Nineteen Major League managers who once played or managed in the Puerto Rico Winter League (PRWL) or barnstormed in Puerto Rico, led their big league teams to a combined 26 World Series crowns, from José Méndez, who led the 1924 Kansas City Monarchs to the first Negro World Series (aka 1924 Colored World Series) title, to Bruce Bochy, who managed the San Francisco Giants to 2010, 2012, and 2014 titles, plus the 2023 Texas Rangers to their first World Series title. Méndez and his 1924 Monarchs catcher Frank Duncan were the only ones who didn’t play in the PRWL but their barnstorming events helped gain momentum for the PRWL’s first season in 1938-39. (PRWL became the Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League in 2012.)
Part I focuses on José de la Caridad Méndez aka José Colmenar del Valle Méndez, «El Diamante Negro” (The Black Diamond), along with Frank Duncan and Quincy Trouppe. Part II will cover Vic Harris. All are Major League managers and players due to the December 16, 2020 ruling by MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred giving Major League status to seven Negro Leagues between 1920-1948. There were 11 Negro League World Series between 1924 and 1927 plus 1942-48. Cuban hurler and Cooperstown Inductee Méndez—the 1924 Kansas City Monarchs skipper—is a big leaguer. He barnstormed in Puerto Rico, as did Frank Duncan, his 1924 Monarchs catcher in the Negro National League. Duncan caught for Méndez in the 1924 World Series between Kansas City and Hilldale, of the Eastern Colored League.
Méndez (January 2, 1885-October 31, 1928) was from Cárdenas (Matanzas Province), Cuba, and coveted by New York Giants manager John McGraw when the latter witnessed him pitch in Havana versus Christy Mathewson and other Giants hurlers between November 30-December 18, 1911. (The Giants were 1911 National League champions.) Méndez’s best effort was a four-inning scoreless save on December 14, preserving Almendares’ 7-4 win over Mathewson. Bombín Pedroso was the winner. Méndez did lose, 4-0, to Mathewson, in an earlier start, but showed McGraw he could pitch for his Giants.
In late October 2016, Méndez, Cristobal Torriente, Adolfo Luque, and other prominent Cuban ballplayers traveled to Puerto Rico with Alex Pompez’s Cuban Stars. Abel Linares, another Cuban promoter, had a team called the «Authentic» Stars. Linares accused Pompez’s ballclub of being the «Imposters.» The Imposters defeated the Authentic Club, 3-2, in Puerto Rico’s first game featuring future Cooperstown Inductees Méndez and Torriente, both inducted in 2006. The Lincoln Giants barnstormed in Puerto Rico that winter. Black players from the States were treated royally on the Island three decades before Jackie Robinson played for the 1945 Kansas City Monarchs. Alex Pompez used that 1916 barnstorming trip to Puerto Rico—a U.S. Territory since 1898—as a launching pad for getting his teams to play in Stateside exhibition games and in the Negro Leagues.
Méndez was a slick-fielding shortstop who at 35 was player-manager of the 1920 Kansas City Monarchs. He became Frank Duncan’s Monarchs teammate in 1921. Méndez played third base for the Monarchs in 1922 and 1923. He was 6-1 on the mound as player-manager for the 57-22 Monarchs in 1924, leading them to the Negro National I crown and the first-ever Negro League World Series. The Monarchs had a .309/.377/.434 slash line, and .811 OPS. Their top performer was pitcher-outfielder Charles «Bullet» Rogan—18-6 pitching, with a .396/.444/.617 slash line, and 1.062 OPS. Rogan was 2-1 in the World Series with a .375 batting average (B.A.). Méndez won two games: Game Seven on October 14, 1924, a 4-3 score; and, Game 10, on October 20—a 5-0 shutout. (Game Three was a tie, necessitating a tenth game.) Thirty-nine-year-old Méndez posted a 1.42 ERA versus Rogan’s 2.89 ERA. Games were played in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Chicago, and Kansas City. Gate receipts of $52,000, for 10 games, resulted in a $308 winner’s share for Kansas City versus $193 for Hilldale, who won the 1925 Negro League World Series over Kansas City.
Duncan (February 14, 1901-December 4, 1973) joined the 1923-24 Santa Clara Leopards, Cuban Winter League, a first-place (36-11) ballclub, managed by Agustín Molina. He picked up a lot of Spanish in Cuba (1923-24, 1929-30, and 1937-38), along with barnstorming in Puerto Rico, in the mid-1930s. With 1923-24 Santa Clara, Duncan caught Méndez (3-1 W-L), Bill Holland (10-2), Rube Currie (8-2), Dave Brown (7-3), Merven Ryan (5-0), Pedro Dibut (3-3), and Bombín Pedroso (no decisions). Their outfield, a century ago, was Pedro «Champion» Mesa (L.F.), Oscar Charleston (C.F.), and Alejandro Oms (R.F.). Oms later endeared himself to 1938-39 Guayama Brujos (Witches) fans while Charleston umpired in the 1946-47 PRWL. Every 1923-34 Santa Clara regular, except for second baseman Frank Warfield (.296) had a B.A. surpassing .300, paced by third baseman Oliver Marcelle (.393).
Dizzy Dean became a Frank Duncan fan shortly after the 1934 (White) World Series between St. Louis and Detroit. Dean invited Duncan to catch him in a barnstorming game played in Oklahoma City. Their Chamber of Commerce discouraged Dean from contracting him but Dizzy convinced the Chamber to change their mind. «I sure got a kick out of Duncan,» noted Dean. «When he catches me, he has a glove that makes the ball pop, and makes my pitch sound like a rifle shot…that fellow which catches for Kansas City is almost as good a catcher as Gabby Hartnett, and I can’t say no more about a catcher.»
Duncan barnstormed with the 1936 Brooklyn Eagles in Puerto Rico, and mentored Hiram Bithorn, Puerto Rico’s first big league pitcher with the 1942 Chicago Cubs, deserves attention. On Sunday, March 1, 1936, Duncan caught 19-year-old Bithorn—17 days short of turning 20—in the Eagles’ 5-4 win over the Cincinnati Reds, the first big-league team to do their spring training in San Juan, Puerto Rico, at Escambrón Stadium. The Eagles’ «All-Star Team» comprised Raymond Brown, Ray Dandridge, Leon Day, Vic Harris, Buck Leonard, and Dick Seay, among others. Bithorn’s opportunity emerged when Day had appendicitis. (Bithorn was practicing with the Eagles; two other teams—Azteca from Mexico, and Almendares from Cuba—were other opponents.) Duncan recalled that he played against Cincinnati manager Chuck Dressen in Cuba, 1923-24. (Dressen played third for Marianao and had a .360 B.A.) Dave Wilkie’s SABR bio of Duncan has more details, e.g., this quote from Willard «Ese Hombre» (That Man) Brown, who played for Duncan when the Monarchs won the 1942 Negro League World Series. «You couldn’t fool around with him [Duncan] with men on base, because he’d choke up and be right on that plate,» said Brown. «He was a good clutch hitter—a line-drive hitter, and when he went up there with men on [the] bases, he hit a whole lot of doubles.»
Buck O’Neil, first baseman with the 1942 Monarchs, called them «the best team he ever played for and the equal of the New York Yankees of the time.» Kansas City swept heavily-favored Homestead Grays in the 1942 Negro League World Series despite the Grays having Buck Leonard and Joshua Gibson in their potent line-up; pitchers Raymond Brown, Roy Partlow, and Johnny Wright; plus talented player-manager Vic Harris. This Series lasted three weeks! Satchel Paige started Game One for Kansas City, an 8-0 win, scoreless through five, at Griffith Stadium, Washington DC. Paige was relieved in the sixth. On September 10, Hilton Smith won Game Two, 8-4, over Partlow, with Paige earning a four-inning save. Yankee Stadium featured a 9-3 Monarchs win on September 13, with Willard Brown and Ted Strong crushing homers for the victors. Howard Easterling homered for the Grays. The four-game series officially ended on September 29, 1942, after exhibition games and a «no-show» by Paige at Philadelphia’s Shibe Park until he appeared in the fourth inning during a Grays rally. Duncan summoned Paige to the mound and Satchel pitched five and one-third innings to earn the win in a 9-5 victory!
Perhaps Duncan’s most significant contribution to baseball—as manager—took place with the 1945 Kansas City Monarchs when he managed Jackie Robinson. Duncan’s maturity, attention to detail, and a quarter century of playing in the Negro Leagues were a blessing to Robinson. Duncan, Branch Rickey, Gene Benson, and others encouraged the future Brooklyn Dodgers pioneer to participate in a month-long off-season (November 24-December 23, 1945) baseball tournament with the American All-Stars, an all-Black Team including Gene Benson, Roy Campanella, Buck Leonard, Quincy Trouppe…others. The tournament took place in Caracas, Venezuela. Miguel Dupouy’s excellent August 21, 2019 blog on this event is at: https://beisbolinmortal.blogspot.com/2019/08/las-estrellas-americanas-visitan.html
The 1945 American All-Stars, in Caracas. Standing, L to R: Luis Jesús Blanco Chataing, Roy Campanella, Marvin Barker, Bill Anderson, Quincy Trouppe, George Jefferson, Parnell Woods, Roy Welmaker, and Buck Leonard. Kneeling, L to R: Jackie Robinson, Gene Benson, player-manager Felton Snow, Verdell Mathis, Sam Jethroe and trainer/masseur Jesús Rodil. Photo by Alezones. Credit: “Archives: Dupouy Gómez Brothers”
Trouppe (December 25, 1912-August 10, 1993) celebrated his 33rd birthday two days after the American All-Stars played their final game in Caracas. They swept Cervecería Caracas in five straight final series contests after going 7-2 in the preliminary round versus the Caribbean All-Stars and Cervecería Caracas. Buck Leonard (20 for 47) had the best B.A. (.426) and most H.R. (4). Marvin Williams (.423), Parnell Woods (.419), and Trouppe (.413) surpassed the .400 B.A. milestone per Miguel Dupouy Gómez. Jackie Robinson and Sam Jethroe each had a .339 B.A. Robinson went 19-for-56 with two doubles, a triple, one H.R., 13 runs, five RBIs, and one S.B., posting a .464 SLG. Roy Campanella, who shared catching duties with Trouppe, had a .262 B.A. Campanella and Trouppe remained in Venezuela to play professional winter ball in that country’s first winter season. «I had already played six [summer] seasons in Mexico and two winter seasons in Puerto Rico,» recalled Trouppe. «My Spanish was quite good, and I loved the people in Cuba, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela.» Trouppe’s SABR bio can be found at https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/quincy-trouppe/ Table I has his Mexican League statistics.
Source: Enciclopedia del Béisbol Mexicano, Pedro Treto Cisneros, 2011.
In his youth, Trouppe—who played pro baseball at 6′ 2″ and 225 pounds—was a top-notch amateur boxer. At a Providence, Rhode Island event, he met Joe Louis, a heavyweight contender. Trouppe befriended future World Light-Heavyweight Champion Archie Moore, a native of Benoit, Mississippi, during a boxing tournament in Cleveland, Ohio. Both reached the semi-finals. Moore told Trouppe: «Quincy, I don’t think you could ever be a [pro] fighter. You’re just too nice. You’re not the mean type; move faster than the average heavyweight and have a real sharp left jab. But you are not mean.»
In five PRWL seasons, Trouppe posted good numbers, including ten triples in 1941-42, an all-time single-season record for catchers! His league-leading 57 RBIs in 1941-42 surpassed the 43 Joshua Gibson drove in for Santurce. Guayama (29-15) finished second to Ponce (30-13), thanks to Trouppe’s hitting and MVP Barney Brown’s 16 wins. In 1947-48, Trouppe—as player-manager—led the Caguas Criollos to the PRWL title, highlighted by a key H.R. in Game Seven off Mayagüez’s Tite Figueroa. (Trouppe was a switch-hitter but hit lefty versus the southpaw Figueroa.)
Vic Power, a 20-year-old rookie with the 1947-48 Criollos, alerted the author: «Trouppe was my manager, teammate and father. He brought me to the Provincial League in Canada, where I played with ballplayers who had jumped to the Mexican League—Max Lanier, Sal Maglie.» Trouppe’s positive attitude and good nature rubbed off on Power, destined to win seven A.L. Gold Gloves at first, from 1958 to 1964. Player-manager Trouppe juggled his 1947-48 Caguas (33-26) line-up to get the most out of his players. Perucho Cepeda and Power took turns at first. The middle was strong with Trouppe catching, Piper Davis at second, Sammy Bankhead at short, and Tetelo Vargas in C.F. Their three best pitchers were Chet Brewer, Rafaelito «El Mago de Las Magas» Ortiz, and Eugene Smith. Trouppe was Roberto Vargas’s first PRWL skipper, 1947-48, and was overwhelmed by the emotion shown by 1947-48 Caguas fans after the Criollos won the finals when 41-year-old Perucho Cepeda drove in the game-winner on an infield hit. «You didn’t know what to expect,» said Trouppe. «When we got to Caguas, they mobbed us. Those were great feelings.» Table II includes Trouppe’s PRWL hitting stats.
Table II: Quincy Trouppe’s Puerto Rico Winter League Statistics
Source: https://beisbol101.com/jugador/quincy-trouppe/ Jorge Colón Delgado.
The 1945 Cleveland Buckeyes swept the Washington-Homestead Grays in four straight with Trouppe’s series-leading .400 B.A. and .600 SLG, plus his skillful handling of the pitching staff, key factors. Only 17 runs were scored, 14 by the Buckeyes. Games One and Two were at Cleveland’s League Park, September 13-14, resulting in 2-1 and 3-2 Buckeyes wins. Trouppe scored the winning tally in Game Two after doubling in the ninth and scoring the game-winner on Gene Bremer’s walk-off hit. Games Three and Four were held in D.C. (September 18) and Philadelphia (September 20). The Buckeyes won back-to-back shutouts, 4-0 and 5-0, in recording a 0.75 ERA in 36 innings against the Grays Cool Papa Bell, Joshua Gibson, Buck Leonard, et al.
Trouppe managed the 1956-57 Ponce Lions, owned by Martiniano García, to a 28-44 mark, fifth of five teams. He appreciated Luis «Canena» Márquez, Carlos Bernier, Wito Conde, and Carlos Manuel Santiago, plus Bill Harrell and Steve Bilko imports. Ponce was hampered by budget cuts resulting in the trading of Márquez and hurler William de Jesús to Mayagüez and releasing pitchers Jim Brosnan, Tom Cheyney, and Barney Schultz. Trouppe reconnected with Vic Power, star first baseman with Caguas; Willard Brown, who ended his PRWL career with Santurce; and Santurce’s Bob Thurman. Trouppe opined that Roberto Clemente, sold by Santurce to Caguas in late December 1956, would eventually be a superstar with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Clemente won the 1956-57 batting crown (.396).
With gratitude to Quincy Trouppe for his time and goodwill in June 1991. Thanks to Gary Ashwill, Gene Benson, Miguel Dupouy Gómez, Jorge S. Figueredo, Larry Lester, and Vic Power. Jorge Colón Delgado did the editing and photo placements.
Quincy Trouppe photo colorization by Joe Torres.