Sports Reference Blog

Biographical Updates and New Data for Negro Leagues Players

Posted by Jonah Gardner on April 4, 2022

Thanks to our partnership with the Seamheads Negro League database, we recently released the first update of Negro League data since the project first launched in June of 2021. This update includes many incremental improvements to player biographical information, including:

-Full names (For example, Mike Woolridge was corrected to Eddie Woolridge)

-Height/weight (For example, Perry Hall now has his height and weight listed)

-Handedness (For example, Curtis Hollingsworth was changed from a right-handed pitcher to left-handed)

-Birth information (For example. Ameal Brooks’ birth year was changed to 1907)

-Death/burial information (For example, added death date and burial information for Willie Nixon)

We’ll also be making additional biographical updates to player school (high school and college), photos, and nicknames).

Along with the biographical updates, many new box scores were uncovered and recorded with some players having significant additions to their player records. Some notable cases include:

-Kansas City Monarchs All-Star Herb Souell saw 186 plate appearances added to his record, the most of any player. Souell did quite well in the newly discovered games, raising his career slash line from .287/.334/.360 (102 OPS+) to .294/.341/.368 (106 OPS+).

-Hall of Famer Willard Brown had 119 plate appearances added, the second most after Souell. His career batting average rose from .347 to .350.

-New Hall of Famer Buck O’Neil was next with 114 new plate appearances. He added two points in batting average and three home runs to his career totals.

-Hilton Smith and Verdell Mathis tied for the most innings added to their records with 69⅓. Smith added four wins and four losses, but saw his ERA drop three points. Mathis, meanwhile, went 6-3 in the new games and shaved 0.13 off his ERA. The vast majority of Mathis’ new innings came from his 1944 All-Star campaign. Now instead of a 1-1 record and 3.78 ERA, he is listed as 7-2 with a 2.85 ERA.

-Jim LaMarque didn’t have as much success in his 65 newly discovered innings. He went 3-6 and saw his ERA climb from 3.17 to 3.37.

Perhaps no player better illustrates the evolution of Negro Leagues data quite like Neil Robinson. Robinson was a long-time outfielder for the Memphis Red Sox for the last dozen years of the Negro American League. Robinson was an All-Star in eight of those seasons. Memphis is one of the teams missing the most box scores, so Robinson’s career record has had relatively few games for someone with so many All-Star appearances.

Robinson was previously credited with 1,164 plate appearances. As part of this update, 243 of those were discovered to not actually be his. The first three years of his career (1930-32) have now been reassigned to Johnny Robinson. Several of Neil’s games were also found, however. 80 plate appearances were added to his record and his OPS+ shot up from 133 to 140 (as a result of both removing Johnny’s games and adding his own).

This update illustrates how we’re very much in the midst of the Golden Age of Negro Leagues research. If you’d like to learn more about the Negro Leagues, we recently published a Resource for Educators (but it’s really for anyone!) to share the incredible story of the Negro Leagues—from the pioneers of Black Baseball in the late 19th century through the formation of the Negro Major Leagues and into the impact of integration on the American and National Leagues. 

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