially rough. In an effort to quiet this particular loudmouth, Lockett batted left-handed—something he toyed with in batting practice—and homered. The man didn’t speak another word.

Lockett was a very solid and versatile player, playing a very good third base when called on, but usually playing left or right field. Lockett usually batted anywhere from third to sixth in the batting order, and won a Negro American League batting title.

Mostly, though, Lockett was known for his slugging and his 38-inch long bat. He once hit a homerun nearly 500 feet in Chester, Pennsylvania, and hit a towering infield pop fly in Baltimore that got lost in the fog and Lockett circled the bases before the fielders could locate it! "George Scales said, 'Lockett done hit the ball out of site!'" Lockett remembered.

The most Lockett ever made in the Negro Leagues was $500 a month, but he made as much as $900 a month playing winter ball in Mexico and Panama.

After retiring from baseball, Lockett worked several jobs. Lockett worked at his last job, as a security guard for the city of Chicago, until retiring in his early 80s.

Lester lives in Chicago and, though he suffers from Alzheimer's disease, is still a joy to be around.