Bullet Joe Rogan

One of the Negro Leagues’ most versatile players, Rogan attained mastery both on the pitcher’s mound and at the plate. His career .721 winning percentage (111-43) is the highest recorded in Negro League history. In 11 seasons with the Kansas City Monarchs, he compiled a .339 batting average, 10th among all Negro Leaguers.

Rogan used a no-windup delivery and possessed a devastating fastball and an array of curveballs. He also threw a forkball, a palmball, and a legal spitter. Chet Brewer, another Monarch pitching great who played with Satchel Paige and Rogan, insisted that “Rogan should have been put in the Hall of Fame before Satchel. Rogan could throw a curveball faster than most pitchers could throw a fastball.” Paige once said Rogan “was the onliest pitcher I ever saw, I ever heard of… pitching and hitting in the clean-up place. He could throw as hard as Smokey Joe Williams.” Hall of Famer Judy Johnson said, “Satchel Paige was fast, but Rogan was smart.” Rogan was also regarded as the Negro Leagues‘ finest-fielding pitcher.

Rogan began as a catcher, but eventually played every position. He was a great low-ball and curveball hitter. He had thin but powerful legs and tremendously strong wrists, and would attack the ball with a smooth swing and a heavy bat. He helped the Kansas City, KS Giants to 54 consecutive wins in 1909 against semi-pro and local competition. In 1911 he began his pitching career with the 25th Infantry Wreckers army team. After nine years of army ball, he was discovered at age 30 by Casey Stengel, and referred to Monarchs owner J.L. Wilkinson.

As a Monarch in 1922, Rogan hit 13 home runs in 47 league games. He led the league with 16 victories and batted .411 in 1924. He then starred in the first Black World Series, against Hilldale. In the 10-game series, he went 2-1 (2.57) in four games, and played the outfield the other six, hitting .325. The following year he notched a league-high 14 wins to lead the Monarchs to another BWS. But a freak knee injury forced him to watch from the sidelines as his club lost the championship to Hilldale.

In 25 games against white major leaguers, Rogan batted .329. At the age of 48, he participated in his last such exhibition; playing left field against the Bob Feller All-Stars, he went 3-for-4 and stole a base. Dizzy Dean said, “Old Rogan was a showboat boy, a Pepper Martin-type ballplayer. He was one of those cute guys, never wanted to give you a good ball to hit.”