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Frank Warfield

Francis Xavier Warfield
Nicknames: Frank, The Weasel

Career: 1915-1932
Positions: 2b, ss, 3b, of, manager
Teams: St. Louis Giants (1914-1916), Indianapolis ABCs (1915, 1917-1918), Bowser's ABCs (1916), Dayton Marcos (1919), Detroit Stars (1919-1922), Kansas City Monarchs (1921), Hilldale Daisies (1923-1928), Baltimore Black Sox (1929-1931), Washington Pilots (1932)
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Born: 1895, Indianapolis, Indiana
Died: July 24, 1932, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

An outstanding fielder in every aspect, he had wide range, good hands, and a good arm, with a unique underhand snap throw that helped him in turning double plays. At the plate he was a good contact hitter, skilled at the hit-and-run play, a master of the sacrifice bunt, and above the norm as a hitter, augmenting his average power by salvaging numerous leg hits to the infield. With a studied eye at the plate, he was skilled at waiting and worrying pitchers into free passes and, utilizing his exceptional speed and baserunning ability, move himself into scoring position with a stolen base. Best known for his skills afield and on the bases, he nevertheless compiled a .304 batting average over four winter seasons in Cuba.

Although sometimes referred to as "always quiet and modest" and "unassuming," he was an intense competitor and frequently used sarcasm and made caustic and threatening remarks to teammates. He was also known to carry a knife, and was not very popular with some of his fellow players, who nicknamed him "The Weasel." The little infielder was tough with a streak of meanness and always was ready to fight. In Cuba, in an altercation evolving from a dice game, he and fiery-tempered superstar Oliver Marcelle engaged in a vicious fight in which Warfield bit off part of Marcelle's nose. The incident began when Warfield, who was winning, refused Marcelle's request to borrow $5, which led to an argument that escalated into a fight when Marcelle hit Warfield in the mouth.

Despite his temperament he was an intelligent player and, as a successful manager, proved to be a clever strategist, guiding Hilldale to consecutive Eastern Colored League pennants in 1924-1925, including a World Series victory in the latter season. He also managed the Baltimore Black Sox to the only American Negro League pennant, in 1929. His spirited play and quick temper made him quick to engage in arguments with umpires or to castigate a player in view of spectators, which caused some resentment. Rookie shortstop Jake Stephens and Warfield played side by side for more than a year without speaking to each other. Regardless of his management methods, his results were good, and his success extended to Cuba, where he managed the 1924 Santa Clara team to the championship.

A native of Indianapolis, he began his career in 1914 with the St. Louis Giants, but appeared briefly as a reserve left fielder with C.I. Taylor's Indianapolis ABCs in 1915. He spent most of the next season back with the St. Louis Giants as a shortstop, usually hitting third in the batting order. After only a year in St. Louis, C.I. Taylor engineered his return to the ABCs, where the middle infielder played for two seasons, one each at second base and shortstop.

In the first season, during a heated contest against Rube Foster's Chicago American Giants, in a pickoff attempt at second base, Warfield slid back in hard with spikes high, opening a gash on John Henry Lloyd's knee that required two stitches to close.

Although hobbled by a sprained ankle during the latter year, he hit .240 and .324 in 1917-1918 while batting in the lower half of the lineup with the ABCs. In 1919 he joined Tenny Blount's Detroit Stars as part of an aggregation that was probably the greatest team in Detroit's history. Beginning in 1920, with the first year of the Negro National League, Warfield batted leadoff for the Stars, hitting .271, .269, and .342 for the 1920-1922 seasons.

In 1923 the Eastern Colored League was organized, and the star second sacker was among the players traveling East to join it. After arriving with Hilldale, he played under John Henry Lloyd for a season, batting a solid .339 and stealing a team-high 67 bases. But he was among the dissident players who caused Lloyd to be fired as manager, even though he had just won an eastern championship. When Lloyd moved to Atlantic City with the Bacharachs, Warfield was elevated to the position of manager with the Hilldale club.

Upon assuming the managerial reins, he moved Judy Johnson from shortstop to third base and put light-hitting but far-ranging and smooth-fielding Jake Stephens at shortstop. The change paid dividends as the young playing manager won pennants in each of his first two seasons at the Hilldale helm. After each pennant they faced the Kansas City Monarchs in the World Series, losing the initial Series, but defeating the Monarchs in a rematch in 1925. While penciling himself in the number two position in the batting order, he hit for averages of .243 and .261 in the Series, after regular-season averages of .342 and .314. After the pennant-winning seasons, he dropped to batting marks of .255, .274, and .198 in 1926-1928.

In 1929 he was traded to the Baltimore Black Sox with Red Ryan for "Crush" Holloway and Workie Jackson. With the Black Sox he succeeded Ben Taylor as manager, who had been traded to the Bacharachs for Dick Lundy. Warfield and Lundy teamed with Oliver Marcelle and Jud Wilson to form the Baltimore Black Sox' famous "million-dollar infield" a decade before the Newark Eagles' great infield of the same name. With the superior defense in place, in his initial season at the helm Warfield led the Black Sox to the American Negro League pennant in the league's sole year of existence.

He remained at the helm for three seasons, batting .221, .214, and .154 as a player, and without winning another title. Although his playing skills were beginning to erode, he was in his prime as a manager, and he signed to manage the 1932 Washington Pilots in the East-West League. He was always looking ahead and, in anticipation of forthcoming conditions, was prepared for situations as they occurred. When the East-West League began going under during the season, he had already booked games four weeks in advance. The team was in Pittsburgh for a series with the Pittsburgh Crawfords in late July, and Warfield, who was batting .233, had yielded his starting position at second base to a youthful Charlie Hughes several weeks earlier and had become a bench manager.

He was still officially serving in the capacity of playing manager when he died of a heart attack under vague circumstances. A known ladies' man who liked to flash big money rolls, he was in the company of a woman when he was rushed to the hospital, bleeding. His death was almost instantaneous after suffering an internal hemorrhage. Webster McDonald succeeded him as manager of the Washington Pilots.

Source: James A. Riley, The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues, New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc., 1994.