Leaguer of the Month
Born: January 2, 1917 in South Bend, IN
Died: March 3, 1978 in Chicago
Ht:6'-6", Wt: 220
Batted both and threw right.
Positions: outfield, first base, shortstop, third base, second
Teams: Indianapolis ABCs, Kansas City Monarchs, Indianapolis
Clowns, Chicago American Giants, Minot Mallards
Strong had it all: he was big, strong, and fast, could play virtually
any position on the field, and could hit for power and average.
Unfortunately, he didn't take care of his health, and never achieved
the stardom he should have.
grew up in the basketball hotbed of Indiana, and became such
accomplished hoopster that he was hired to play with the Harlem
Globetrotters (in fact, he was captain of the team). But,
today, when basketball stars can make millions, basketball players
of the '30s often played the sport to stay in shape for baseball.
Strong was at least as good at baseball as he was basketball,
and was playing professionally with the Indianapolis Athletics
in 1937 at age 20 and was named to the West's All-Star squad;
he homered and singled in four at bats while playing first base.
After a year with the ABCs of the same city, and another East-West
appearance, Strong signed with the Kansas City Monarchs, for which
he starred for a decade. Strong was chosen to play in the East-West
game five times with the Monarchs and, to demonstrate his versatility,
played shortstop, first base and outfield in those games.
Strong was such an outstanding fielder that he often fielded
balls one-handed--something that was frowned upon by old-timers.
once wrote disparingly of Strong's habit of catching one-handed
at first base as being "showboating" and "a trick
was a powerful hitter from both sides of the plate, one of
top switch-hitters in Negro League history, and in 1946 led the
Negro American League in home runs and RBIs. Over his career,
Strong usually batted in the mid-.300s.
arm was, well, strong! He rivaled Martin Dihigo for outfield
skill, and Sam Bankhead for the best-throwing shortstop in baseball.
When the Monarchs had a string of Negro American League pennants
from 1939-'42, Strong was a key figure in the team's success.
1946, the Monarchs again won the pennant and faced the Newark
Eagles in the World Series. With the series tied, three games
apiece, Strong and Satchel Paige, the scheduled starting pitcher,
were both no-shows and the Eagles won the game and series.
only apparent weakness was alcohol, and it eventually robbed him
of his great talent. Some thought Strong was a good prospect to
integrated the Major Leagues, but years of substance abuse eroded
some of the star's skills. Strong did play a few years of Minor
League ball, with limited success, before ending his career playing
in the Manitoba-Dakota league in the 1950s.
Strong died in Chicago on March 3, 1978.
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