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Negro Leaguer of the Month
Wesley "Doc" Dennis
Teams: Baltimore Elite Giants, Philadelphis Stars, Nashville Stars, Nashville Elite Giants, Birmingham Black Barons
Uniform number(s): 19
Primarily a first baseman, “Doc” Dennis was a power hitter and fancy fielder, known for his consistency for 14 years.
Dennis broke in with the Baltimore Elite Giants in 1942, and spent several years with them batting in the heart of the lineup. In ’45, Dennis became a legitimate star, batting over .350 with good power. In ’46 Dennis moved to the Philadelphia Stars and spent three seasons with them, batting over .300 each season with a high of .438 and an OPS (on base plus slugging) percentage of over 1.100, leading all players in both categories despite outstanding teammates “Suitcase” Simpson, Lester Lockett, Bill “Ready” Cash, Frank Austin and Mahlon Duckett.
In the early part of his career, Dennis played every infield position except catcher, plus many games in the outfield, and usually batted from .280-.350 with 20-30 homers per year. In the late 40s, Dennis became primarily a first baseman, and he was one of the best in the Negro Leagues defensively, thanks in part to his previous experience at third and shortstop; he had some of the best range of any first baseman in the league.
Dennis played in three East-West All-Star Games, 1951-’53, representing Baltimore in ’51 and Birmingham in ’52 and ‘53, batting .333 (4 for 12) with three singles and a double, as well as two runs. Dennis was the leading vote-getter among the East’s first basemen in ’51 and ’52, and the leader among the West’s first sackers in ’53. In two of his three All-Star games he batted cleanup. In the early ‘50s Dennis was considered the best hitter on the Black Barons, and one of the top hitters in the league.
In 1950, Dennis again played with Nashville who travelled through Canada during the summer playing in tournaments against Canadian semipro teams and black traveling teams such as the Ligon All-Stars, Birmingham Black Barons and Indian Head Rockets. In the Swift Current Tournament in August, Dennis blasted a homer in a game against Carrot River in the championship game, for the only run in the loss.
Dennis, who got his nickname “Doc” as a child, finished his career with over 200 career homers, and many fond memories; he stated in one of his last interviews that he had no regrets.
After retiring from baseball, Dennis worked as a stonemason, and in his free time became an excellent golfer and was good enough to win several amateur tournaments.
Dennis died of pneumonia on March 6, 2001 at the age of 83.