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Negro Leaguer of the Month

Negro Leaguer of the Month
August, 2014
William Nathaniel “Nat” Rogers
Batted and threw left
Ht: 5’-11”, Wt: 160
Born: June 7, 1893 in Spartanburg, SC
Died: December 1981 in Memphis, TN
Positions: outfield, infield, catcher
Career: 1913-1944
Teams: Brooklyn Royal Giants, Harrisburg Giants, Memphis Red Sox, Chicago American Giants, Cole's American Giants, Chicago Columbia Giants, Brooklyn Eagles, Birmingham Black Barons, Kansas City Monarchs

Only a few Negro Leaguers played more than 30 seasons, and hard-hitting outfielder Nat Rogers was one of them, playing, by his account, 45 years as a professional.

Rogers was born in South Carolina and all eight of his brothers were fine baseball players, though only Nat played professionally.

At age 17, Rogers started playing semipro ball in Georgia while working for the railroad. The next year, in 1912, Rogers played for the Cincinnati Colored Browns while working in a tannery, and in 1913 he played in Kentucky while again working for a railroad, and he credited his physical work with building up his body and making him a strong hitter.

After years of semipro ball in Johnston, Pennsylvania, Middletown, Ohio and Detroit, Michigan, Rogers joined the the Illinois Giants out of Springfield, Illinois where he teamed with youngster Double Duty Radcliffe, who would also play more than 30 years in the pros.

In 1925, Rogers joined the Brooklyn Royal Giants in the Eastern Colored League, his first season in black baseball's "Big Time."

Rogers, a left-handed batter and thrower, usually batted over .300, had good power for a 160-pounder, and had good foot speed on the bases and in the field. He was considered a somewhat mean and hard-nosed player in the mold of Ty Cobb.

Though Rogers played third base, first base and catcher during parts of his career, his best positions were left and right field.

In 1927, Rogers had a 31-game hitting streak in his first year with the Chicago American Giants and helped them win the Negro National League pennant. In the flag series pitting the winners of both halves of the ’27 season (Chicago and the Birmingham Black Barons) Chicago swept the Barons in four straight behind pitchers Willie Foster, Submarine McDonald and Willie Powell. Chicago then faced the Atlantic City Bacharach Giants in the Negro League World Series.

The ’27 World Series was notable for several reasons: Willie Foster won two games and lost two games; one of Foster’s losses occurred when Atlantic City’s Luther Farrell threw a no-hitter; and Chicago won the series, 5 games to 3, with one tie game mixed in which was stopped due to darkness. Rogers led all Chicago hitters with a .400 average in the series. Chicago had won the World Series in '26, too, and became the first team win back-to-back championships in Negro League World Series history; the Homestead Grays would repeat the feat in 1943 and '44.

In 1931, while with the Memphis Red Sox, Rogers won the Negro National League batting title with a .424 mark. It was the opinion of some that Rogers was one of the few hitters who hit .300 lifetime against the great Satchel Paige.

In '35, Rogers joined the Brooklyn Eagles, and was teammates with Radcliffe again, as well as rookie Leon Day. The team moved to Newark in '36 and became one of the best teams in the Negro National League in the 1940s.

Though he never played in an East-West Game, Rogers was named to the West team in the inaugural '33 classic when he came in fifth in voting among outfielders, trailing only Turkey Stearnes, Cool Papa Bell, Vic Harris and Rap Dixon. The West team didn't use one sub in the game, in fact Willie Foster pitched all nine innings, so Rogers spent the game on the bench.

Rogers continued to play in the 1940s, and though his defensive skills deteriorated over the years, he was a good hitter even in his 50s.

After retiring from baseball, Rogers worked as an elevator operator in Memphis.

Some information from "The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues" by James A. Riley


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