Samuel Thomas Hughes
Nickname: Sammy T.
Positions: 2b, ss, 1b
Teams: Louisville White Sox (1929-1931), Washington Pilots (1932), Nashville Elite Giants (1933-1934), Columbus Elite Giants (1935), Washington Elite Giants (1936-1937), Baltimore Elite Giants (1938-1940, 1942, 1946), Mexican League (1941), military service (1943-1946)
Height: 6' 3'' Weight: 190
Born: October 20, 1910, Louisville, Kentucky
Died: August 9, 1981, Los Angeles, California
Tall and graceful, he was a complete ball-player and was considered the premier second baseman of the Negro National League. A magnificent fielder with a wide range and a strong arm who excelled on the double play, the agile keystoner could do it all. A well-rounded ballplayer, he had no weakness. In addition to his picture-perfect work afield, he was also a good base runner and a solid hitter. A thinking man's player, Hughes was a consistent contact hitter who excelled on the hit-and-run play and was a good bunter, which made him an excellent number-two batter in the lineup.
A tough competitor, the rangy right-handed batter hit with good extra-base power, but mostly doubles. Although he could reach the fences, his home-run production was not sufficiently consistent for him to be considered a home-run threat. Playing with the Elite Giants in the Negro National League, he recorded batting averages of .355, .353, .319, .302, .345, and .254 for the seasons 1935-1940. The following season, the smooth second sacker was lured south of the border to Mexico, where he batted .324 with Torreon.
During his sixteen-year career Sammy was selected to the East-West All Star team more than any other second baseman. The flashy fielder compiled a respectable .263 batting average during the five years that he faced All Star pitching. Representing the Elite Giants when they were in Nashville, Columbus, Washington, and Baltimore, he was on the West squad twice (1934-1935) and on the East Squad three times (1936-1939).
In 1936 he was also selected to the Negro National League All Star team that entered the Denver Post Tournament and breezed through the competition so easily that they were told not to come back. Hughes hit a cool .379 for the tournament.
In 1942 the star keystoner hit a heavy .301 and fielded brilliantly to spark the Elites in a fierce pennant battle with the Homestead Grays that went down to the wire. During this time, a reporter for the People's Voice newspaper wired him that a tryout with the Pittsburgh Pirates had been tentatively arranged for Hughes, Roy Campanella, and Dave Barnhill. The three players jumped at the chance and left the Elites to showcase in a game against the Toledo Mudhens. However, the two players from the Elites did not get permission from their owner beforehand and were fined and benched temporarily. Hughes was quickly reinstated, but Campanella jumped to Mexico, and the Elites lost out in the final week of the pennant race after losing the services of their young catcher.
Not long afterward, Hughes's baseball career was interrupted by World War II. He served in the Army with the 196th Support Battalion during the invasion of New Guinea. He was discharged early in 1946 but, after returning from three years in the service, he held out for more money, asking for an additional $1,500 per month. He remained at home in Los Angeles, while the Elites were floundering in early June, but eventually signed with the club. However, the super second sacker played only a short time, hitting .277 in his last year to close out a career as the best second baseman in black baseball during the 1930s and early 1940s. He finished with a lifetime batting average of .296 in the Negro Leagues and also is credited with an average of .353 in exhibitions against major leaguers. During his last season he tutored Junior Gilliam as his replacement at second base for the Elites.
As a youngster Hughes attended school in Louisville, completing the eighth grade before dropping out, and learned to play baseball in that city, making his professional debut with the Louisville White Sox in 1929. After two seasons of independent play, the White Sox entered the Negro National League for the 1931 season. The following season the tall infielder signed with the East-West League's Washington Pilots as a first baseman, but when manager Frank Warfield died suddenly, he was moved to the vacated second-base position. After the Pilots encountered financial difficulty and the franchise folded, Hughes signed with Tom Wilson's Elites and remained with the organization for the remainder of his Negro League career. After leaving baseball he worked for the Pillsbury Company and the Hughes Aircraft Company in Los Angeles.
Source: James A. Riley, The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues, New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc., 1994.