Wilmer "Red" Fields

"If Fields doesn't lead your league in batting average, home runs and pitching, I'll cut my throat." --Cum Posey, Homestead Grays owner, talking to the Brantford Red Sox (Canadian Semi-pro League) owner.

"You won't have to. With the money we're paying him, we'll cut it for you." --Mike King, Brantford Red Sox owner.

(from Brantford Expositor
sports columnist Ted Beare)

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Negro Leaguer of the Month

October, 2007

Wilmer Fields

Born: August 2nd 1922 in Manassas, VA
Died: June 4th, 2004 in Manassas
Ht:6'-3", Wt: 220
Batted and threw right
Position: pitcher, third base
Playing Years: 1940-1958
Teams: Homestead Grays, Canada, Mexico, Minor Leagues

Though his name is usually not mentioned in the same breath as Leon Day, Martin Dihigo and Joe Rogan, Wilmer Fields was also one of the top-hitting pitchers in the Negro Leagues, and one of the most versatile, playing a fine third base and outfield when not pitching.

Fields started playing semipro ball with a team in Fairfax, Virginia when he was 16, then was spotted by the Homestead Grays, who offered him a contract for the 1940 season. Fields divided the next few seasons pitching for the Grays and playing football with Virginia State. Fields, a hulking figure on the mound, fit in with the Grays reputation as a physically powerful team.

"Cum Posey [the Grays owner] always wanted guys over six foot or over 200 pounds," remembered Fields. "We looked like the L.A. Rams when we got off the bus."

Fields was drafted into the army during World War II, and didn't return until 1946. In his first game back with the Grays, Fields had a shutout in the 9th inning when he ran out of gas and his catcher, 44-year-old Double Duty Radcliffe, took off his pads, went to the mound, and sealed Fields' victory. During that season, Fields lost a thrilling exhibition game, 1-0, against Johnny Vander Meer of the Cincinnati Reds.

Fields was very light-skinned, and sometimes would get food for the rest of the Grays team, walking into otherwise segregated restaurants where the owners thought he was white. Radcliffe, years later, joked that Fields "integrated the Negro Leagues."

Fields was an important member of the 1948 Grays team that won the last Negro League World Series, versus the Birmingham Black Barons; Fields lost only one game in League play during the season, pitched in the East-West All-Star game, and won a game in the World Series.

When the Negro Leagues started to dissolve after integration, Fields rejected offers to play in the Major Leagues and, instead, played some of his prime years in Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Venezuela.

In the 1950s, Fields won MVP Awards three times in Canada, with an average of about 10 wins, and never hitting lower than .379--while also hitting more than 20 homers a season! Fields also won the MVP award in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, and with Caracus, Venezuela

In 1956 and '57, Fields played with the Fort Wayne, Capeharts of the Michigan-Indiana Semipro League, the top semipro league in the United States, and one that had been integrated in '48 by Double Duty Radcliffe, Lefty McKinnis and Howard Easterling with South Bend, Indiana. In two seasons, Fields had a combined record of 11-1 on the mound, with batting averages of .432 and .387. Joining Fields on the pitching staff was Walt Wherry, a softball Hall of Famer.

In 1956, the Capeharts were invited to the National Semipro Tournament in Wichita, Kansas, and won it all. In '57, Fort Wayne did not win it all, but Fields was named Tournament MVP.

Including all leagues Fields played in, he won eight MVP awards and a triple crown.

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