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Bill Gatewood

Bill Gatewood
Nickname: Big Bill

Career: 1905-1928
Positions: p, 1b, of, manager
Teams: Leland Giants (1906-1909), Chicago Giants (1911-1912), Chicago American Giants (1912, 1915), New York Lincoln Giants (1914), Cuban X-Giants (1906), Philadelphia Giants, Brooklyn Royal Giants, St. Louis Giants (1915-1917), Indianapolis ABCs (1917), Detroit Stars (1920-1921), St. Louis Stars (1922-1927), Toledo Tigers (1923), Milwaukee Bears (1923), Memphis Red Sox (1925), Bacharach Giants (1926), Albany Giants (1926), Birmingham Black Barons (1927-1928)
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Height: 6' 7''   Weight: 240

Gatewood played with fifteen different teams during his twenty-four-year career, and in addition to his pitching prowess, he was a good hitter and a successful manager. The tall right-hander mastered the spitball and emery ball, and was not hesitant to knock a batter down as a matter of instruction directed at the offending hitter. He was a tremendous pitcher in the early years of black baseball.

Pitching with the Leland Giants in 1909, he started two games in the playoffs for the western championship against the St. Paul Colored Gophers, but lost his only decision. The next season Frank Leland and Rube Foster went their separate ways, with Foster's team becoming the Chicago American Giants in 1911, and Gatewood joined Foster's mound corps in 1912. Although statistical data are sparse, he is credited with winning his only recorded decision that season. Two years later he was with the New York Lincoln Giants, one of the top teams in the East, and posted a 6-8 pitching record and a .433 batting average while also playing in the outfield in his only season in New York. Leaving the Lincolns, he returned to the American Giants for a short stint before signing on with the St. Louis Giants. After an interval in St. Louis, he joined C.I. Taylor's Indianapolis ABCs in 1917, posting a 4-6 record. His next stop was with the Detroit Stars for two years, 1920-1921. He posted a 6-9 record in the latter season, including a no-hitter in his win total.

In 1922, he returned to St. Louis to take the helm of the St. Louis Stars in their maiden season. At his new managerial post, Gatewood gave Cool Papa Bell his nickname. Bell was then a young left-handed pitching prospect and showed a remarkable amount of poise for a player of his youth in a game where he struck out Oscar Charleston in a clutch situation. Observing how "cool" the nineteen-year-old had been under pressure, Gatewood added the "Papa" to make the name sound better, and the nickname became a permanent part of Bell's persona. Gatewood made a much more important contribution to Bell's success when he changed him from a pitcher to an everyday player and switched him over to swing from the left side to utilize his speed.

In addition to his managerial duties, he continued his pitching duties as well, splitting two decisions in 1925. The next season, his travels took him South to Georgia, as the manager and ace pitcher for the Albany Giants of the Negro Southern League, and he pitched a no-hitter against the Birmingham Black Barons. The next year he was pitching with the Black Barons, and while posting only a 1-2 record, he helped to develop a young hard-throwing righthander named Satchel Paige. Included in his instruction to the lanky youngster was how to throw a hesitation pitch. He also served as the Black Barons manager during his stint in Birmingham.

During his long career he also played with the Chicago Giants, Cuban X-Giants, Philadelphia Giants, Toledo Tigers, Memphis Red Sox, and Milwaukee Bears.

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