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Porter Moss



"[Porter Moss] is one of the most popular pitchers
in modern sport history. One of the nation's
greatest Negro athletic figures"

--Atlanta Daily World, July 17, 1944

 


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©Copyright 2002, Kyle McNary, McNary Publishing
kyle@pitchblackbaseball.com

Negro Leaguer of the Month
October, 2002

Porter Douglas Moss
nicknames: "Submarine" and "Ankleball"
Position: Pitcher
Career: 1934-1944
Teams:
Cincinnati Tigers, Memphis Red Sox, Mexico

HT: 6'-0"; WT: 180 lbs
Batted right; threw right
Born:
June 10, 1910 in Cincinnati, OH
Died: July 16, 1944 in Jackson, TN

Porter Moss's is one of the truly sad stories in Negro League history. One of the most popular and successful pitchers in the Negro Leagues, in his prime at age 34, died from a bullet to the stomach, and many believe that Jim Crow was as responsible for his death as the shooter.

Moss grew up in Cincinnati and attended Harriet Beacher Stowe school and then West Virginia State College where he starred in baseball and football.

In 1934 Moss started his pro career with his hometown Cincinnati Tigers.

In 1936 Moss made the black big time, when Double Duty Radcliffe saw him playing fastpitch softball.

"...Some kids were playing softball on the playground," remembered Radcliffe, "and Moss was pitching. He was throwing that softball underhand by all the batters. I went up to him and signed him to a contract and he was one of the best submarine pitchers in our league until he got killed."

In 1936 Moss flourished going 35 and 8, and gave the Tigers a great 1-2 punch on the mound (Radcliffe being the other pitcher). Other players included Ducky Davenport, Spoon Carter, Josh Johnson, Howard Easterling and Neil Robinson.

Midway through 1937 Radcliffe became player-manager of the Memphis Red Sox, brought Moss with him, and both players made their first East-West All-Star game appearances.

In 1938 the Memphis Red Sox, perennial losers since the 1920s, won the Negro American League first half pennant led by Moss and Radcliffe, and played the Atlanta Black Crackers for the league title. After Memphis won the first three games, the series was cancelled and Memphis named champions.

Moss, also called "Ankleball" for his ability to keep his underhand pitches low, continued to put up impressive pitching stats and he was named to the East-West All-Star Game in '42 and '43. He had a composite E.R.A. of 2.16 in his three East-West games.

In the '42 game, with the score 2-1 in his West team's favor, he was called in to pitch with two outs in the ninth, and he got pinch-hitter Vic Harris to fly out to end the game.

Moss's tragic end came when the Memphis Red Sox' bus broke down in Tennessee on July 15, 1944. The team had no choice but to board a train to get to its next game, and then trouble began.

A white man named Johnny Easley, who had shot a black man earlier that day, was on the train, drinking heavily, flirting with female passengers, and shooting dice.

The train was normally segregated, but with the extra ballplayers aboard, many of the black and white passengers were crammed together in the vestibule.

Easley was approached by the train's porter and conductor about his behavior and he pulled a gun on them. At the next stop, Easley departed the train and shot randomly into the crowded train car as he ran off. The shot hit Moss in the stomach.

Moss walked into the coach, announced he was shot and asked for air and a doctor. His teammates stretched out some uniforms for Moss to lay on until they got to the next stop. When the train reached the station in Waverly, Tennessee, the Red Sox were told that there were no doctors or ambulances in town. Moss continued to bleed and suffer.

At the next stop, Bruceton, Tennessee, a white doctor came on board, gave Moss an injection for pain and told the Red Sox to take him to the next station as there were no hospital facilities for him in town. At the next town, Lexington, Tenn., it was the same story.

Finally, when the train reached Jackson, Tennessee, an ambulance took Moss to the hospital where he had an emergency operation at 6 am, nearly 12 hours after he was shot. He died a few hours later.

Moss, along with Chino Smith, Steel Arm Dickey, and Slim Jones, died in the prime of his career, before his true potential was reached.