Positions: Outfielder; Second baseman; Pitcher; Manager
Teams: Fred Palace’s Colts; Kansas City Giants; Kansas City Monarchs; Los Angeles White Sox, 1908-1938
His given name was Wilbur, but he quickly acquired one of baseball’s greatest nicknames -- “Bullet Joe.” There may have never been a more complete player. In 22 years of Negro League play, he was not just an excellent pitcher but a good enough batsman to bat in the cleanup slot. Then, after his playing days were over, he stayed with the game, first as a manager, then as an umpire.
At 5970, 180 pounds, Wilbur Rogan (1889-1967) was short and powerful, with most of his strength in his upper body. He grew up in Kansas City, Kansas, and began his career as a catcher in 1908 with Fred Palace’s Colts.
After nine years of playing ball in the military, his talent was noticed by Casey Stengel, who recommended him to Kansas City Monarchs owner J.L. Wilkinson. Rogan became a shortstop and left fielder for Wilkinson’s All Nations teams in 1917. But when the Monarchs joined the Negro National League the next year, Wilkinson brought Rogan along -- as a starting pitcher. Already 30 years old, his skills were at their peak.
As a hurler, Rogan was tough and steady. He routinely made 30 starts a season and rarely was taken out for relief. Dizzy Dean said, “He was one of those cute guys. Never wanted to give you a good pitch to hit.”
The stats that survive are impressive. Rogan’s winning percentage of .715 (113-45) is considered the best in Negro League history. Using a no-windup delivery, his fastball was sensational, claimed by some to be better than Satchel’s.
But he wasn’t a one-pitch expert. His curveball was said to be quicker than others’ fastballs. And he tossed in forkballs, palmballs, and spitballs (then legal) to make things even tougher on the batters he faced.
As a hitter, Rogan was almost as good. From 1922 to 1930, he topped the .400 plateau twice and .330 five other times. In 1924, he led the Negro National League with 16 home runs. In that year’s first Black World Series, he proved his flexibility. He started four games on the mound in the 10-game series, going 2-1-1 with a 2.57 ERA. In the other six games, he played the outfield and batted .325.
In 1926, as both a pitcher and manager, Rogan faced one of his toughest challenges. In the league championship contests, he batted .583 and started both games of a final doubleheader; however, he was bested twice by Willie Foster. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998.
Here are Bullet Joe Rogan's Negro League statistics*:
*Note: Rogan’s career statistics are incomplete.
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