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*Jose’ Mendez was born on this date in 1887. He was an Afro Cuban baseball player from Cardenas, Cuba who was a pitcher and shortstop in the Negro Leagues.
From 1908 to 1914, Mendez was one of the greatest Negro League pitchers, along with Rube Foster and Smokey Joe Williams. Despite his slight build 5’ 8”, Mendez threw hard (he reportedly killed a teammate when he accidentally hit him with a pitch in the chest in batting practice) and had a "jug handle curve." In 1908 he beat Christy Mathewson and Eddie Plank, both white Hall of Famers. In 1908, the Cincinnati Reds came to Cuba and Mendez beat them 1-0 on a one-hitter.
In 1910, he and Rube Foster pitched to an 11-inning 4-4 tie. In 1911, he beat Smokey Joe Williams 1-0 in extra innings. His record against American teams in ‘08 and ‘09 was 44-2, and in his career he won more than 70% of his decisions. Going into 1914, Mendez hurt his arm and became one of the best shortstops in Black baseball. He signed to play for the famous All-Nations team that also featured fellow Cuban superstar Crisobel Torriente. After several seasons barnstorming the Midwest with the All-Nations, Mendez came to the Kansas City Monarchs where he probably achieved his greatest fame.
From 1920-1926, Mendez managed, pitched occasionally, and played shortstop. With Mendez at short, the Monarchs won pennants in ‘23, ’24, and ‘25. In 1924, the Monarchs beat the Hilldale Giants of Darby, Pennsylvania in the first Negro League World Series. In that series he pitched in four games, winning two without a loss. In the deciding game Mendez went the distance in a shutout win, despite being warned not to play by doctors following surgery.
On October 31, 1928, Mendez died of pneumonia at the age of 41 in Havana, Cuba. He was elected into the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939.
The Negro Baseball Leagues A Photographic History
By Phil Dixon with Patrick J. Hannigan
Copyright 1992, Jed Clauss and Joanna Paulsen
Ameron House Publishing