As the 2013 Major League Baseball World Series comes to a close this week, there have been mistakes made by players at crucial times during the first five games. Pete Kozma, St. Louis Cardinal short stop, made two errors in their Game One lost. Boston Red Sox catcher Jerrod Saltalamacchia dropped a relay throw and Red Sox pitcher Craig Breslow’s errant throw cost their team Game Two. The Cardinals scored the winning run in Game Three on a Saltalamacchia errant throw, while their pinch runner Kolten Wong was picked off first base in Game Four to kill a potential ninth inning rally. None of these mistakes match the error made by Louis Santop in the 1924 Negro League Baseball World Series.
Due to racial discrimination that kept them out of Major League baseball for nearly the first half of the Twentieth Century, African Americans formed their own professional baseball leagues. The Negro National League (NNL) was formed in 1920, followed by the Eastern Colored League (ECL) in 1923. The first Negro League World Series was held in 1924 between the Kansas City Monarchs (NNL) and the Hilldale Daisies (Darby, Pa.) of the ECL. It would be a best five out of nine Series and a supposed national showcase for African American ballplayers.
Louis Santop was Hilldale’s power hitting catcher and one of Negro League baseball’s early star players. Because of long the distance home runs he hit, Santop was called “Big Bertha” after the German’s World War I long range artillery gun. At that time, he was Negro League baseball’s Babe Ruth.
With the Series tied three games apiece, Hilldale had a 3 – 2 Game lead in the bottom of the ninth inning; Game Seven. The Monarch’s rallied to have the bases loaded with two outs when Frank Duncan hit a foul fly ball behind home plate within Santop’s reach. But, the normally sure handed catcher dropped it. Given another chance to swing, Duncan hit a single to drive in two runs for a Kansas City four to three win. In front of the Hilldale players and the fans in the grandstand, Santop received a vicious profanity filled scolding by his manager. The Monarchs would eventually win the Series five games to four.
Santop retired with the error psychologically hanging over his head, but it did not define his career. He was inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 2006.