Teams Include: Brooklyn Royal Giants, Cuban Stars, Stars of Cuba, All Nations, Chicago American Giants, Detroit Stars, Kansas City Monarchs, 1908-1926
Jose Mendez was a small pitcher (5'8", 160 pounds) with a terrifying fastball and an amazing curve. He reportedly once killed a teammate when an errant batting practice fastball hit the batter in the chest. With his deceptive speed, Mendez earned the respect and praise of Hall of Famers from John McGraw to Pop Lloyd. His success in his several appearances against major-league stars was dramatic.
Christy Mathewson was the most feared
and famous pitcher of the dead-ball era.
But Mendez beat Mathewson in a 1910
match-up, and again in 1911.
Jose de la Caridad Mendez (1887-1928) earned his nickname "El Diamante Negro" ("The Black Diamond") in his native Cuba, and he became the first international star from that island. He was one of the first group of players elected to the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939. His career Cuban League record was 76-28, and he ranks first in that league's history in career winning percentage (minimum of 40 wins) at .731.
During Mendez's first Cuban League season (January through March 1908), he went 9-0, helping his Almendares Blues to the Cuban League pennant. That summer, he made his United States debut with the Brooklyn Royal Giants. But it was when he returned to Cuba in the fall of 1908 that he began to turn heads.
The Cincinnati Reds were touring Cuba, and when they came up against Mendez, they faced the best. He threw 25 consecutive scoreless innings (two starts and one seven-inning relief performance), allowing only eight hits and three walks in total while fanning 24 Reds batters.
Not long afterward, Mendez's team went up against a minor league all-star team from Florida, and Mendez added two more shutouts (one a no-hitter) for a total of 43 consecutive scoreless frames against major- and minor-league competition.
For the next six seasons, Mendez was fearsome in both Cuban and American baseball. He led his Almendares team to pennants three of the next six years, and he personally led the league in pitching wins three times, with two undefeated seasons. With the Independent Cuban Stars in the United States in 1908 and 1909, he reportedly posted a 44-2 record, including a 10-inning no-hitter in 1909.
In 1911, Mendez went up against pitching legend Smokey Joe Williams of the New York Lincoln Giants at Highlanders Park for the colored championship of the world. Williams allowed no hits for nine innings, while Mendez yielded only two. Mendez took home the win in extra innings.
In 1914, Mendez's arm gave out on him, ending his pitching career. After a few years as a shortstop for several teams, he joined J.L. Wilkinson's Kansas City Monarchs. As manager, shortstop, and occasional pitcher, Mendez led his team to pennants in 1923, '24, and '25. In 1923, he posted a 12-4 record. He starred in the first Negro League World Series in 1924 against the Hilldale Club. Mendez was selected to the Hall of Fame by the Special Committee on Negro Leagues in 2006.
Jose Mendez's statistics are unavailable.
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