‘Gentleman Dave’ became legendary in Negro Leagues

By Ryan Whirty

Soon after the National Baseball Hall of Fame announced that the famous Satchel Paige would in 1971 become the first Negro League player to enter the hallowed halls of Cooperstown, Convent native David Malarcher reacted with jubilation.

In a June 17, 1972, letter from his post-retirement Chicago real estate business to other former Negro Leaguers in the Windy City, Malarcher wrote:

“No. 1, the history of Negro baseball players reveals the fact that members and peoples of the Negro race in America were engaged in and starring in baseball as long as the game has been been played here,” he wrote.

“And now,” he added, “the efforts of the National Baseball Hall of Fame to include all professional baseball players in its records and history is a valiant demonstration of its will to ‘right the wrong’ done the Negro player in this phase of American sport.”

Paradoxically, though, while dozens of Negro Leaguers have since been inducted into Cooperstown and popular knowledge and awareness of blackball’s existence and legacy has skyrocketed, Malarcher himself remains, in the minds of many observers and historians, one of the most underappreciated and overlooked figures in Negro Leagues history.

Malarcher’s greatness as a player and manager has somehow flown under the radar and has only recently started coming to light in his native Pelican State. In 2015, the Triple-A New Orleans Zephyrs inducted him into their New Orleans Professional Baseball Hall of Fame, an honor that’s now being duplicated by the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.

On Saturday, June 25 in Natchitoches, Malarcher will be enshrined as part of the 11-member Class of 2016 in ceremonies at the Natchitoches Events Center, just a long fly ball away from the $23 million Hall of Fame museum.

“Oh my goodness, I’m very proud of him, and not only me, but the entire family,” said Malarcher’s grand nephew, Alvin Malarcher. “I never even though about [his uncle being honored]. And now he’s being elected for another hall of fame. This is really just another great, great honor for the family.”

Editor’s note – This is one in a series profiling the 11 members of the Class of 2016 being enshrined Saturday, June 25 in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame. Competitive ballot inductees are P.J. Brown, Jim Hightower, Rick Jones, “Gentleman” Dave Malarcher, Janice Joseph-Richard, Ben Sheets, Arthur “Red” Swanson, and Anthony Thomas. Contributor inductees are Dr. Julian Bailes, Jim Hawthorne and Bob Tompkins. A schedule of events from June 23-25, along with online sales for tickets and golf entries, is available at LaSportsHall.com, with information also available by calling 318-238-4255.