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Louis Santop

Position: Catcher
Teams Include: Fort Worth Wonders, Oklahoma Monarchs, Philadelphia Giants, New York Lincoln Giants, Brooklyn Royal Giants, Chicago American Giants, New York Lincoln Stars, Hilldale Daisies, Santop Bronchos, 1909-1931

Louis Santop was the first great slugger and the first great catcher of black baseball. His home run feats are not only legendary, but he performed them with the dead balls of the time. He received one of the game's great nicknames -- "Big Bertha" -- for the way he propelled balls out of the park, just like the Germans' enormous Big Bertha cannons.

Santop has been called the
Santop has been called the
"black Babe Ruth" even though
his career preceded the Bambino's.

Louis Santop Loftin (1890-1942) was born in Tyler, Texas, and began his semipro ballplaying career in Fort Worth and Oklahoma. But the big man was barely 20 years old when the big cities came calling. In 1910, "Top" joined Sol White's Philadelphia Giants, where he teamed up as catcher with "Cannonball Dick" Redding to form the famous "kid battery."

Moving to the New York Lincoln Giants in 1911, Santop found himself on the receiving end of the legendary Smokey Joe Williams. Redding then joined them, and the result was probably two of the hardest throwers ever seen on one staff. While Santop was handling these aces with aplomb, he was strutting his stuff as a batter as well. With the Giants, Santop posted batting averages of .470, .422, .429, and .455 -- measured against all levels of competition.

In 1915, Santop played briefly for the Chicago American Giants, headed by Rube Foster, but he returned east and was on the New York Lincoln Stars when they met Foster's men for the 1915 World Series for the colored championship. It was a masterpiece of rough baseball. After 10 games, each team had won five. Four innings into the 11th game, Santop's team was up by a run, but ongoing contention between the two ended the game -- and the series -- then and there. Santop also played in the 1917 title series as a member of the New York Lincoln Giants.

Santop was a crowd-pleaser throughout his career. A genial giant for the most part, he put on throwing exhibitions before games and slugging exhibitions during them. It is said that he belted several balls over 450 feet. The story goes that the Newark park had a sign 440 feet from home saying anyone who hit it got a free suit of clothes. Top hit it three times in one day. They took the sign down.

Joe Bolden, founder of the Hilldale Giants, said Santop was the greatest star and best drawing card ever. By the time Santop joined Bolden, he was one of the highest paid players in the game, earning as much as $500 a month. But Top was no country club ballplayer. An altercation between burly Oscar Charleston and Top resulted in a bear hug by the catcher and three broken ribs for Oscar. One reporter claimed Santop caught a doubleheader with a broken thumb and won both games with clutch hits.

Santop's career had a strange finish. A costly error on a pop-up in the 1924 World Series led to a vicious verbal attack by his manager, and ultimately to his leaving the black leagues. He was chosen for the Hall by the Special Committee on Negro Leagues in 2006.

Here are Louis Santop's Negro League Statisitcs*:


*Note: Santop's career statistics are incomplete.

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