Career: 1916-1928 (player); 1942-1955 (manager)
Positions: 2b, ss, 3b, 1b, of, manager
Teams: West Baden Sprudels (1915), Louisville
Sox (1915), St. Louis Giants (1916), Indianapolis ABCs (1916), Hilldale Daisies (1917-1922), Atlantic City Bacharach Giants (1918, 1923), military service (1918), Lincoln Giants (1920), Richmond Giants (1923), Brooklyn Royal Giants (1923-1925), Harrisburg Giants (1925), Philadelphia Tigers (1926, 1928), Chappie Johnson's Stars (1927), Brooklyn Cuban Giants, Ethiopian Clowns (1942), Cincinnati Clowns (1943), Indianapolis Clowns (1952-1955)
Height: 5' 5' Weight: 158
Died: North Carolina
The short little second baseman was a hustler who always got the most from his talent. He started his professional baseball career in the Midwest in 1915, joined the Indianapolis ABCs in 1916, and traveled East to play with Hilldale the following season. A good bunter and hit-and-run man, he was placed in the second slot in the batting order to utilize these skills.
He had a very light complexion and, when he played with the Bacharachs in 1918, it was alleged (but unproven) by the press that he had been on the roster of a major-league club. With the Bacharachs he formed a double-play combination with Dick Lundy, with whom he had played previously in Jacksonville, Florida. A smart player, the Morehouse College man was the captain of Hilldale's team and batting .286 when he was drafted into military service late in the 1918 season. After his discharge, he returned to Hilldale and continued his sterling glovework while hitting .245. While a good fielder, he was only a fair base runner and a fair hitter, usually batting in the lower part of the order. He still managed averages of .379, .279, and .282 and 1920-1922, when the team was still playing as an independent ballclub.
When the Eastern Colored League organized In 1923, Hilldale joined the league, but Downs left the fold after an incident in Philadelphia, where he shot and killed a woman who was trying to shoot him. After being dispatched by Hilldale, he joined another Eastern Colored League club, the Brooklyn Royal Giants. With the Royals he alternated hitting in the second and sixth spots in the batting order, while his average dropped to .263 and .226 in 1924-1925. But he was still recognized as one of the best black second basemen in the game in 1924 and was highly regarded by the press. His last year as an active player in the Negro Leagues was in 1928, when he played with the Philadelphia Tigers, an ill-fated entry in the Eastern Colored League during their last season before imploding. The veteran infielder could play any infield position, and often also played shortstop or third base as well as at the keystone sack. In later years, as business manager with the Indianapolis Clowns, he scouted and helped develop a youngster named Hank Aaron. After retiring from baseball, Downs supervised an apartment complex in New York City.
Source: James A. Riley, The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues, New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc., 1994.