Laymon Samuel Yokely
Nicknames: Norman, Corner Pocket, The Mysterious Shadow
Teams: Baltimore Black Sox (1926-1933), Atlantic City Bacharach Giants (1934), Philadelphia Stars (1934-1937, 1939), Washington Black Senators (1938), Edgewater Giants (1940-1943), Baltimore Elite Giants (1944)
Height: 6' 2'' Weight: 210
Born: May 30, 1906, Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Died: January, 1976, Baltimore, Maryland
The ace of the great Baltimore Black Sox staff of the late 1920s and early 1930s, Yokely was Leon Day's boyhood hero. The fastballer was credited with six no-hitters for the Black Sox. In 1929 he won 17 games to pitch the Sox to the American Negro League pennant. After his comeback from a sore arm, he appeared with the 1934 Negro National League champion Philadelphia Stars. In 1939 Yokely was credited with 25 wins with the Stars after already winning 15 with the semi-pro Bacharachs, giving him a total of 40 victories against all levels of competition for the season.
He attended Livingstone College in Salisbury, North Carolina, in 1925, and while in college he often hooked up in pitching duels with Bun Hayes, who pitched for J.C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina. Both hurlers were scouted and signed by the Baltimore Black Sox for the following season. Yokely continued his education in the off-season and was on the Black Sox' reserved list in 1929 while still in school in March of that season.
He was so popular with fans that he was called a matinee idol, and in 1926 he acquired the nicknames "Corner Pocket" Yokely and "The Mysterious Shadow." A downside to his popularity was that because so many fans wanted to see him pitch, he may have been overworked, shortening his career. After a few seasons of throwing his fastball at too-frequent intervals, his arm started to go bad. Initially the problem was manifested by an inability to pitch complete games, but soon progressed to a point where he began to lose effectiveness. Beginning in 1930, his decline in effectiveness accelerated, and within two years his arm was so bad that he was benched. Then he began pitching for the Baltimore Red Sox, a sandlot semi-pro team, and rumors abounded that he was "washed up," but he vowed to make a comeback. Black Sox skipper Dick Lundy promised him a chance, and in October 1932 Yokely faced his old college adversary Bun Hayes. Neither pitcher finished the game, but Yokely struck out 8 while allowing 11 hits in 6 innings. Although his team lost the game and he failed to reclaim his previous level of performance, he proved he could still pitch at a major-league level.
After his years with the Philadelphia Stars he pitched with the Edgewater Giants, a team of lesser status. In 1943 he won 13 straight games and earned a final shot with a league team in 1944, when he appeared with the Baltimore Elite Giants in 1944. The next season he formed his own ballclub, Yokely's All-Stars, and continued to operate the club until 1959, when he retired from baseball and opened Yokely's Shine Parlor on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Source: James A. Riley, The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues, New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc., 1994.