Shortstop Lundy may join greats in Hall
Negro League fielder had 'an exceptionally strong arm'
Ask people to name the best shortstop in the history of black baseball, and their debate centers on whether John Henry Lloyd, Willie Wells or Dick Lundy earn that distinction.
The easy answer, of course, is either Lloyd or Wells, because their excellence has already been acknowledged. Both men have plaques in Cooperstown.
Now, Lundy, whom some people insist was the best of the three, finds himself with a chance to join them there. He is among the 39 players and executives from black baseball who are being considered for induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
A 12-member panel of baseball historians and Negro League experts will pour over the statistics and review the literary and anecdotal evidence to decide who among the 39 candidates is most deserving of induction. The panel will announce its decisions Feb. 27 in Tampa.
Nobody should be surprised if one of the people the panel picks is Lundy, who bridged the careers of Lloyd and Wells.
"A superb fielder with a wide range and an exceptionally strong arm that allowed him to play a deep shortstop, the graceful Lundy polished his skills with quiet professionalism," wrote James A. Riley in "The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues."
"A great showman who thrived on pressure and performed his most amazing feats with ease in front of large crowds. ..."
But like Lloyd and Wells, Lundy was a lot more than a flashy fielder. A switch-hitter with speed, he possessed power and a keen eye. He reeled off seasons with the Atlanta City Bacharach Giants of .484, .335, .310, .363, .273, .347, .341, .409 and .336 from 1921 to 1929.
"I wish I could paint that Lundy white," legendary manager John McGraw once said.
McGraw went on to call Lundy the best shortstop, aside from Hall of Famer Honus Wagner, who ever lived. Lundy also might have been the smartest.
Lundy attended Cookman Institute in Florida before he joined the Bacharach Giants in 1915. He served as the team's captain during its powerhouse years of the "Roaring Twenties."
His skills at leading men and his baseball smarts eventually earned him the manager's job in 1926, and over the next three years, Lundy led the Bacharach Giants to two Eastern Colored League pennants.
He finished his career in black baseball with a lifetime average of .330. He also compiled a .341 average in eight seasons in the Cuban Winter League, and he batted .344 in exhibition games against Major League players.
During his career, Lundy played a major role in the development of Wells and Ray Dandridge, two Hall of Fame infielders. After Lundy ended his playing days, he remained in black baseball as a manager of coach until 1948.
How good was Lundy as a player?
It's a question that Negro League expert John B. Holway tried to answer in his book, "Blackball Stars: Negro League Pioneers."
"Satchel Paige, who did not see Lloyd but did see Willie Wells, liked Wells at-bat but Lundy in the field," Holway wrote.
"'It looked like he knew where you were going to hit the ball,' Paige said. 'He was just like Lou Boudreau.'"
Wells, Lloyd and Lou Boudreau -- Hall of Famers all.
And Lundy ... ?
"There's nobody in the big leagues could beat Lundy playing shortstop," Holway quoted first baseman Napoleon "Chance" Cummings as saying. "Nobody. Hans Wagner? Yeah, I've seen him play. And Joe Cronin. I didn't think he was such a heck of a shortstop because he had to do this -- go down on one knee when he fielded a ball. I've seen shortstops come and go, but Dick Lundy was my favorite."
Justice B. Hill is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.