Pistol Pete Albright
"Pete was wilder than usual. This was probably due to his failure to grunt audibly at anytime during his appearance. Erratic fielding behind him gave the bewiskerd clan their two runs in the [first inning.] From there on out, Albright was a master."
Negro Leaguer of the Month
Tom "Pistol Pete" Albright
Teams: Denver White Elephants, New York Cubans,
Tom Albright was one of the best Negro League pitchers to come out of Texas, joining Hall of Famers Rube Foster and Hilton Smith.
Albright was born a few days before Christmas in 1909, and was raised by his aunt and grandmother. When he was around 13, Albright moved to Denver and lived with another aunt and uncle; the uncle was also a baseball player and they played together on local semipro teams starting around 1925.
Albright became one of the top semipro pitchers in Denver, and was soon spotted and signed by Denver White Elephants owner A.H.W Ross, a local businessman; the White Elephants were the best all-black team in Colorado.
Albright, nicknamed "Pistol Pete" because of his terrific rising fastball, also threw a curveball, screwball, drop, slider, knuckleball and blooper. To make him even tougher to hit, the right-handed star threw his pitches from three different angles--overhand, sidearmed, and submarine-style. Albright also employed a loud grunt on every pitch, much like tennis player Monica Seles decades later, which unnerved many batters.
In 1928 Albright met and married the love of his life, Izetta, they had three children (sons Don and Otto Louis, and daughter Thomasina), and had been married for almost 60 years when Pistol died of prostate cancer at age 77.
In 1930 Albright led the White Elephants to the otherwise all-white Denver City Championship, striking out 11 batters in the title game.
In the 1920s and 30s, the Denver Post Newspaper sponsored one of the greatest semipro tournaments in the country, and Pistol Pete had his share of great moments in the spectacle. In 1934, Pistol was hired by the Greeley Advertisers to pitch against the Kansas City Monarchs and their star Chet Brewer. Against a lineup that included Bullet Joe Rogan, Turkey Stearnes, Newt Allen, Newt Joseph, Sam Bankhead, George Giles and John Donaldson, Pistol struck out 15. Unfortunately, Brewer k'd 19 and the Monarchs won.
The following season, Albright led the Denver White Elephants in the tournament, which had added a fading legend named Oliver Marcelle, and a young up-and-comer named Buck O'Neil. Albright again made headlines when he upset the powerful Eason Oilers, 5-4, when ex-Negro Leaguer Rich Gee ripped a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth. The White Elephants ended up placing fifth in the tournament, hauling in the princely sum of $765.99!
The White Elephants immediately left for Wichita, Kansas where they were entered in the very first National Semipro Tournament. Though the White Elephants finished out of the money, Albright impressed the integrated Bismarck, North Dakota team which won the tournament enought that they paid him to play with them in a post-tournament series against the House of David. In a double header in Denver, pitchers Double Duty Radcliffe and Satchel Paige combined to win 5-4, then Albright pitched, struck out four, and won 8-2 in a game that lasted only an hour and twenty minutes!
In 1936, Albright played several games with the New York Cubans in the Negro Leagues at the urging of Chet Brewer, then joined the Denver White Elephants late in the season and traveled with them to Wichita to play in the second National Semipro Tournament. Albright matched up against former teammate and future Hall of Famer Hilton Smith in the first round of the tourney and Bismarck won, 14-0; Double Duty Radcliffe led the Bismarck offense with three hits and four RBIs.
In '37 Albright was back in Denver where he played for the Goalstone Brothers team in the Post Tourney, singling in three at bats while playing first base in a loss against a Negro League All-Star team.
In the late 30s, Albright continued to play in Denver while also working for the California Zephr train company as a porter.
After retiring as a porter, Albright continued to work, proving to be quite the entrepenuer. Pistol sold rugs, promoted boxing and wrestling matches, and ran a successful business buying broken TVs in Chicago, fixing them, and re-selling them in Denver.
According the Pistol's son and granddaughter, the ex-pitching great was a fantastic cook, could box, play piano by ear, and was a successful night club owner.
Though Negro League baseball was often a rough game played by tough men, Albright was known as a thoughtful and outgoing gentlemen with a sunny disposition for his more than 20 seasons on the diamond.