Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Larry Kimbrough - Switch hitter and switch pitcher

Larry Nathaniel Kimbrough (Schoolboy)

Negro Leagues debut: 1941

Born: September 23, 1923, Philadelphia, PA
Died: January 29, 2001 in West Philadelphia (Aged 77)
Height: 5'10"
Weight: 195

Positions: P, INF, OF
Batted: Both
Threw: Both (ambidextrous)
Natural-born lefthander


"I enjoyed playing in the Leagues and having the ability to pitch right- and left-handed."
- Larry Kimbrough

Hall of Fame

Larry Kimbrough was a star pitcher in the old Negro Baseball League and a member of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame. In 1997, School Boy was inducted into the Negro Baseball Hall of Fame in Kansas City. 

Workhorse Pitcher

Bob Motley began umpiring Negro Leagues games in the mid-1940s. He later wrote about the many star players he saw from his unique perspective as part of the games.

"Some Negro League pitchers," he wrote, "were such workhorses that they'd even pitch both games of a doubleheader. Larry Kimbrough of the Philadelphia Stars was ambidextrous; he'd pitch the first nine-inning game of a doubleheader right-handed and then the second seven-inning game left-handed (or vice versa)." Pitchers in those days had no idea whatsoever of such a thing as a pitch count," Motley wrote.

(source: Negro Leagues Baseball By Roger A. Bruns)




Larry Kimbrough "Switch Player"

There have been many switch hitters through the years and, occasionally, a player has come along who can throw both ways. Switch hitting is encourages, but for some reason switch pitching is not. It's a lot more difficult than switch hitting, so perhaps that's one reason it's not considered an asset.

As the result of a childhood injury, Larry Kimbrough became both a switch hitter and a switch pitcher, and he carried those abilities all the way to the only major leagues available to a black ballplayer in the early 1940s: the Negro Leagues. With his unique talents, he played everywhere: pitcher, infield, outfield and even catch on the sandlots after his professional career was over.

Had baseball not been segregated, a lot of major league fans would have paid good money to see Larry Kimbrough perform.

When you pitched, was it left, right, or both?

Let me tell you how this started. I played at Ben Franklin High School. We were playing the powerhouse of the school league, Northeast High. I started the game and pitched right-handed; 'long about the middle of the lineup, a left-hander comes up. I called time and I told the coach, "Throw me my other glove, will you?" The guy was a left-hander, good power hitter. So he threw me out my glove and I got him out o a deep fly ball.

They couldn't understand. "Is he pitching left-handed and right-handed?" I was practicing all the time and this was a good time to try it. I went on to beat 'em that day.

Everybody complained. "You can't do that," I said, "Why can't I?" There was nothing in the rules that said I couldn't. There was nothing in the rules that said you couldn't switch hit, was there? I switch hit, too. First game I ever played (in high school), I think I hit two home runs –– one left and one right. I was the talk of the town then, you might say. Everybody wanted to see me.

source: The Negro Leagues Revisited
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Larry N. Kimbrough, 77, Mailman, Baseball Star - Philly.com

Through the 1940s and 1950s, Kimbrough pitched and played some outfield in the Negro Baseball League with the Philadelphia Stars and Homestead Grays.
He could hit or pitch left- or right-handed, a talent that resulted from childhood injuries in which at different times his left arm, then his right, were in casts for up to six months.
He was a star pitcher at Benjamin Franklin High School where he drew the attention of a scout after hurling a no-hitter.
The scout offered Kimbrough, then 17, a contract to play for a Negro National League team but Kimbrough said he wanted to finish school.
From then on he had the nickname, "School Boy." He later attended Wilburforce University in Ohio for a year.
When he did break into the pros, the newspapers of the day described him as "a great find" who could "crank out home runs and pitch with either hand."
In 1997, School Boy was inducted into the Negro Baseball Hall of Fame in Kansas City. 



More about Kimbrough

Larry Kimbrough Profile - Negro Leagues Baseball Museum

Larry Kimbrough - Baseball-Reference.com

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References


The Negro Leagues Revisited: Conversations With 66 More Baseball Heroes

 By Brent P. Kelley

Motley, Bob. 2007. Ruling over Monarchs, Giants, and Stars: Umpiring in the Negro League and Beyond. Champaign, IL: Sports Publishing.

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