Rafael "Ray" Noble

"The Giants in 1951 had four black players-Monte Irvin, Hank Thompson, Artie Wilson, and Rafael Noble-one more even than the trailblazing Dodgers-and held to a one-black-a-year quota."
--"The Complete History of the Home Run," by Mark Ribowsky

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Negro Leaguer of the Month

January, 2008

Ray Noble

Born: March 15, 1919 in Central Hatillo, Cuba
Died: May 9, 1998 in Brooklyn, NY
Ht:5'-11", Wt: 220
Batted and threw right
Position: catcher
Playing Years: 1945-61
Teams: New York Cubans, New York Giants (majors), Oakland Oaks (minors)

Ray Noble was a fine power-hitting catcher in the mid-40s, and, after integration, played a decade in the Majors and Minors.

Noble grew up in Cuba, and was content on playing professionally in his home country with the Santiago Cuban Mines before being signed by the Negro National League's New York Cubans in 1945 at age 25. Ray's brother, Juan, also played Negro League ball.

Noble (pronounced "NO-blay"), stayed with the Cubans through mid-1949, and starred, along with Luis Tiant, Dave Barnhill, Silvio Garcia, Pat Scantlebury and Minnie Minoso, for the '47 team that won the Negro League World Series 4 games to 1 over the Cleveland Buckeyes.

In the middle of the '49 season, Noble was signed by the New York Giants and was assigned to the Jersey City Little Giants of the International League where he batted .259 in limited action. He was promoted to the Oakland Oaks of the Pacific Coast League in '50, where he joined former Negro League stars Piper Davis and Artie Wilson. Noble batted .316 with 15 homers, and helped the Oaks win the PCL championship, beating out the San Diego Padres by four games.

While with the Oaks, Noble was involved in one of the most infamous brawls in minor league history. San Francisco Seals' pitcher, Bill Boemler, threw knockdown pitches at Noble and Piper Davis, and when the Oaks' players came to their teammates' aid, the field erupted in violence. In the melee, Noble broke his nose.

In 1951, Noble and Wilson were promoted to the New York Giants, and while Wilson struggled and was sent to the minors to make room for Willie Mays, Noble filled in nicely for regular catcher Wes Westrum, who was injured late in the season. In 55 games, Noble hit .234 with five homers and 26 RBIs.

The 1951 New York Giants, of course, was the team that won the pennant on Bobby Thompson's game-winning homer.

Noble continued as the Giants' back-up catcher through '53, then played another eight years in the minors before retiring from baseball at age 42.

Noble played with such minor league teams as the Havana Cubans, Columbus Redbirds, Buffalo Bison, and Houston Buffaloes. Noble, an excellent catcher with a strong arm, usually batted from .250-.290 with power. His best power years were '57-'58 when he hit 21 and 20 homers, respectively.

Most winters, Noble returned to Cuba to play winter ball, and was the MVP of the '56 Caribbean World Series as his Cienfuegos team won the championship. Noble batted .500 in six tournament games.

After baseball, Noble owned a liquor store in Brooklyn. He died at age 79 from complications on diabetes.

Noble was inducted into the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 1985.


(some information from The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues)