Buckeyes set tone with home opener sweep
Vince Guerrieri | On 15, Jul 2015
Nearly 10,000 fans crammed into League Park at East 66th Street and Lexington Avenue for the 1945 home opener for the Buckeyes, who would play the Memphis Red Sox in a doubleheader. The two teams were tied atop the standings of the Negro American League.
Led by player-manager Larry Brown, the Red Sox, like their major league namesakes of the same time, were always regarded as long on talent but short on results (they were also one of the few Negro League teams to have their own ballpark, Martin Park).
Almost immediately, Buckeye fans were given excitement. Avelino Canizares hit an inside-the-park home run, and Parnell Woods stole home (pictured) for another run as the Buckeyes won the first game 3-1. George Jefferson started for the Buckeyes in the first game, but he gave way to brother Willie. The Buckeyes were able to turn a pair of double plays, a testament to the improved fundamentals player-manager Quincy Trouppe had been pushing since spring training dawned. The Buckeyes exploded for five runs in the fifth inning of the second game to propel the Buckeyes to a 6-2 win and a sweep of the doubleheader.
Three days later, the teams met for a Decoration Day doubleheader on Wednesday, May 30 (Decoration Day, the forerunner to Memorial Day, was annually commemorated on that date; it wasn’t until the 1968 passage of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act that it took its place as the last Monday in May). Again, the Buckeyes swept the Red Sox. The Buckeyes won the first game handily, 14-2, but were down two in the second game and down to their last out, when Canizares laced a two-run single to tie the game. In the 10th, Woods tripled, and was singled home with the winning run by Archie Ware.
The Buckeyes had won four straight from the Red Sox, and were now sitting alone atop the standings, two games up in the loss column over the perpetual power Kansas City Monarchs.
As June dawned, Bob Williams, the editor of the Call and Post, the newspaper serving Cleveland’s black community, was completely sold on the Buckeyes. “They are quite a ball club, fortified in all departments,” he said.
Williams gave most of that credit to owner Ernie Wright, who was more than willing to spend for a championship, and one of Wright’s key acquisitions, player-manager Quincy Trouppe. Williams’ column in the June 2 edition of the weekly newspaper exhorted fans to support the team, which drew nearly 10,000 fans in the home opener, a doubleheader at League Park against the Memphis Red Sox. “Cleveland fans will help get that championship team by their support and attendance at the home games,” he wrote.
The Cincinnati/Indianapolis Clowns were scheduled to come to Cleveland the following weekend, but rain washed out the scheduled doubleheader. The Buckeyes then took to the road, with games in Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas. They won three of four from the Clowns, and six of eight from the Red Sox, who were quickly becoming the team’s punching bag. They were high atop the standings when they returned to Cleveland for a doubleheader against the Chicago American Giants on June 17. Fireworks would ensue.