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Before Lorenzo Cain… there was Archie Ware

Jacob Bembry: Greene Publishing, Inc.

Before Lorenzo Cain ever became a World Series champion with the Kansas City Royals, another Madison Countian won the World Series and played in the Series three times.

It is sad when you are a World Series champion, and a three-time baseball All-Star, and should be remembered along with the greats of the game, such as Jackie Robinson, Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, and Lou Gehrig. If Archie Virgil Ware, a left-hander, had played first base for the New York Yankees, he may not have gained the status of the “Iron Man” of baseball, but history would have been more kind to Ware. As it is, however, even his statistics seem not to have been kept very well, but more on that later.

Ware was born in the community of Greenville in a month made for baseball, as the man who would later grow to 5’9” and 160 pounds, was himself. Ware entered the world on June 18, 1918.

Nothing appears to tell anyone about Ware’s formative years in his hometown, or any schooling or military service. As a 24-year-old, though, the world finds Ware, first in Cincinnati, Ohio, and then in Cleveland, playing baseball, but the teams he played for were not the Cincinnati Reds or the Cleveland Indians; but rather, the Cincinnati Buckeyes, who later became the Cleveland Buckeyes. If you have never heard of the Cleveland Buckeyes, maybe it’s because they played in the Negro League, the Negro American League to be more precise.

The Negro League was where African-American players had to play ball before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, allowing black players into Major League Baseball.

When one looks at the statistics kept for Ware, they will think that he may have been a mediocre player at best, but the numbers do not match up with the number of games played, or what would have had to have been the number of at bats that Ware would have recorded, or his actual number of hits, stolen bases, and homeruns, not to mention his batting average. Remember, baseball statistics, like history, were not so kind to Archie Ware, not because he did not have the stats, but because somewhere in the faded pages of history, they became crinkled and torn and lost to the ages.

It is not until he was 33 years old that we find any proper statistics for Ware. By that time, Jackie Robinson had been playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers for six years, and Archie Ware finally had his shot at the Majors, and was playing for the Farnham Pirates’ Minor League team in the Provincial League. The Pirates were a Class C team and Ware’s career was waning at that point.

A look at the sparse statistics for Archie Ware in the Negro American League shows that:

In 1942, Ware had 23 plate appearances, and 21 at bats. He had five hits, including one homerun, and two bases on balls. He had four RBIs (runs batted in), a .238 batting average, a .381 slugging percentage, and a .304 on base percentage. He had eight total bases and one run.

In 1943, Ware had 29 plate appearances and 29 at bats recorded. He got six hits, including one double, and one triple. One RBI is recorded for him. The batting average and on base percentage shown for him are both a lowly .207, not indicative of the All-Star career he enjoyed.  He had a .310 slugging percentage recorded, and nine total bases.

In 1944, 38 plates appearances and 34 at bats are shown. His batting average is still low at .206. His on base percentage is shown to be .289 and his slugging percentage is .264. Four RBIs are shown, along with seven hits, two doubles, four bases on balls. He had a total of nine total bases and six runs recorded for that season.

In 1945, records indicate that Ware was at bat 39 times and recorded 35 at bats. He scored six runs and had eight RBIs with a .257 batting average, a .316 on-base percentage, and a .286 slugging percentage. He had nine hits, including a double, six runs, was walked three times, and had nine total bases recorded.

In 1946, stats show Ware going to bat 27 times on 29 plates appearances. He scored five runs on 10 hits, including a double, had four RBIs, a .370 batting average and a .370 on-base percentage, with a .407 slugging average. He had 11 total bases recorded.

In 1947, records show Ware making 44 plates appearances and going to bat 38 times. He scored eight runs, and had 13 hits, including two doubles and a homerun. A total of 11 RBIs are recorded for him. He was walked three times. He had a .342 batting average, a .390 on-base percentage, a .474 slugging average, and 19 total bases.

In 1948, 24 plates appearances and 23 at bats are recorded for Ware. He had five runs on nine hits that season, including a double, and two RBIs. He was walked one time. He had a .391 batting average, a .417 on-base percentage, and a .435 slugging average.

In between playing baseball in the Negro Leagues, Ware played winter ball in Venezuela with the Navegantes del Magallanes team in the 1947-48 season and in Panama for the Spur Cola Colonites in 1951, playing in the 1951 Caribbean Series (the equivalent of the World Series) for the Colonites. In 1945, Ware played on the Buckeyes’ World Series championship team, and in 1947 played on the Negro American League pennant-winning team, which lost to the Cuban Giants in the World Series.

The year 1951 finds Ware in the Class C Minor League playing for the Pirates in Farnham, Quebec, Canada. Proper statistics are kept that season and we find that the southpaw first baseman had 113 at bats on 439 plate appearances. He hit 10 doubles, a triple, and six homeruns. He had a batting average of .257 and a slugging percentage of .326. He had 156 total bases for the year. He played in 122 games.

In Ware’s final season in baseball, he is found playing Class A Minor League baseball for the Lewiston Broncs in the Western International League. Playing for the farm team based in Idaho, Ware played in 15 games. He had 12 hits in 42 at bats. His batting average was .286 and his slugging average was .310. He had 13 total bases.

Ware died in Los Angeles, Ca., on Dec. 13, 1990, at the age of 72.

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