Malarcher was a speedy, switch-hitting Negro Leaguer, particularly effective in the clutch. A smart, disciplined, and well-conditioned athlete, he was called “Gentleman Dave” because of his gentle, cultured, soft-spoken nature. He never smoked or drank alcohol, never argued with umpires, and was never ejected from a game. His philosophy was, “Education should discipline the mind, and the mind should discipline the body.”
Malarcher was born and raised in Louisiana, the youngest of ten children. His mother was a former slave who learned to read and write despite having no formal education, and emphasized the importance of education to her children. Malarcher graduated from the University of New Orleans (now Dillard), where he played third base and captained and managed the baseball team. He performed for the black semi-pro New Orleans Eagles before joining the Indianapolis ABC’s in 1916.
In 1918 Malarcher served in France and then played in the American Expeditionary Force’s league. Upon discharge he joined the Detroit Stars, and in 1920 he became a member of Rube Foster‘s Chicago American Giants in the newly formed Negro National League. He remained with the American Giants as a player and manager until his retirement. Generally regarded as the NNL’s premier third baseman during his playing days, the 5’7″ 145-lb Malarcher became its top manager after replacing Foster in 1926.
Statistics available show that Malarcher batted .250 in postseason championship play and scored 26 times on 31 hits. He scored 16 runs on 15 hits in Black World Series play. He was the leading run scorer for the 1926 and 1927 Black World Champion American Giants, and he topped the team in stolen bases four consecutive seasons (1923-26). He led his club with a .326 batting average in 1925. In six exhibition games played in 1917 and 1923, he hit white major league pitchers for a .368 average.
Malarcher was truly a clutch player. In what he described as his greatest thrill in baseball, before a crowd of 10,000 in Chicago on August 16, 1922, Malarcher singled home Christobel Torriente in the bottom of the 20th inning to give his club a 1-0 win over Atlantic City’s Bacharach Giants. And in another clutch moment, in the seventh game of the 1926 Black World Series with the score tied in the bottom of the ninth, he beat out an infield hit, stole second, took third on a passed ball, and scored the game-winning run on John Hines’s two-out single. In the ninth inning of the final game, he sacrificed Jelly Gardner into position to score the series-winning run on Sandy Thompson’s single. He also scored game-winners in two 1927 BWS contests as Chicago took their second straight title.
In 1928, Malarcher managed his club to the 1928 NNL title series, where they lost to the St. Louis Stars, five games to four. He sat out for two years before returning to the American Giants in 1931, and led them to the 1932 Negro Southern League pennant.
In Malarcher’s final two seasons, championship claims were marked by controversy. The 1933 NNL schedule was not completed. Chicago won the first half and defeated the NSL New Orleans Crescent Stars in a set of games billed as the Black World Series. However, NNL president Gus Greenlee later awarded the pennant to his own Pittsburgh Crawfords. In 1934, the Philadelphia Stars were awarded the NNL crown after beating Chicago, four games to three, in the championship series. The American Giants disputed this claim because of a protested loss upon which no action was ever taken.
Malarcher initiated the use of black umpires in NNL contests. A real estate broker, he was also a published poet who wrote about baseball, mankind, and history. After his wife’s death in 1946, he wrote a tribute to their love, one of three book-length poems he penned. At the age of 52, he returned to school to learn more about real estate. He formed a scholarship fund for his parents’ descendants, naming it after his mother.