Bill "Cy" Perkins

Perkins with Satchel Paige in South America
" [On Birmingham] my catcher was Perkins, who handled a pitcher like nobody's business.”
--Satchel Paige in "Maybe I'll Pitch Forever"



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!!!Negro Leaguer of the Month
January, 2006


Bill Perkins
Born: ca. 1907 in Georgia
Died: 1948?
Ht:5'11", Wt: 200
Batted right and threw right
Position: catcher
Years: 1928-1948
Teams:Birmingham Black Barons, Cleveland Cubs, Pittsburgh Crawfords, Homestead Grays, Ciudad Trujillo, Philadelphia Stars, Baltimore Elite Giants, New York Black Yankees, Jamestown Red Sox

Though Satchel Paige threw to some of the greatest catchers in Negro League history (Josh Gibson, Double Duty Radcliffe, Frank Duncan, Quincy Trouppe), his personal favorite was Bill "Cy" Perkins. The "Cy" nickname came from his Major League counterpart, Cy Perkins, a great catcher with the Philadelphia A's in the 1920s.

Unlike Gibson and Radcliffe, who had big personalities that sometimes overshadowed the pitchers they caught, Perkins was quiet and unassuming, which might have added to Satchel's positive view of him. Perkins was also Satchel's first Negro League catcher, starting with Paige in the late 1920s with the Birmingham Black Barons.

Perkins was built like most catchers, tipping the scales at about 200 pounds, had a strong arm, was very durable, and was a big time power hitter.

Partial statistics from Perkins' prime years of the late 20s and early 30s show batting averages close to the .300 mark, with more than 20 homers per season.

In 1932, the Pittsburgh Crawfords had on their roster four of the top 10 catchers in Negro League history: Josh Gibson, Bill Perkins, Double Duty Radcliffe and Frank Duncan. In midseason, Perkins and Duncan jumped the club; Perkins to the Cleveland Stars.

In 1934, with the integrated Jamestown, ND Red Sox, Perkins was a member of the "colored quartet" that tore through the midwest--Radcliffe, Barney Brown and Steel Arm Davis were the other black players. In 154 at bats, Perkins batted .422 (leading all regulars) and belted 16 homers--a rate of more than 50 in a Major League schedule.

While Perkins' North Dakota teammates played, and beat, a Major League All-Star team three straight games that fall, Perkins took a train to Chicago and played in the second annual East-West All-Star game. As Josh Gibson's backup, Perkins caught the last few innings of a great 1-0 game in which Slim Jones, Harry Kincannon and Satchel combined on a seven-hit shutout for the East. Perkins went hitless in one at bat.

In 1940, Perkins returned to the East-West classic, this time as a catcher with the Baltimore Elite Giants. Perkins caught the entire game, singled twice, and drove in a run in five at bats in an 11-0 East victory.

Some of Perkins' best seasons came while with the Pittsburgh Crawfords in the mid-1930s. Despite having the best catcher in black baseball, Josh Gibson, the Craws kept Perkins as a backup for their hectic 200-game schedule.

In 1937, Perkins jumped the Crawfords with Satchel Paige to play with the Ciudad Trujillo team in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. After arriving on the island and finding out that they were playing for the political life of Raphael Trujillo, a ruthless dictator, Paige sent more more help from the states, including Cool Papa Bell, Sam Bankhead and Josh Gibson.

The Ciudad Trujillo Dragons won the league championship, with Bankhead hitting a grand slam homer in the title game. In all, Perkins split the catching duties with Gibson, and played outfield, while batting .253.

Perkins and the rest of the "jumpers" were banned from Negro League play temporarily, but were reinstated in 1938. Perkins joined the Philadelphia Stars and continued his excellent play. Perkins last season in the Negro Leagues was 1948. Soon after, he was killed in an altercation at a restaurant.

©Copyright 2006, Kyle McNary, McNary Publishing