Birmingham Knights

(American League, South Division)

Baseball’s color barrier kept generations of African-American and Hispanic players out of the Major Leagues, but now the very best of the Negro Leagues are assembled in Birmingham – finally playing with their peers on the biggest stage of all.

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Pre-season Game #01 – Birmingham Knights at the Tampa Bay Rays

KNIGHTS BLANK RAYS IN MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL DEBUT Eternal Baseball TAMPA – Thousands of cellphones recorded the moment the Birmingham Knights took the field for their first-ever Major League Baseball game, and they showed they belonged with an impressive 4-0 victory...

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Active 26 Man Roster

Catchers & Infielders:

  • C – Josh Gibson (1B)
  • C – Biz Mackey
  • 1B – Mule Suttles
  • 2B – Newt Allen
  • SS – Willie Wells
  • 3B – Martin Dihigo (IF/OF/P)
  • MI – Pop Lloyd (SS)
  • CI – Judy Johnson (3B/SS)
  • CI – Buck Leonard (1B)

Outfielders:

  • LF – Turkey Stearns (CF)
  • CF – Oscar Charleston (1B)
  • RF – Monte Irvin (1B/LF)
  • OF – Cool Papa Bell
  • LF – Louis Santop (C)

Starting Pitchers:

  • SP – Satchel Paige
  • SP – Dave Brown
  • SP – Hilton Smith
  • SP – Ray Brown
  • SP – Willie Foster
  • SP – Bullet Rogan (OF)

Relief Pitchers:

  • CL – Jose Mendez
  • SU – Smokey Joe Williams
  • RP – John Donaldson
  • RP – Cristobal Torriente (3B/CF)
  • RP – William Bell
  • RP – Nip Winters

On the Farm

Catchers & Infielders:

  • C – Quincy Trouppe
  • 1B – Ben Taylor
  • 2B/SS/3B – Frank Grant
  • 2B/3B – Ray Dandridge
  • SS – Dick Lundy
  • 1B/3B – Jud Wilson

Outfielders:

  • CF/RF – Pete Hill
  • OF – Willard Brown

Pitchers:

  • P – Andy Cooper
  • P – Rats Henderson
  • P – Leon Day
  • P – Dick Redding
  • P – Eustaquio Pedroso
  • P – Bill Byrd

Building the Roster: Birmingham Knights

The debut of the Birmingham Knights is one of our favorite parts of Eternal Baseball. From a simply constructive perspective we wanted to have 32 teams – it builds a balanced league and I also liked that establishing the new Birmingham franchise would help build the new American League South division alongside Texas, Kansas City, and Tampa.

All four teams are expansion franchises with geographic solidarity and the chance to build lasting rivalries and history against each other.

More importantly, we wanted to level the playing field and give the African-American and Hispanic players of the Negro Leagues the opportunity they always should have had – to play alongside the other other great baseball talent of their day, and through the time-bending opportunity of Eternal Baseball, the best talent of all-time as well.

Our openings for new franchises were in the American League South and the National League East, and it seemed fitting to return the Montreal Expos to the division they used to compete in.

We wanted to honor the heritage of the Negro Leagues and looked at several historic franchise locations. We passed on cities that already had an existing MLB franchise – Atlanta, Chicago, Baltimore, Detroit, Washington D.C., St. Louis, Philadelphia, and Kansas City. The rich tradition of Negro League baseball in Kansas City (home of the powerhouse Monarchs and the Negro League Baseball Museum) made it a strong contender, but with the Kansas City Royals already in their division it would have made for really confusing standings and box scores.

In the end, our finalists were Birmingham, Indianapolis, Brooklyn, Newark, and Nashville. We liked Birmingham, in that it doesn’t have another established professional sports franchise, and also was such a pivotal and integral city in the civil rights movement.

Birmingham’s historic franchise is the Black Barons, but we didn’t want to adopt an existing name. With a nod to Roy Hobbs and the NHL’s Las Vegas franchise, we went with the Knights as something unique in MLB and marketable, focusing on the chessboard piece as the icon for the new team.

With every team, we started building their all-time 25-man and 40-man rosters by using the Hall of Fame as a starting point, figuring that a player enshrined in baseball’s immortal Hall would certainly qualify to make his team’s all-time roster. For players that crossed over from the Negro Leagues to Major League Baseball, we placed them with the franchises where they spent the most time – most of these stars are on established MLB rosters in Eternal Baseball, with Satchel Paige and Monte Irvin staying on the Birmingham club.

Because we are pulling from the entire history of the Negro Leagues, Cooperstown gives us a great start on our roster: Josh Gibson, Louis Santop, Mule Suttles, Willie Wells, Martin Dihigo, Buck Leonard, Judy Johnson, Turkey Stearns, Oscar Charleston, Monte Irvin, Cool Papa Bell, Pop Lloyd, Satchel Paige, Leon Day, Bullet Rogan, Cristobal Torriente, Jose Mendez, Andy Cooper, Ben Taylor, Frank Grant, Biz Mackey, Jud Wilson, Pete Hill, Willard Brown, Ray Brown, and Ray Dandridge.

The stats are built around the average of the player’s best three consecutive seasons.

Speaking of Cooperstown, Negro Leagues legend, manager, spokesman and patron saint Buck O’Neil has a list preserved in Cooperstown that he jotted down as his all-time Negro Leagues All-Star team.

While No one knew the Negro Leagues better than O’Neil, his selections of Ted Strong and Sam Bankhead surprised me. Pitcher Slim Jones is a legend and a tragic tale, a brilliant pitcher who lost most of his career to alcoholism.

As with every team, we are trying to build an active roster with 13 position players and 12 pitchers, and then a 15-player inactive roster of guys who just missed the cut, but remain valuable as callups in case of slumps or injuries. The 13 active position players are usually two catchers, six infielders, and five outfielders.

The Hall of Fame gives us 26 of our 40-man roster, but WAR (wins above replacement) isn’t as valuable to Birmingham as it is to other teams for building out the rest of the roster. The statistics from the Negro Leagues aren’t as complete as Major League stats so we have to draw help from other sources.

ESPN.com has a list of “Ten greatest Negro Leaguers” that includes seven honorable mentions.

Baseball Almanac has a listing of the “40 greatest Negro League Figures” but it also includes owners, management and managers.

MLB.com has a nice retrospective on the Negro Leagues where they identify 45 notable Negro League legends. That lists gives us 19 names to consider, and once plugged into the simulation software, we looked at their OPS (on-base + slugging percentage) and their defensive rankings and they break down like this:

CATCHER: Josh Gibson, Louis Santop
FIRST BASE: Mule Suttles, Buck Leonard
SECOND BASE: Newt Allen
SHORTSTOP: Willie Wells, Pop Lloyd
THIRD BASE: Martin Dihigo, Judy Johnson, Cristobal Torriente (sometimes)
LEFT FIELD: Turkey Stearns, Louis Santop (sometimes), Bullet Rogan (sometimes)
CENTER FIELD: Oscar Charleston, Cool Papa Bell
RIGHT FIELD: Monte Irvin, Martin Dihigo (sometimes)

Cristobal Torriente and Bullet Rogan are great for the roster because they are both outstanding pitchers who can also start in the field too.

Supplying the position player depth on the inactive roster are: Ben Taylor, Frank Grant, Biz Mackey, Jud Wilson, Pete Hill, Willard Brown, Ray Dandridge, Quincy Trouppe, and Dick Lundy.

For the pitching staff we’re looking for six starters and six relievers. Bear in mind that across the whole game you will see dynamic, outstanding starting pitchers that can’t crack an all-time rotation but are better served as relievers on a team than sitting inactive.

Birmingham has seven spots reserved for Hall of Fame pitchers (Satchel Paige, Leon Day, Bullet Rogan, Cristobal Torriente, Jose Mendez, Andy Cooper, and Ray Brown). With the 31 players on the total roster so far we have room for nine more pitchers.

Once we dug into the career statistics we came up with these eleven candidates: Dave Brown, Hilton Smith, Eustaquio Pedroso, Nip Winters, William Bell, John Donaldson, Smoky Joe Williams, “Rats” Henderson, Willie Foster, Dick Redding and Bill Byrd.

We looked at their overall numbers in the simulation software and leaned heavily on ERA to come up with these designations:

STARTING ROTATION: Satchel Paige, Leon Day, Dave Brown, Hilton Smith, Eustaquio Pedroso, Nip Winters
RELIEVERS: Bullet Rogan, William Bell, Cristobal Torriente, John Donaldson
SET-UP: Smokey Joe Williams
CLOSER: Jose Mendez

The inactive pitcher options are: Andy Cooper, Ray Brown, Rats Henderson, Willie Foster, Dick Redding, and Bill Byrd.

So how did we do?

Should Andy Cooper be closing instead of Jose Mendez?

Should Smokey Joe Williams be in the rotation rather than the bullpen?

Should Pop Lloyd start at shortstop over Willie Wells?

What batting order would you suggest versus lefties and righties?

Let us know in the forums below and if you make a compelling case we will adapt it in-game. We want every squad to be the best they possibly can be and appreciate your help fine-tuning the Knights for Eternal Baseball.

Visit Our Birmingham Knights Discussion Board

Give your 2 cents on the composition of the roster!

Birmingham Knights Resources & Page Photo Credits

Birmingham Knights Resources:

 

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