Leaguer of the Month
Maurice "Babyface" Peatros
Born: May 22, 1927
Ht:5-11", Wt: 230
Batted and threw left
Position: first base, outfield
Playing Years: 1945-1953
Teams: Pittsburgh Crawfords, Homestead Grays, Atlanta Black Crackers, Farnham Pirates, Geneva Robins, Fargo-Moorhead Twins, Erie Sailors, Magic Valley Cowboys, Drummondville Royals
Maurice Peatros was one of the "babies" coming into the Negro Leagues as the legends were going out in the mid to late-1940s. In 1945, Peatros was a 17-year-old first baseman with the Pittsburgh Crawfords of the United States League, set up by Branch Rickey to secretly scout black players. Peatros was an excellent fielder and line drive hitter, who was very fast despite weighing 230 pounds. When Peatros turned 18 he was drafted into the army where he served in the Air Force until 1947.
In '47, Peatros joined the Homestead Grays where they already had a first baseman, Hall of Famer Buck Leonard. Leonard was still a drawing card, so he usually started most games and was replaced in the late innings by Peatros; Peatros also played outfield.
Peatros, at a shade under six foot and well over 200 pounds, had been a high school football star, and in an interview I had with him in the 1990s he remembered that he fit in perfectly with the Grays. "Grays had to be at least six feet tall or 200 pounds," explained Peatros.
"[Grays owner, Cum] Posey thought of us like the New York Yankees. When we got off the bus, we looked like the Los Angeles Rams football team. We were big hulking monsters. And people would come out early just to watch us take batting practice."
Peatros, though physically large, was a singles and doubles hitter, similar to former Major Leaguer Mark Grace.
At age 20, Peatros spent several months with the Atlanta Black Crackers as possibly the youngest player-manager in Negro League history, and in 1948, he started the season with the independent minor league Farnham Pirates before being signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers and assigned to their farm club, the Geneva Robins.
Peatros hit his stride as a professional in 1950 with the Fargo-Moorhead Twins, batting .316, and in 1951 he and fellow Negro Leaguer Willie Grace lead the Erie Sailors to the Middle Atlantic League pennant, with Peatros batting .299 with 27 doubles, 10 triples and 3 homers, and Grace batting .293 with 14 doubles, 5 triples and 2 homers.
Peatros played two more years of minor league ball, with the Magic City Cowboys and Drummondville Royals, batting .290 and .294, respectively. Drummondville was managed by former Brooklyn Dodger Al Gionfriddo, famous for robbing Joe Dimaggio of a homer in the 1947 World Series, and aside from Peatros, the top hitter on the team may have been former Negro Leaguer and Dodger Dan Bankhead, who batted .275 with 8 doubles, 3 triples and homers as a pitcher.
Gionfriddo catching Dimaggio's blast, 415 feet from home!
After the 1953 season, Peatros retired at age 23. Peatros, the last surviving Negro Leaguer to play with the Crawfords and Grays, resides in Las Vegas.