New York Giants manager John McGraw said that lean, long-armed pitcher Jose Mendez
was worth $50,000 - but in his day there was no market in organized baseball for
a Cuban with coal-black skin. Mendez is generally regarded as one of the greatest
Cuban ballplayers who did not play in the American major leagues.
Mendez was a
smart pitcher who changed speeds well and had a rising fastball and sharp-breaking
curve. Hall of Famer John Henry Lloyd said that he never saw any pitcher superior
to Mendez. Arthur Hardy, another contemporary, said that Mendez threw harder than
the legendary Smokey Joe Williams.
Mendez compiled a 15-6 record his first year
in the Cuban Winter League. He came to America in 1908 and went 44-2 for the 1909
Cuban Stars (some games were played against semi-pro teams). He spent all of 1910
in Cuba, playing both summer and winter, going 18-2. By 1914 he had compiled a 62-17
record in Cuba, but he developed arm trouble and never again pitched there regularly.
played for the All-Nations of Kansas City from 1912 to 1916. The team was the most
racially mixed of all time, carrying blacks, whites, Japanese, Hawaiians, American
Indians, and Latin Americans on its roster. A barnstorming rather than a league club,
the All-Nations played a high caliber of baseball, in 1916
going 3-1 against the
powerful Indianapolis ABC's and splitting a series with the Chicago American Giants.
greatest success came as a playing manager with the Kansas City Monarchs in 1920-26.
Occasionally pitching and playing the infield, he led the Monarchs to three straight
Negro National League pennants (1923-25). His pitching record was 20-4, with seven
saves. In the 1924 Black World Series against Hilldale of the Eastern Colored League,
Mendez was 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA in four games, including a shutout in the only game
he started. In the 1925 BWS, also against Hilldale, he was 0-1.
Mendez was 8-7
in exhibition games against major league competition. He defeated Jack Coombs in
1908 and Hall of Famer Eddie Plank in 1909, and split two games with Christy Mathewson.
FROM THE BASEBALL CHRONOLOGY
»November 29, 1910: It's the Cuban's turn today as Cuban ace Jose Mendez shuts out the Tigers, 3–0. On a steal attempt, Ty Cobb is thrown out three times by Bruce Petway, who played last year for the Chicago Leland Giants, and Gervasio "Strike" Gonzales. On his last attempt, Cobb argues that the bag is three inches too far. When measured, Cobb is proved correct, but is still out stealing. A frustrated Cobb will cut short the tour and return to the U.S. The Tigers will end their Cuban swing at 7–4, with a tie. This is a reversal of last year's 4–8 record, when they played the Cuban teams without Cobb and Crawford. The champion A's also played in Havana at the same time, finishing with a 4–6 record.
»October 20, 1924: Kansas City Monarchs manager Jose Mendez takes the mound to spin a 3-hit, 5–0 shutout over the Hilldales to win the final game of the first Negro League World Series. Nip Winters had pitched the first three Hilldale wins.