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Lorenzo “Piper” Davis


July 3, 1917


May 21, 1997


Omaha Tigers, Birmingham Black Barons. Played minor league baseball with the Oakland Oaks, Los Angeles Angels and Fort Worth Cats. first Negro player signed by the Boston Red Sox organization.


2b, 1b

Hall Of Fame:

Not inducted.


Lorenzo Davis was born in the little town of Piper, Alabama, a coal mining community in the hills around Birmingham. As a teenager he attended a public high school for colored boys located in the town of Fairfield, just up the road from Piper. There he excelled in high school basketball and earned a basketball scholarship to Alabama State University in Montgomery. After a single year starring on the Alabama State basketball squad Davis was forced by family financial circumstances to drop out of college and seek employment.

Davis found employment in a Birmingham steel mill and shortly thereafter joined the mill’s all-black team in the Birmingham City League. Here he gained experience playing against barnstorming professional black clubs and realized that his baseball talents might be good enough to land him a spot on a traveling team. In 1936 he signed on to play with the barnstorming Omaha Tigers (a Negro team that traveled through the Midwest) and had his first taste of life as a traveling ballplayer. When the team encountered financial difficulties at the end of 1936 seasons Davis once again found himself in Birmingham playing on industrial teams.

Davis’ reputation, built on Birmingham’s City League diamonds, earned him an invitation to join the Birmingham Black Barons in 1942. Winfield Welch, manager of the Black Barons at that time, was also the head coach of the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team. Recognizing Davis’ roundball skills, Welch signed Davis to play with the Globetrotters during baseball’s off-season. Davis remained associated with the Globetrotters throughout his baseball career.

Davis teamed with Ed Steele and Art Wilson in the Black Barons lineup to produce one of Negro baseball’s most powerful squads during the 1940s. The Black Barons won the Negro American League pennant in 1943 and took the Homestead Grays to the seventh game before losing the Negro World Series. In 1944 the Black Barons repeated as NAL champions, but were again unable to overcome the Homestead Grays in the World Series. In almost a repeat of the 1944 season the Black Barons again took the NAL crown in 1948, but ultimately left the World Series trophy with the Homestead Grays.

During the Black Baron’s reign as the premier team of the Negro American League during the 1940s Davis was recognized as the team’s leader and most impressive player. Four times during the 1940s Davis was selected to represent the West at the East-West All-Star Classic. In each game he pushed through at least one base hit, usually contributed an RBI and scored a total of 4 runs in as many games.

In 1948 Davis added to his field responsibilities with the Black Barons by taking on the team’s managerial duties as well. Continuing his all-star career at second base, Davis guided the Black Barons to a NNL championship while maintaining his .300+ average at the plate and earning an All-Star game berth. But, despite his impressive records posted as a player-coach, Davis’ tenure as manager of the Black Barons was most highlighted by his signing a 16-year-old Willie Mays to a Black Barons contract.

The Boston Red Sox ended their era of racial exclusion in 1950 when they signed Davis to a minor league contract with their Scranton, Pa. Class A affiliate. After a difficult season of adjustment Davis returned to the Boston camp in 1951, but was not retained for the season. For the next five seasons Davis starred in the Class AAA Pacific Coast League with the Oakland Oaks. In 1955 Davis traveled down the California coast to join the Los Angeles Angels where he played three seasons with Gene Mauch and other west coast luminaries. From Los Angeles, at the age of 41, Davis was promoted to a management position in Double-A ball and joined the Fort Worth Cats as a player-manager. Age, the inevitable enemy of all athletes was catching up with him, and after a single season with the Cats, Davis was ready to call it a day.

Before ultimately retiring in 1986 Davis served professional baseball another twenty-five years as a scout for numerous teams including the Detroit Tigers, St. Louis Cardinals and Montreal Expos. Davis was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall Of Fame in 1993.

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