Ross "Satchel" Davis

(courtesy Ross Davis)
"They say I threw as hard as Satchel but I don't know. I think my ball moved a lot. It was called 'a heavy ball' and naturally sunk. My hand was small and I had more room to rotate the ball out of my hand."

--Ross "Satchel" Davis

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Cartoon of Davis after being signed out of the St. Louis Industrial League. Reads: "Young Satchel's hard one is just that!; He can hit one hard and fairly often; He had 'base-runner's blues' for a while."
(courtesy Ross Davis)

Negro Leaguer of the Month
December, 2004

Ross "Satchel" Davis

Born: July 28, 1918 in Greenville, Mississippi
Ht:6'-2", Wt: 165
Batted right and threw right
Position: pitcher
Years: 1939-1947
Teams:Scullin Steel, Mexico, Baltimore Elite Giants, New York Black Yankees, Cleveland Buckeyes, Boston Blues

Many great black players have come out of the sandlots of St. Louis, and for a ten-year-period Ross Davis was one of the very best.

Born in Greenville, Mississippi in 1918, Davis' family moved to St. Louis a few years later and the youngster honed his baseball skills on the same sandlots that years earlier had produced Cool Papa Bell and Quincy Trouppe, and later would produce Elston Howard.

Pitching is what Davis loved and as he grew taller and stronger his fastball's speed grew exponentially, and he was soon nicknamed for his similarities to Satchel Paige--both in appearance and fastball speed! He added a sharp dropping curve and for almost a decade was one of baseball's hardest pitchers to beat!

In 1939, Davis was one of the top pitchers in the St. Louis MUNY Industrial League, playing with the Scullin Steel club at beautiful Tandy Park.

When St. Louis held a semipro version of the East-West Game, Davis was chosen to pitch for the West. After nervously walking the first three batters of the game, Davis threw nothing but fastballs to strike out Luke Easter, Sam Jethroe and Jesse Askew; he would win the game in impressive fashion. At the game were many Negro League and Mexican League scouts, and after his performance he was signed to a $125-a-month Mexican League contract where he joined the Mexico City squad along with outstanding pitchers Leroy Matlock and Theolic Smith.

Being a young man with a little money in his pocket, Davis spent more time painting the town than management liked, and he was released and sent home.

Back in American, Davis signed with the Baltimore Elite Giants where he (20 years old) and Roy Campanella (19) made up the youngest starting battery in the Negro Leagues. Davis threw a no-hitter against Max Manning and the Newark Eagles during the year with Campy behind the plate, possibly the youngest battery for a no-hitter in pro baseball history! In the no-hitter, Davis also singled and doubled at the plate!

After a short stint with the New York Black Yankees, Davis left the Negro Leagues and returned homewhere he played in the industrial league again at Tandy Park.

After a few seasons of semipro ball, Davis returned to the Negro Leagues with the Cleveland Buckeyes, and it was with the Buckeyes in 1943 that Davis had his biggest thrill. In a game versus the Memphis Red Sox, Davis pitched in front of his hometown fans, family and former semipro teammates. He won, 2-1. For the season, Davis won 19 and lost 2. Another thrill came later in the year when he faced the original Satchel and beat him 6-5 in Rochester, NY.

Davis went into the army soon after and it was in the service that he contracted hepatitis and was told he should stop playing baseball for good.

In 1946, the United States League, the brainchild of Branch Rickey with the main goal of scouting Negro Leaguers, was formed and the Boston Blues came calling for Davis. The Blues' owner, Alan Johnson, was one of the richest black men in the country, and he made Davis an offer he couldn't refuse and despite warnings from his doctors, "Satchel" un-retired to the tune of $600 a month, usually paid out of a suitcase stuffed with cash.

Davis had many outstanding games for the Blues, including a win over Oscar Charleston's Brooklyn Brown Dodgers in which he k'd 10, and a 9-3 win over the new version of the Pittsburgh Crawfords.

The Blues were managed by Tom Parker, and boasted stars Elridge Mayweather, Hiram Marshall (3B), Bradford Bennett (OF), Slats Newkirk (P) and Leroy Sutton (P).

In 1947, with his arm worn out after pitching a majority of the Blues' big game, Davis had decided to retire. During spring training, Davis visited the Buckeyes at Cleveland's League Park just to catch up with his old teammates. By the time he left the field, he had been convinced to help coach some of the pitchers. By the end of spring training, Davis had convinced himself that he still had something left and he started the team's first game of the season, striking out seven batters in three innings. After the season was over, in which he proved he stil had a lot of baseball left, Davis retired for good at the age of 29!

"It just became a job," explained Davis, "instead of a game."

Davis gave up only one homerun during his career, to Josh Gibson, but considered Buck Leonard a superior batter to the more famous Gibson. "I could get Gibson out. If you threw the ball just above his chin, you could strike him out, but if you missed he would kill the ball," explained Davis. "Buck had no weakness. He was terrible! And Jerry Benjamin, another Gray player, whipped me all the time!"

Besides Satchel Paige, Davis was most impressed by Hilton Smith, who he considered to have an amazing curveball.

After baseball, Davis worked various jobs and retired for good in 1995. He still enjoys talking baseball, especially to children.

I greatly enjoyed interviewing this wonderful man, and want to thank a big fan of Mr. Davis named Miranda for setting up the interview.

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