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The Rhodes Scholar of Managers: Gentleman Dave

David Julius Malarcher
Bat/Throw: Switch/Right 5'7", 150 lbs.
Born: 18 October 1894, Whitehall, LA
Died: 11 May 1982, Chicago, IL
Cemetery: Near convent, St. James Parish, LA

By Larry Lester, April 21, 2014

“Education should discipline the mind and the mind should discipline the body,” philosopher Gentleman Dave pontificated. “And knowledge is power — power to reason and to observe and profit from the things observed.”

Dave Malarcher was one of eleven children born to Martha and Henry Louis Malarcher on Charbone’s sugar and rice plantation near the Whitehall community in Ascension Parish, Louisiana. Whitehall is about 50 miles southeast of Baton Rouge and 70 miles northwest of New Orleans, just down the road on Highway 22 south of Tiger Bluff Landing and Catfish Landing. While dad was a laborer, his mother was a midwife and she taught community children, including her own, how to read, write, and think.

Malarcher started his ball career in 1914 with the New Orleans Black Eagles while in college. He attended New Orleans University (now Dillard) before graduating in 1918. He expressed in the true spirit of a philosopher, “Ever since I left the university in early spring of 1918, I’ve never ceased to read and build on my education by studying constantly in many subjects. My knowledge of history from school and such reading has made my life immune to the fears and frustrations and uncertainties which are derived from a lack of information of man’s troublesome and sordid past.”

Malarcher stated, “The education and mind and spirit discipline which I had acquired at New Orleans University enabled me to observe and absorb the baseball training techniques and strategy of the three greatest managers in baseball history — Charley Stevens [of the N.O. Eagles], C. I. Taylor of the Indianapolis ABC’s, and the incomparable baseball genius, Andrew ‘Rube’ Foster of the Chicago American Giants.” 

One of the top third basemen in the Negro Leagues, Dave Malarcher considered Rube Foster of the Chicago American Giants and C.I. Taylor of the Indianapolis ABC’s two of the greatest managers of all time. 

Malarcher played with the Eagles two years before joining the Indianapolis ABC’s in 1916. His three-year tour with the ABC’s ended when he was drafted into the 809th Pioneer Regiment Baseball League during World War I. After the war, Malarcher returned to the States and played for the Detroit Stars in 1919 before being lured to the Chicago American Giants by Rube Foster.

Malarcher became Foster’s star pupil. With the gentle demeanor of a lap dog, and a Rottweiler’s appetite to win, Malarcher had the purity of Black Moses, the tenacity of Black Americans, and the sanctity of Black Madonna.

Joining the American Giants in 1920, Malarcher immediately made an impact. With his fine play around the hot corner, and with he and Foster stealing signs, the Giants won Negro National League (NNL) pennants in 1920, 1921, and 1922. Normally batting in the second slot of the lineup, he had the knowledge to protect the plate and move the runners to the next station. Despite being stuck in the sacrificial No. 2 slot, he often hit over .300, while generally leading the team in steals.

“Malarcher has more than filled the shoes of [recently traded Bill] Francis. All the dope saying he was the greatest third baseman playing ball has really failed to do him justice. He is all that an infielder should be—a good hitter. His daring base running has opened the eyes of the fans. They have never seen his superior. On several different occasions he has electrified the fans by stealing home safely,” wrote Frank Young in 1920 for the Chicago Defender.

Rube knew a gem when he discovered it. And so did Cum Posey, owner of the Homestead Grays. In 1924, Posey picked his “All-American” team and put David Malarcher on his first team. Posey claimed, “Malarcher is better than [Oliver] Marcell, [future Hall of Famer Judy] Johnson, or [Newt] Joseph on account of his ability to play batters and his many ways to get on base. He is the fastest man on the club [the American Giants], including [future Hall of Famer Oscar] Charleston.”

In 1926, Foster was committed to a mental institution, and Malarcher took command of the professor’s class. Malarcher was fortunate to have such fine tutors as Foster and C. I. Taylor. Heck, Rube, and C. I. should have charged tuition! With more keys to knowledge than a high school janitor, the seasoned rookie manager led the Chicago American Giants to World Series titles in 1926 and 1927. 

Overall, Malarcher had one losing season (1930) in his career. The beneficiary of the first Rube Foster intellectual scholarship, league records show that the Giants, under Malarcher’s management, won 379 games against 230 losses, a winning percentage of .622. In postseason competition, Malarcher did slightly better, winning 30 of 48 games for a .625 winning percentage.

Hot corner man Alex Radcliffe voiced, “He won so many one-run ball games with ‘inside’ baseball. He was the type of fellow who played for one run. He never played for the big inning. It could be the first inning, it was just like the ninth inning. He’d sacrifice. He wanted that first run. I think he’s the greatest manager I’ve ever seen.” The ultimate strategist, the cerebral Malarcher often got on opposing managers’ last medulla oblongata.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “The only way to have a friend is to be one.” Gentlemen Dave was that friend. Malarcher embraced another Emerson quote, “The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, nor the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when he discovers that someone else believes in him and is willing to trust him with his friendship.”

When speaking of friends, if you mentioned Aristophanes, Pericles, Sophocles, Thucydides, Euripides, or Socrates, this scholar knew of their talents. Off the playing field, Malarcher was known for his prose and philosophy. The non-smoking, teetotaler was more socially square than Pop Lloyd’s jaw. Whether it be, mo’nin’ time or nite time, Malarcher preferred milkshakes over Michelobs. You never heard dangits or darnits, frickin’ or freakin’, shoots or any other disguised expressions of profanity from this stately Gentleman. He didn’t allow barnyard epithets in his ball yard. David would have Nun of that. Any sailor worth his rum would have kicked Malarcher off his boat.

Neither did he allow the younger players any sassin’ back to their mommas, daddies, or elders. They were always greeted with a “Yes, sir” or “Yes, ma’am.” He was an early day Heathcliff Huxtable. Gentleman Dave could convert fornicators to fathers, sinners to saints, and chumps to champions. Devotion was this Sunday school teacher’s first emotion when managing the American Giants. Radcliffe added, “He was a deacon of his church, and when I was a youngster and first started playing for Malarcher, he used to come by, pick me up and take me to church Sunday morning. I love Malarcher.”

Radcliffe also remembers Malarcher shouting, “I don’t want any profanity on my ball club. He was always in the ball players’ corner. He didn’t let the owners of the team abuse the ball players. If he thought you needed a raise, he’d ask for you. That’s right. Incidentally, I think that’s why he finally quit managing, because we wanted a raise and didn’t get it. Malarcher said to me, ‘I’m giving it up because I don’t like riding the buses all night.’ But I couldn’t see that. I think it [his retirement] was because of us.”

In his golden years, Malarcher was active in the real estate business and serving as a trustee for more than a quarter century at the Woodlawn A.M.E. Church in Chicago. In 1982, Gentlemen Dave got a box seat in the upper room. Haloed at 87 years old, he received the final call to the real Majors.

The world doesn’t need Charles Barkley to be a role model — we have Gentlemen Dave Malarcher.

Original artwork by Nancy Valelly

MALARCHER’S MANAGERIAL ACHIEVEMENTS:

1926, Chicago American Giants, NNL, beat the Bacharach Giants in the World Series, 5–3.
1927, Chicago American Giants, NNL, beat the Bacharach Giants in the World Series, 5–3.
1928, Chicago American Giants, NNL, second half winner, lost in playoffs to the St. Louis Stars, 5–4.
1932, Chicago American Giants, Negro Southern League, no World Series played.
1933, Chicago American Giants, NNL first half winner, league title disputed.
1934, Chicago American Giants, NNL first half winner, lost in playoffs to the Philadelphia Stars, 4–3.

 

The Thinker, with a deft use of dialogue and lyrical prose, often composed poetry. Below is one of his creations.

Sunset Before Dawn (in 1948)

Thou wert among the best
Who wrought upon this earth,
O dead! Thine endless zest
Is merit of thy worthy . . .

O, mind of fleetful thought
O dead who lived too soon
What pity thou wert brought
To twilight ere the noon.

But sleep thou on in peace
As orchids which did bloom
Like pure unspotted fleece
Within the forest’s gloom

 

Baseball cards:

1974 Laughlin Old Time Black Stars - #20
1983 Conlon Marketcom - #53
1986 Negro League Fritsch - #108
1988 Conlon Negro All-Stars - #9

 

 

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