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Henry Spearman

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Henry Allen Spearman ("Big Splo"), born about 19101 in Arkadelphia, AR,2 was a Negro League baseball player from 1933-1946. He was the brother of Charles Spearman, Codie Spearman, Willie Spearman, Hayse Spearman, and Clyde Spearman. See Spearman Family.

Biography

Henry Spearman was the thirteenth of fourteen children born to Iverson Spearman and Fannie (nee Phifer) Spearman. He grew up near Arkadelphia, AR on the family's small rural farm.3 His first known engagement in professional baseball came in 1933 when he joined his older brothers Codie and Hayse as a member of the Butte Colored Giants. Codie's strong reputation as a player in Butte likely helped Henry and a number of other Arkadelphia natives earn a position on the team. Although the Colored Giants were an all-black team, they primarily played local, white, semi-pro competition. Henry, appearing frequently as a pitcher that season, struck out 20 batters in a game against the all-white Silver Bow Parks on June 25th.4 He returned to play with Butte in 1934, and having showed good power as a hitter, was moved to the outfield for the majority of the season. In mid June, he was counted among the league's top hitters,5 and September, he helped the Colored Giants defeat four white teams to capture the Butte Intercity League championship.6

Spearman's baseball career moved to the Negro Leagues in 1935 when he joined the New York Black Yankees. His connection to the Black Yankees perhaps came through his younger brother Clyde, who was a regular outfielder with the team. Henry performed well with the Black Yankees, hitting three homeruns during an August 4th double-header.7 At the close of the season, he became married to Adelaide Coleman, whom he wed on September 19th in New York City.8

In his sophomore year in Negro League baseball, Spearman shifted to the Homestead Grays and was transitioned into a third baseman. He had a fairly productive 1936 season, but was traded to the Pittsburgh Crawfords before the start of the 1937 season in a high-profile deal that included Hall of Famers Josh Gibson and Judy Johnson.9 After a year with Pittsburgh, he began 1938 with the newly formed Washington Black Senators. However, when the team failed by mid-season, he was again bought by the Homestead Grays.10 In 1939, Spearman helped lead the Grays to a runner-up finish in the Negro National League playoffs. That following winter, he traveled abroad to play in the 1939-1940 Cuban Winter League with his brother Clyde for Cienfuegos, hitting .276 in 127 at-bats.11

Spearman opened the 1940 season back with the New York Black Yankees, but joined the Baltimore Elite Giants late in the year to play in the 1940-1941 California Winter League. Competing against white teams, Spearman and the Elite Giants performed well and won the league championship.12 He was retained by Baltimore for the 1941 season, but failed to hit as well as previous seasons and was sold to the Philadelphia Stars early in the 1942 season.13 Spearman spent the next three seasons with Philadelphia and returned to an above-average hitter. In 1943, he was chosen to play in the annual North-South All-Star game,14 and during the winter, he joined the Kansas City Royals in the California Winter League.1516

Spearman began the 1945 season with the Brooklyn Brown Dodgers in the upstart United State Baseball League. When the team disbanded in July,17 Spearman briefly returned to the New York Black Yankees18 and then to Philadelphia Stars for the remainder of the season. However, his performance suffered considerably, and he played the final season of his Negro League career in 1946 back in the United States Baseball League as a first baseman with the Pittsburgh Crawfords.19

Spearman later lived in Asbury Park, NJ.20 It appears that he may have went missing around 1950. After seven years of disappearance, he was presumed dead in 1957.21

Spearman's son Leslie "Pete" Spearman22 was an all Big-8 Conference basketball player at Arkansas Baptist College.23

Excerpts

"Henry Allen Spearman, hard hitting all-round player who was traded to Pittsburgh Crawfords last winter is expected to don a Pittsburgh uniform sometime this week. Spearman held down third base for Homestead Grays last year but started out with his home team in Arcadelphia [sic], Ark., as a pitcher. Later he was shifted to the outfield and worked the hot corner for the first time with Homestead Gray doing a mighty fine job. Like all other Spearman’s, Henry hits hard and runs like a deer. The youngster and Gus Greenlee could not come to terms on salary early in the spring, and he remained out of harness. A new contract, carrying better figures, has been submitted and Spearman has indicated that he will sign and join the club immediately."24

"Upon Reading and filing the complaint of Adalaide Spearman, from which it appears that the said Henry Allen Spearman has absented himself for more than seven years from his last known residence which was at 101 Borden Avenue, in the township of Neptune, New Jersey. It is on this 8th day on January 1957, ORDERED that all persons interested show cause before this court in Monmounth County Courthouse, Freehold, New Jersey on the 8th day of February 1957, at ten o’clock in the in the forenoon why judgment should not be rendered, declaring Henry Allen Spearman to be dead, and that the said Henry Allen Spearman did not have any property, real or personal, life insurance, or any assets of any kind of description whatsoever."21

Stats

Statistics at Baseball-Reference.com.

Statistics at Seamheads.com