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Negro Leagues
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Negro Leagues Legacy

Stars of the Negro Leagues

The Bullet
Rogan was versatile in Negro Leagues
By Brian Wilson/MLB.com

Born: July 28, 1889, Oklahoma City, Okla.
Died: March 4, 1967, Kansas City, Mo.
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Hall of Fame induction: 1998

His bat was too important to keep out of the lineup. His arm was too deadly to keep off the mound. As a result, Wilbur "Bullet" Rogan became one of the most versatile players in the Negro Leagues.

Ironically, the diminutive Rogan, whose height ranges from 5-foot-6 to 5-foot-9 depending on the source, was a catcher as a youth -- the only position he failed to play as a professional. His pro career got off to a late start, as he played on U.S. Army teams until joining the Kansas City Monarchs at the age of 30.

He wielded a heavy bat that produced equally weighty numbers over his 11 seasons with Kansas City. He hit over .300 (twice over .400) from 1922-1930 while often hitting cleanup for the Monarchs. He led them in homers and stolen bases three times. He compiled a .339 batting average, 10th among all Negro Leaguers.

As a pitcher, Bullet led the league in wins twice. Armed with a great fastball, curve and control, he had a .721 winning percentage (111-43) in the Negro Leagues.

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Monarchs pitcher Chet Brewer held Rogan in particularly high regard, believing that Rogan should have been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame before Satchel Paige.

Hall of Fame manager Casey Stengel referred to Rogan as "one of the best -- if not the best -- pitcher that ever pitched," and referred him to Monarchs owner J.L. Wilkinson.

Rogan and his Monarchs drove the mainstream baseball establish bonkers. In a 1921 series against the Kansas City Blues of the American Association, the Monarchs won five of six. The city's white newspaper, the Kansas City Star matter-of-factly crowned them with a story topped with the headline "The New City Champions" -- almost shocking considering the social mores of the time.

The article contained a passage stating that white fans' "eyes are open now to the fact that it isn't lack of ability that keeps the Negro ballplayers off the big time -- its color."

It was all apparently too much for American Association president Thomas J. Hickey. According to the book, Black Baseball in Kansas City by Larry Lester and Sammy J. Miller, Hickey decided to ban "interleague" competitions -- putting an end to any more embarrassing defeats.

The Monarchs followed that series with a defeat of Babe Ruth's All-Stars.

Rogan proved how good he was against Major League talent, batting .329 in 25 games. Even at an advanced age he was productive, smacking three hits and swiping a bag against Bob Feller's All-Stars -- when he was 48.

Rogan went on to manage after his playing days, and even umpired before ending his career in 1946. He stayed in Kansas City, working for the post office. He died in 1967, at the age of 77.

Rogan was posthumously inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998.

Brian Wilson is an editor/producer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.