Leaguer of the Month
"Steel Arm" Davis
Born: 1902 in Madison, Wisconsin
Died: date unknown, 1935 in Chicago
Ht:6'-1", Wt: 180
Batted left and threw left
Position: outfield, first base, pitcher
Teams: Detroit Stars, Chicago American Giants, Columbia Giants,
Nashville Elite Giants, Jamestown Red Sox, Brooklyn Eagles
were many men named Davis in Negro League history: Piper Davis,
Johnny Davis, Saul Davis, Peanuts Davis, Roosevelt Davis, etc.
But the Davis with the biggest bat was probably Walter "Steel
Although his arms were plenty strong, the name Steel Arm came
from Davis' pitching. In the early 1920s, Davis started and
completed several doubleheaders. "He can pitch so often," wrote
the papers, "he has arms made of steel!"
by the end of the 1920s, Davis' arm was worn out, and his pitching
days were a thing of the past. Thank goodness for Davis that
he could always hit!
batted cleanup on some of the strongest teams of the 1920s,
including the Detroit Stars and Rube Foster's Chicago American
Davis was a fine outfielder, and once, as a pre-game stunt,
caught a baseball dropped out of an airplane flying by.
1933, Davis was voted into the first East-West All-Star game
as a left fielder, and he responded with two hits in three
at bats; tragically, he would never play in another All-Star
Davis always batted in the heart of the order, and batted in
the mid .300s to low .400s, with 20 or more homers during his
In 1934, Davis accepted an offer to play for the integrated
Jamestown, North Dakota Red Sox, along with fellow Negro League
stars Double Duty Radcliffe, Barney Brown and Bill Perkins.
The Red Sox played a much shorter schedule than in the Negro
Leagues, but they dominated North Dakota semipro ball all
summer, winning 38 and losing 15 (.717). Competition was fast
and Jamestown played such black teams as the Kansas City
Monarchs, Chicago American Giants, Detroit Giants, Gilkerson's
Giants and strong semipro teams like the House of David,
New Rockford (ND) and Bismarck (ND).
A game against the Minneapolis Colored Giants displayed the
power of the Jamestown lineup when they beat up a former Negro
League star, Wild Bill Freeman, 19-3. In the 5th inning alone,
the "colored quartet" of Davis, Radcliffe, Brown and Perkins
each collected two hits.
won every series in which they were involved. In 188 at bats,
Steel Arm batted .324 with 18 homers (about 50 homers in a
full Major League season).
In October of '34, the Jamestown, Valley City and Bismarck semipro
teams combined forces and played three games against a Major League
All-Star team that featured Jimmie Foxx, Heinie Manush,
Doc Cramer, Red Kress, Pinky Higgins, Steve Lyons,
Earl Whitehill and Rube Walberg (Hall of Famers in bold).
North Dakota semipros beat the Big Leaguers 6-5 in game one
at Valley City, with Barney Brown outdueling Lyons. Game two
was played in Jamestown, and Chet Brewer threw a shutout
for the semipros (he was picked up for the game); Davis was
the leading hitter, belting two homers and a double off the
three, in Bismarck, belonged to Double Duty Radcliffe, who
pitched a complete game win over Whitehill, and belting a double
two singles. Davis singled in five at bats.
in 1935, Jamestown decided to go to an all-white team, so Davis
signed with the fledgling Brooklyn Eagles (they would move
to Newark in '36), along with Radcliffe and rookie Leon Day.
Still only 33 years old, Davis still had some homers left in
his bat when he got into a barroom fight
in Chicago and was shot to death.
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