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Charlotte-area ballplayers now recognized with 'Major League' status

A handful of area men were in the major Negro Leagues from 1920-48, and will have their statistics and records elevated to Major League status

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In December Major League Baseball officially designated the Negro Leagues as Major Leagues.

That meant Negro League ballplayers' statistics and accomplishments would finally be in the record books as part of baseball's history.

The designation included seven different Negro Leagues and about 3,400 players, several of which are from the Charlotte area, or played college baseball here.

Here are their stories, told with the help of local historian Michael Turner Webb.

Otto Briggs

Kings Mountain, NC

Credit: Provided by Michael Turner Webb
Kings Mountain native Otto Briggs played in the Negro Leagues from 1915-34

Briggs played in the first ever Negro League World Series in 1924. An outfielder, he and his Hilldale Giants/Daisies out of Philadelphia, lost to the Kansas City Monarchs. 

But the very next season, Hilldale avenged the loss, and defeated the Monarchs for the title.

Briggs played for several other teams in his 17-year career as well.

He stole 22 bases at the age of 34 in 1925.

Briggs also managed several clubs, and later was a circulation manager for the Philadelphia Tribune newspaper. His wife was the president of the paper.

Records show Briggs died in 1943 at the age of 52.

Spencer Alexander

Gastonia

Credit: Photo provided by Michael Turner Webb
Gastonia native Spencer Alexander, who also played for the Newark Eagles, is seen here in his Asheville Blues uniform

Alexander played the 1940 and 1941 seasons with the Newark Eagles, manning left field. He did hit a home run in 1941, and a copy of one of his contracts shows he earned $100 per month.

According to Baseball Reference, Alexander attended Shaw University in Raleigh.

He would have also played in the outfield next to future Major League star, Monte Irvin.

Alexander died in 1987 in Bessemer City. He was 71.

Charlie Parks

Charlotte, NC

Credit: provided by Michael Turner Webb
Charlotte's Charlie Parks was a catcher fot he Newark Eagles

Parks was born in South Carolina, but his family moved to Charlotte when he was 12 (approximately 1929) to look for work during the Great Depression.

Parks best baseball seasons were spent with the Newark Eagles from 1940-47, and before that he played three games for the New York Black Yankees.

Parks helped the Eagles win the Negro League World Series in 1946.

Parks' teammates that year included Irvin, and a young second baseman named Larry Doby, who went on to become the second Black player to enter Major League Baseball.

Like many of his era, Parks had his baseball years interrupted for service in World War II.

According to his Charlotte Observer obituary in 1987, Parks rose to the rank of sergeant in the U.S. Army, and earned a Bronze Star. 

The obituary says that Parks: "led his company in the face of automatic fire, capturing a number of the enemy."

Robert Lomax "Butch" Davis

Charlotte, NC

Credit: Provided by Michael Turner Webb
Reference Photography Only Henderson Collection, Box 00.A1. Photographs included in this box: HEN.00.A1-001 - HEN.00.A1-140. Subjects included in this box: Bars/nightclubs, baseball, business school/office workers, city scenes. Photographed in Spring 2010

Davis hit .340 and stole 27 bases for the 1947 Baltimore Elite Giants.

In his first start for the team against the Chicago American Giants, Davis went 3-for-4, and the Baltimore Sun described him as the team's "new fast-stepping outfielder."

That season, Davis stole 25 bases, hit 12 triples, 11 doubles and three home runs. He had 53 RBI and scored 50 runs.

Davis went on to play affiliated Minor League Baseball after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947.

Davis played Single-A with the Albany Senators in 1951, Single-A with the Scranton Miners in 1952.

He appeared in 77 games with Triple-A Toledo/Charleston that season as well, leading the team with a .319 average with 13 doubles and 35 RBI.

Davis also started in the 1949 East-West All-Star game at Comiskey Park in Chicago, batting fifth and playing left field.

But he was not called up to the majors, which could have something to do with his age. He was 36 at that time.

Butch Davis died in Charlotte in 1988 at the age of 72

JCSU Pipeline

Several JCSU/Biddle University student-athletes went on to Negro League success as well.

"Steel Arm" Johnny Taylor

Anderson, SC / JCSU

Credit: Provided by Michael Turner Webb
"Steel Arm" Johnny Taylor went on to a long Negro Leagues career as a pitcher and manager after starring at Biddle University (now Johnson C. Smith)

Taylor received his nickname from a Charlotte Observer sportswriter, apparently because of his throwing velocity.

He pitched and managed for several Negro League teams.

He also coached the Biddle University (JCSU) team at one point.

As a player, Taylor pitched for 17 seasons for teams such as the Indianapolis ABC's, West Baden Sprudels, Chicago Black Sox, Chicago American Giants, Chicago Giants, St. Paul Gophers, Birmingham Giants and Louisville White Sox.

Taylor died at the age of 76.

Burnalle "Bun" Hayes

Louisburg, NC / JCSU

Credit: provided by Michael Turner Webb
Burnalle "Bun" Hayes was a Negro Leagues pitcher after playing for Johnson C. Smith University

Hayes pitched for the Baltimore Black Sox, Chicago American Giants, Washington Pilots, Newark Dodgers and Newark Eagles throughout the 1920s and 1930s.

He also attended North Carolina Central University, in addition to JCSU.

He went 5-2 for the 1933 Baltimore Sox.

Hayes died at the age of 66 in 1969.

William "Red" Lindsay

Spartanburg, SC / JCSU

Credit: provided by Michael Turner Webb
William "Red" Lindsay played in the Negro Leagues after starring at Johnson C. Smith University.

Lindsay, a shortstop and third baeman, played for the Atlantic City Bacharach Giants and Washington Pilots.

He said the highlight of his career was playing against Negro League star teammates Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson.

He held a B.A., degree from JCSU and was elected in to the school's Hall of Fame.

Lindsay lived to be 101 years old, dying in 2006.

William "Mickey" Casey

Newport News, VA / JCSU

Credit: provided by Michael Turner Webb
Mickey Casey enjoyed a long Negro Leagues career after playing for Johnson C. Smith University

Casey, a catcher, had a long career in the Negro Leagues, first breaking in with the Baltimore Black Sox in 1930.

He played for Baltimore through 1933, and then went to the Philadelphia Stars, where he enjoyed his best seasons.

In 1934, at the age of 29, Casey set many of his career highs and helped the Stars win the Negro National League championship.

Casey also played for the Newark Eagles, Pittsburgh Crawfords, Washington Black Senators, New York Cubans and Baltimore Elite Giants.

At one point he shared catching duties with future Brooklyn Dodgers great Roy Campanella.