““People approached me when I was a kid and said [my dad] was ahead of his time. It took me a long time to understand what that meant.” Rainey Bibbs' son, Jeff Bibbs
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Negro Leaguer of the Month
Junius “Rainey” Bibbs
Position: second base, utility
Batted: Both, Threw: Right
Height: 5’- 10“, Weight: 180 lbs
Born: October 31, 1910 in Henderson, KY
Died: September 11, 1980 in
Teams: Detroit Stars, Cincinnati Tigers, Kansas City Monarchs, Chicago American Giants, Indianapolis Crawfords, Cleveland Buckeyes
Rainey Bibbs was probably the second best athlete to ever come out of Indiana State University in Terre Haute, Indiana. With all due respect to Bibbs, Larry Bird's basketball career in the 1970s surpassed the careers of all Indiana State Sycamores past and present, though Bibbs was the best athlete to attend Indiana State when it was known as Indiana Teachers College.
Bibbs was born in Kentucky, and moved to Terre Haute as a young child. Bibbs attended Wiley High School and lettered in baseball, football and track. After high school, Bibbs attended Indiana State from '33-'36, starring as a baseball player and fullback on the football team. In baseball, Bibbs was a hard hitter with a rocket arm, and he was good enough in football to make the All-Indiana College Conference team two times. In 1998 Bibbs was inducted into the Indiana State Hall of Fame.
While still in college, Bibbs played professional baseball for the Indianapolis ABCs and Detroit Stars (possibly under an assumed name to preserve his amateur status), then joined the Cincinnati Tigers upon graduation, and played infield for manager Double Duty Radcliffe in '36 and '37, batting .292 and .265, respectively.
In '37, Bibbs was selected to play for the West in the East-West Game; Newt Allen started the game, but Bibbs batted late in the game and doubled off future Hall of Famer Leon Day.
Bibbs got his strange nickname when sportswriters kept spelling his given name, Junius, incorrectly. Finally, on a rainy day, Bibbs said, “Just call me Rainy.” Later, an “e” was added to the name, and Rainey it was for the rest of his life.
In 1938, Bibbs was signed by the Kansas City Monarchs, the team he is most associated with, and batted .343 as the backup to Newt Allen, and playing anywhere else he was needed. From '39-'41, the Monarchs won three straight Negro American League pennants and Bibbs was a key figure, batting between .270-.320 and fielding solidly. In 1940, Bibbs also played briefly with the Toledo Crawfords under manager Oscar Charleston, batting .333 in league games before returning to the Monarchs.
The '41 Monarchs were one of the strongest teams in the league, featuring Chet Brewer, Connie Johnson, Satchel Paige, Hilton Smith, Ted Strong, Buck O'Neil, Willard Brown and T.J. Young among others. Bibbs played regularly and batted .253 in league play, and close to .300 overall.
In 1944, Bibbs finished his Negro League career with the Cleveland Buckeyes and Chicago American Giants, batting over .300.
After retiring from baseball, Bibbs taught biology for 25 years at Crispus Attucks High School in Indianapolis, and one of his students was basketball Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson whom Bibbs also coached on the baseball team.
Bibbs died of a heart attack at age 69. In 2011, Bibbs was posthumously inducted into the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame.