Willie Wells

Willie James Wells (August 10, 1906[1] – January 22, 1989), nicknamed "The Devil," was an American baseball player. He was a shortstop who played from 1924-48 for various teams in the Negro leagues and in Latin America.

Wells was a fast baserunner who hit for both power and average. He was at his finest with his glove, committing almost no errors and having the speed to run down anything that came in his direction. He is widely considered the best black shortstop of his day. He also taught Jackie Robinson how to turn a double play.[2]

Wells was also notable as being the first player to use a batting helmet, after being hit and getting a concussion while playing with the Newark Eagles. (His first helmet was a construction helmet.)

He is a member of the baseball halls of fame in the United States, Cuba and Mexico.

Willie Wells
Born: August 10, 1906
Austin, Texas
Died: January 22, 1989 (aged 82)
Austin, Texas
Batted: Right Threw: Right
1924, for the St. Louis Stars
Last appearance
1948, for the Memphis Red Sox
Negro League statistics
Plate appearances3144
Batting average.319
Slugging percentage.510
Home Runs100
Negro leagues

Mexican League

  • Veracruz (1940–41, 1944)
  • Tampico (1943)
  • Mexico City (1944)

As Manager

Career highlights and awards
  • 10× All-Star (1933, 1934, 1935, 1937, 1938, 1939(1), 1939(2), 1942(1), 1942(2), 1945)
  • 2× Cuban League MVP Award (1929/30, 1939/40)
  • Negro National League record for most home runs in a season, 27 in 1926.
Member of the National
Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Baseball Hall of Fame Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg
Election MethodVeterans’ Committee

Early life

Wells was born in Austin, Texas. He attended Anderson High School in Austin. Wells first played professional baseball in 1923, playing one season for the Austin Black Senators of the Texas Negro League, a minor league for the Negro National League.[2] He briefly attended Samuel Huston College in Austin before he was called up to the St. Louis team in the NNL.

Negro league career

He entered the NNL with the St. Louis Stars in 1924, playing for the Stars until the franchise dissolved after the 1931 season. In 1926 he hit 27 home runs, a Negro League single-season record. From 1932 to 1935 he played for the Chicago American Giants and played for the Newark Eagles from 1936 to 1939. While with the Eagles, Wells was part of the "Million Dollar Infield," consisting of Wells, Ray Dandridge, Dick Seay, and Mule Suttles.[3]:p.55

He played in Mexico in 1940 and 1941, where he said that he experienced democracy, acceptance and freedom. Wells was nicknamed El Diablo by Mexican fans for his extraordinary intensity and the English translation ("The Devil") followed him as a nickname in the United States.[2] He returned to the Negro Leagues in 1942 as a player-manager for the Eagles and then went back to Mexico for the 1943 and 1944 seasons.

Returning to the U.S. in 1945, Wells played for various Negro league teams through the 1950 season. He then went to Canada as a player-manager for the Winnipeg Buffaloes of the Western Canadian Leagues, remaining there until his retirement from playing baseball in 1954. Wells returned to the U.S. and continued with the sport as manager of the Birmingham Black Barons.

Later life and legacy

After his baseball career, Wells was employed at a New York City deli before returning to his birthplace of Austin to look after his mother. He died of congestive heart failure in Austin in 1989.[2] Wells was originally buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Austin, Texas, but was re-interred in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin.

He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1997 for his play in the Negro leagues. He has also been inducted into the Mexican Professional Baseball Hall of Fame and the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame.[2]

Known statistics: .319 career batting average, .510 slugging percentage, 98 home runs, 644 runs scored, 399 runs batted in, and 756 games played.[4]

Stella Lee Wells, Willie's daughter, created a scholarship fund honoring her father, called the Stella and Willie Wells Scholarship Fund. The fund awards scholarships at Huston–Tillotson University in Austin, Texas.

See also


  1. ^ See Luke 2007, which cites the Texas Department of Health as the source for the 1906 birth year, and Hogan 2006, p. 398. Other sources report a birth year of 1905.
  2. ^ a b c d e Chamy, Michael (July 4, 2003). "El Diablo". The Austin Chronicle. Retrieved January 2, 2015.
  3. ^ Grigsby, Daryl Russell (2012). Celebrating Ourselves: African-Americans and the Promise of Baseball. Indianapolis, IN: Dog Ear Publishing. ISBN 978-160844-798-5. Retrieved 8 August 2012.
  4. ^ Hogan 2006, pp. 398–401.


  • Clark, Dick; Lester, Larry (1994), The Negro Leagues Book, Cleveland, Ohio: Society for American Baseball Research
  • Hogan, Lawrence D. (2006), Shades of Glory: The Negro Leagues and the Story of African-American Baseball, Washington DC: National Geographic, ISBN 0-7922-5306-X
  • Holway, John B. (2001), The Complete Book of Baseball's Negro Leagues: The Other Half of Baseball History, Fern Park, FL: Hastings House Publishers, ISBN 0-8038-2007-0
  • Luke, Bob (2007). Willie Wells: "El Diablo" of the Negro Leagues. University of Texas Press. ISBN 978-0-292-71751-0.
  • Treto Cisneros, Pedro (2002), The Mexican League: Comprehensive Player Statistics, 1937–2001, Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, ISBN 0-7864-1378-6

External links

1997 Baseball Hall of Fame balloting

Elections to the Baseball Hall of Fame for 1997 followed the system in use since 1995.

The Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) voted by mail to select from recent major league players and

elected Phil Niekro.

The Veterans Committee met in closed sessions and selected three people from multiple classified ballots:

Nellie Fox, Tommy Lasorda, and Willie Wells.

1997 Major League Baseball season

The 1997 Major League Baseball season was the inaugural season for Interleague play, as well as the final season in the American League for the Milwaukee Brewers before moving to the NL the following season. The California Angels changed their name to the Anaheim Angels. The Florida Marlins ended the season (their fifth season in the majors) as the World Champions defeating the Cleveland Indians in a seven-game World Series, four games to three.

Anderson High School (Texas)

L.C. Anderson High School is a public high school located in the city of Austin, Texas, United States. It is a part of the Austin Independent School District.

Cienfuegos (Cuban League baseball club)

The Petroleros de Cienfuegos (Cienfuegos Oilers) first participated in the Cuban Professional League championship during the 1926-27 season. Although representing the south coast city of Cienfuegos, the team played their home games in Havana. Cienfuegos did not play in the 1927-28 season, contending again from 1928-29 through 1930-31. After eight long years of absence, Cienfuegos reappeared in the 1939-40 tournament. In the 1949-50 season, the team was renamed as the Elefantes de Cienfuegos (Cienfuegos Elephants). "The pace of the elephant is slow but crushing", exclaimed the slogan of the Cienfuegos franchise that contended until the 1960-61 season. Following the 1959 Cuban Revolution, political tensions rose with the Fidel Castro government. In March 1961, one month after the regular season ended, the new Cuban regime decreed the abolition of professional baseball in Cuba.

In 26 Championships in which Cienfuegos participated, the team won five league titles in 1929-30, 1945–46, 1955–56, 1959–60 and 1960–61, finishing second 6 times, third 7 times, and fourth 8 times, posting a 732-793 record for a .480 average. Cienfuegos also won the Caribbean Series in 1956 and 1960.

Some notable Cienfuegos players include George Altman, José Azcue, Gene Bearden, Cool Papa Bell, Bob Boyd, Leo Cárdenas, Sandalio Consuegra, Martín Dihigo, Tony González, Adolfo Luque, Sal Maglie, Seth Morehead, Ray Noble, Alejandro Oms, Camilo Pascual, Pedro Ramos, Cookie Rojas, Napoleón Reyes, and Willie Wells.

Detroit Wolves

The Detroit Wolves were a Negro league baseball club that played for the 1932 season only.

Dick Lundy (baseball)

Richard Benjamin Lundy (July 10, 1898 – January 5, 1962) was an African American shortstop in the Negro Leagues for numerous teams. He was born in Jacksonville, Florida.

In 1921, his batting average was reportedly .484. Lundy became the player-manager of the Bacharach Giants from 1925 through 1928, leading the team to two Eastern Colored League pennants (1926, 1927). In the 1926 Negro League World Series, Lundy had six RBIs, four runs scored, and six stolen bases. The Giants, however, lost the series.

Lundy made one appearance in the East-West All-Star Game, playing shortstop for the East. By this point, he had become part of what was called the "million dollar infield", along with Oliver Marcell, Frank Warfield, and Jud Wilson, playing for the Baltimore Black Sox in 1929. His career was often compared to that of Joe Cronin.

At age 54, Lundy received votes listing him on the 1952 Pittsburgh Courier player-voted poll of the Negro leagues best players ever.Lundy remained in baseball around 33 years, finishing out his baseball career as a manager. He died at age 63 in Jacksonville after a lingering illness. He was among 39 Negro Leagues players, managers, and executives who were considered for the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006, but fell short of the necessary 75% vote. Writer Bill James ranked Lundy as the third-greatest shortstop in Negro league history, behind John Henry Lloyd and Willie Wells.

Dick Seay

Richard William "Dick" Seay (November 30, 1904 – April 6, 1981) was an American Negro league baseball player who played from 1925 to 1947 for the Brooklyn Royal Giants, Newark Stars, Baltimore Black Sox, Newark Browns, Philadelphia Stars, Newark Eagles, Pittsburgh Crawfords, and New York Black Yankees.Seay was born in West New York, New Jersey, and died in Jersey City, New Jersey. He started his baseball career with the independent Pennsylvania Red Caps of New York, where he played shortstop alongside second baseman Chino Smith. Both Seay and Smith went to play professionally in the Negro leagues. Seay also served in the military during World War II from 1943 to 1944.

While a player with the Eagles, Seay was part of the "Million Dollar Infield," consisting of Seay, Ray Dandridge, Mule Suttles, and Willie Wells.

Disch Field

Disch Field was a baseball field located in Austin, TX that opened in 1947 and hosted many minor league teams and playoff series. The diamond is at the present time part of the park behind The Long Center for the Performing Arts and the Palmer Events Complex between W. Riverside Drive and Barton Springs Road in South Austin, along the Colorado River. The park includes an open area called Willie Wells Field, named for the Austin-born Negro league baseball legend.

Disch Field was the first, followed by UFCU Disch-Falk Field, to be named after Billy Disch.

Downs Field

Downs Field is a baseball venue located in Austin, Texas and the home of the Huston-Tillotson University Rams baseball team. Downs Field was once the home of the Austin Black Senators and also was the home ballpark of Samuel Huston College before it combined with Tillotson College as one unified college in 1952. Some notable names that have taken the field at Downs Field were Satchel Paige, Willie Wells, Smokey Joe Williams, Willie Mays, and Buck O'Neil.

East–West League

The East–West League was an American Negro baseball league that operated during the period when professional baseball in the United States was segregated. Cum Posey organized the league in 1932, but it did not last the full year and folded in June of that year. It was the first Negro league to include teams from both the Eastern and Midwestern United States.

Although the league lasted less than one season, it featured one of the strongest teams in the history of Negro league baseball, the Detroit Wolves. The league provided a foundation for the development of the second Negro National League, which would become the premier league for African American baseball players.

El Diablo (nickname)

El Diablo, Spanish for "the Devil", is a nickname of the following:

Cristián Bejarano (born 1981), Mexican boxer

Claudio Chiappucci (born 1963), Italian former cyclist

Joël Despaigne (born 1966), Cuban retired volleyball player

Marco Etcheverry (born 1970), Bolivian retired footballer

José Antonio Fernández (born 1954), Mexican businessman

Angel Manfredy (born 1974), Puerto Rican former boxer

Luis Ernesto Michel (born 1979), Mexican football goalkeeper

Claudio Núñez (born 1975), Chilean retired footballer

Didi Senft (born 1952), German cyclist and inventor

Wells Thompson (born 1983), American soccer player

Willie Wells (1906-1989), American baseball player in the Negro leagues

John Linder (Pennsylvania)

John A. Linder is an American politician who served as a Democratic member of the Chester City Council from 2010 to 2012 and Mayor of Chester, Pennsylvania from 2012 to 2016.

List of Negro league baseball players

This list comprises players who have appeared in Negro league baseball.

Mandak League

The Manitoba-Dakota League was an independent baseball league based in North Dakota and Manitoba that was founded in 1950. It became the home for many African-American and Latino players. The league lasted through the 1957 season. It was known informally as the Mandak League or Man-Dak League.

It was the outlet for former Negro Leaguers to continue playing and entertaining fans, occupying fields with ex-major leaguers, minor league stars and some of the best Manitoba, North Dakota,and Minnesota born players. It featured such greats as Willie Wells, Leon Day, Ray Dandridge and Satchel Paige, who pitched briefly for the Minot Mallards in 1950.

Mule Suttles

George "Mule" Suttles (March 31, 1901 – July 9, 1966) was an American first baseman and outfielder in Negro league baseball, most prominently with the Birmingham Black Barons, St. Louis Stars and Newark Eagles. Best known for his power hitting, Suttles was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.

New York Black Yankees

The New York Black Yankees were a professional Negro league baseball team based in New York City, Paterson, NJ, and Rochester, NY which played in the Negro National League from 1936 to 1948. The Black Yankees played in Paterson, New Jersey from 1933-1937 and then from 1939-1945. The 1938 season saw the Black Yankees trying their fate at New York's Triborough Stadium. Paterson's strong fan support returned the Black Yankees to Paterson's Hinchliffe Stadium.

Newark Eagles

The Newark Eagles were a professional Negro league baseball team which played in the Negro National League from 1936 to 1948. They were owned by Abe and Effa Manley.


Shortstop, abbreviated SS, is the baseball or softball fielding position between second and third base, which is considered to be among the most demanding defensive positions. Historically the position was assigned to defensive specialists who were typically poor at batting and were often placed at the bottom of the batting order. Today shortstops are often able to hit well and many are placed at the top of the lineup. In the numbering system used by scorers to record defensive plays, the shortstop is assigned the number 6.

More hit balls go to the shortstop than to any other position, as there are more right-handed hitters in baseball than left-handed hitters, and most hitters have a tendency to pull the ball slightly. Like a second baseman, a shortstop must be agile, for example when performing a 4-6-3 double play. Also, like a third baseman, the shortstop fields balls hit to the left side of the infield, where a strong arm is needed to throw out a batter-runner before they reach the safety of first base.

St. Louis Stars (baseball)

The St. Louis Stars, originally the St. Louis Giants, were a Negro league baseball team that competed independently from as early as 1906 to 1919, and then joined the Negro National League (NNL) for the duration of their existence. After the 1921 season, the Giants were sold by African-American promoter Charlie Mills to Dick Kent and Dr. Sam Sheppard, who built a new park and renamed the club the Stars. As the Stars, they eventually built one of the great dynasties in Negro league history, winning three pennants in four years from 1928 to 1931.

Veterans Committee
J. G. Taylor Spink Award
Ford C. Frick Award
First basemen
Second basemen
Third basemen
Designated hitters
Executives /

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