" I pitched againt Satchel. I pitched against all the big boys.
Did I beat Satchel? No, I ain’t never beat Satchel! I aint telling no lies.
There are very few have beat him--that’s right. What you talking ‘bout?"

--Sunny Jim Echols

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Negro Leaguer of the Month
August, 2003

Sunny Jim Echols
Born: 1914 in Atlanta
Died: 2000? in Atlanta
Ht: 6'-1", Wt: 155
Batted right and threw right.
Positions: pitcher
Years: 1936-1947

Teams: Atlanta White Sox, Icehouse Gang, Atlanta Black Crackers, Norfolk Stars, Mobile Black Shippers

A fine right-handed curveball pitcher with a happy disposition, "Sunny" Jim Echols played pro baseball in the South for 12 years.

Echols hones his skills on the sandlots of Atlanta playing for semipro teams such as "The Icehouse Gang" which passed a hat after each game to make enough money to buy baseballs and second-hand equipment.

Echols was a good outfielder as a youngster, but as he grew taller and didn't fill out, he concentrated on pitching and became a good one. Echols had a good fastball, but was better known for a wide-sweeping roundhouse curve.

"A pitcher that don’t have no moves and motions ain’t much of a pitcher!" explained Echols. "I’m telling you ‘cuz them big suckers up there with that bat--he up there with a stick and you out there with a ball. If you ain’t got no moves you ain’t gonna do nothing!"

In 1936, Sunny Jim's childhood dream came true when he was signed by his hometown Black Crackers, joining such men as Red Moore, Pee Wee Butts and Joe Greene.

Echols picked up his nickname from Atlanta World sportswriter Jule Smith who loved the pitcher's sunny disposition.

In 1938, the Atlanta Black Crackers won the second half pennant in the Negro American League with Echols as a member of its pitching staff with Chin Evans, Bo Mitchell, Bullet Dixon and Telosh Howard.

Echols credited Howard with teaching him a secret to pitching: watching batting practice. "You watch the team taking batting practice and you got to be able to memorize how the batters hit the pitches," said Echols.

Chin Evans, like Echols, was a tall righthanded curveball expert, and in the opening game of the 1938 playoffs that year he pitched against Double Duty Radcliffe and the Memphis Red Sox. Radcliffe beat Evans and the Red Sox won the second game before the two teams couldn't agree on when and where to finish the series and no more games were played.

Echols was content playing with his hometown Black Crackers when he was given some advice by Josh Gibson after a game against the Homestead Grays. “Echols, you get rich traveling!” Gibson told the youngster. Soon after, Echols joined the Norfolk Stars who played across 42 states and Canada.

Echols had many career highlights, including a gem he pitched against the New York Black Yankees in Yankee Stadium. Echols struck out 22 batters without a walk.

After baseball, Echols worked for the Atlanta Post Office until his retirement.