Willie Wells

Willie James Wells
Inducted to the Hall of Fame in: 1997
Primary team: St. Louis Stars
Primary position: Shortstop

The only woman elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Effa Manley, called Willie Wells “The finest shortstop, black or white”. Wells played in an era where the color of his skin kept him out of the Major Leagues, but Wells had a very successful career in baseball’s Negro leagues and Canada, as well as Mexico and Cuba where he played against white major leaguers. It was during his time in Mexico that he was christened with the nick name “El Diablo”. Because of his unbelievable play at the shortstop position the players in the Mexican League began to say “don’t hit it to shortstop because ‘El Diablo” plays there”. Cool Papa Bell recalled “The shortstops I’ve seen, Wells could cover ground better than any of them. Willie Wells was the greatest shortstop in the world”

During his twenty plus year career on the diamond, Wells was the epitome of the term “five-tool player”. He could hit for average and power, run and was a tremendous defensive shortstop with a wonderfully accurate arm. Tigers Hall of Fame second baseman Charlie Gehringer called him “the kind of player you always wanted on your team, he played the way all great players play - with everything he had."

During his career Wells was selected to play in the annual East-West All-Star Game eight times, despite the fact that the game didn’t begin until 1933, and Wells had already played nine full seasons of pro-ball. He also led the Chicago American Giants to back-to-back pennants in two different leagues, capturing the Negro Southern League title in 1932 and then the inaugural pennant of the new Negro National League the following season. Wells was also part of the Newark Eagles famed “million dollar infield” in the late 1930s alongside future Hall of Famers Mule Suttles and Ray Dandridge. Shortly before his death in 1989 Wells recalled "I just wanted to be the best. I never wanted to lose."

Wells was also a mentor to younger players including Jackie Robinson and Monte Irvin. Irvin recalled “Wells showed me everything he knew. We talked about hitting—he was a really good curve ball hitter—about moving around on different pitchers, especially left-handers, moving up in the box, moving back, trying to throw the pitcher off, trying to take a peek back to see how the catcher is holding his target in a close game”.

"I didn't want to do anything but play baseball. That was my life and it was good to me. Baseball is still nothing but hit the ball and catch the ball. "
Willie Wells

Career stats

ESSENTIAL STATS
Year Inducted: 1997
Primary Team: St. Louis Stars
Position Played: Shortstop
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Birth place: Austin, Texas
Birth year: 1908
Died: 1989, Austin, Texas
CAREER AT A GLANCE
GamesG
NA
At BatsAB
2824
RunsR
629
HitsH
905
Doubles2B
166
Triples3B
47
Home RunsHR
100
RBIRBI
353
Stolen BasesSB
90
WalksBB
271
Batting AverageBA
.320
OPSOPS
.899
On Base %OBP
.380
Slugging %SLG
.519