Dandridge, Raymond Emmett (“Squatty”)

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Dandridge, Raymond Emmett (“Squatty”)

(b. August 1913 in Richmond, Virginia; d. 12 February 1994 in Palm Bay, Florida), infielder in the Negro baseball leagues and Latin American leagues who was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1987 and to the Mexican Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989.

Dandridge was one of three children born to Archie Dandridge, a semiprofessional pitcher who also worked in a cigarette and textile manufacturing company, and Alberta Thompson. Dandridge attended George Mason School in Richmond until he was ten years old, when he and his two sisters went to live with their mother in Buffalo, New York. There Dandridge attended Public School 28 and played all sports, including Softball and baseball. He dropped out of school in the ninth grade but continued to attend vocational classes part-time at Elm High School for four years while playing softball for a local team. Soon after dropping out of high school, Dandridge began to play softball for the Jacobson and Pharmacy team.

At age eighteen the five-foot, seven-inch Dandridge, who was easily recognizable because of the bowlegged gait that earned him the nickname “Squatty,” moved back to his father’s home. In Richmond he played semiprofessional baseball for the All-Stars, the Violets, and the Paramounts. Dandridge played against other players, like Buck Leonard and Dave Barnhill, who also had distinguished careers in the Negro Leagues.

In 1933 the Detroit Stars came to Richmond to play an exhibition game against the Paramounts. The right-handed Dandridge impressed the Stars manager, who offered him a position on the team. However, the young baseball player was reluctant to accept the position until his father convinced him to do so. He received $60 a month plus a food allowance of $2 a day.

In his first season Dandridge experienced moderate success on the field. But the Stars organization went bankrupt, and Dandridge returned to Richmond. In the 1934 season he joined the Newark Dodgers. With that team he hit .333 from the right side of the plate and for the first time played third base, the infield position for which he became best known. Recognized on the field by his pillow-sized third base glove, he earned a place in the Negro Leagues All-Star East-West Game.

After his successful 1935 season Dandridge joined a team that barnstormed the East Coast. Including players like Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson, this team played against a team headlined by Dizzy Dean and his brother Paul Dean. During the off-season Dandridge for the first time traveled with a group of Negro Leagues all-star players to Latin America to play on a team that called itself the Brooklyn Eagles in the Puerto Rican winter league.

From 1936 to 1938 Dandridge played for the Newark Eagles during the regular season and returned to Latin America to play in the winter season. In 1936 he played in thirty-one games and finished the season with a .301 batting average. For the 1937 season Dandridge played in twenty-five games and compiled a .354 batting average. Also in 1937 he married Florence Copper on 1 October. The couple had three children.

Dandridge’s 1938 stint with the Eagles was brief, and he accepted an offer to play baseball in Caracas, Venezuela, for $350 a month. He stayed for two years and in 1939 led the Caracas team to a baseball title. He also played on the Mexican team in Veracruz and on the Cuban team in Cienfuegos during that year.

In 1940 the Mexican millionaire Jorge Pasquel recruited Dandridge to play for the Mexican league and paid him a $10,000 bonus. Dandridge used the bonus to purchase the home his family had rented in Newark, New Jersey. In 1942 he returned to the Eagles for a partial season, appearing in only twenty-seven games, and he remained in Mexico throughout the 1943 season. In 1944 Dandridge decided to return to the United States, and once again he spent a brief time with the Newark Eagles, playing in twenty-eight games. He finished the season with a batting average of .320 and again earned a place on the Negro Leagues all-star team. In 1945, Dandridge’s last year with the Newark Eagles, he made twenty-six appearances and completed the season with a .313 average.

Dandridge asked for a raise after the 1945 season, and the owner of the Eagles refused, not the first time Dandridge’s plea for a raise was turned down. Returning to the Mexican league, he served as a player-coach for the Mexico City Reds until 1948. He hit safely in thirty-two consecutive games and set a new Mexican league record. That year he returned to the United States to play briefly for the New York Cubans. In 1949 Dandridge entered the regular minor leagues, where he played four seasons with Minneapolis in the American Association and one year in the Pacific Coast League. In 1950, when Dandridge was thirty-seven years old, he hit .311 with eleven home runs and eighty runs batted in, which earned him the most valuable player award for the American Association. He spent the 1951 and 1952 seasons with Sacramento and Oakland in the Pacific Coast League. In Oakland he injured his arm in a collision with a catcher while both were chasing a foul ball and had to sit out the 1953 season. He joined a club in Bismarck, North Dakota, for the following two seasons and served as a player-manager. Dandridge retired following the 1955 season knowing he would never play in the major leagues.

In the 1950s and 1960s Dandridge lived in Newark, where he managed Dave’s Long Bar and two other establishments before serving as director of the John F. Kennedy Recreation Center in Newark for eight years. On 10 July 1966 he married Henrietta Newman. The Newark City Council on 14 August 1980 honored Dandridge with a resolution thanking him for his work with the city’s children. Five years later a ball diamond in Newark’s Westside Park was named the Raymond E. Dandridge, Sr., Baseball Field. In 1996 he was posthumously elected to the New Jersey Sports Hall of Fame.

In 1984 Dandridge and his wife retired to Palm Bay, Florida. On 3 March 1987 he received the news that he was selected for induction to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Two years later, in 1989, he was elected to the Mexican Baseball Hall of Fame. Dandridge died of prostate cancer and is buried in Fountainhead Memorial Park in Palm Bay.

Dandridge has been compared to the third basemen Brooks Robinson and William Julius “Judy” Johnson, Robinson’s counterpart in the Negro Leagues. Dandridge played in the Negro Leagues at a time when baseball was a segregated sport, therefore most experts never saw his on-field excellence. Unfortunately, when baseball was integrated, Dandridge’s age had become a factor. While he excelled in the integrated minor leagues, he never made it to the integrated major leagues. Baseball’s color line, which compensated white players more than black players, drove players like Dandridge from the Negro Leagues to Latin America, where the pay was better and racism was less prevalent. Dandridge’s memberships in two baseball halls of fame honor his achievements and his contributions to the sport in both North America and Latin America.

A biographical file at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, contains Dandridge’s personal information sheet, a record of his playing experiences and the teams he played for. The Baseball Encyclopedia (1996) lists the Negro Leagues records of Dandridge and other players. James A. Riley, Dandy, Day, and the Devil (1987), and John B. Holway, Blackball Stars: Negro League Pioneers (1988), each devotes an entire chapter to Dandridge’s Negro Leagues and Latin American playing careers. An obituary is in the New York Times (13 Feb. 1994).

Jon E. Taylor