Generally considered black baseball’s premier second baseman, Hughes was a crack defensive player with wide range and a strong arm. The 6’3″ 190-lb righthanded batter was a solid contact hitter and a proficient hit-and-run man who had occasional power. His good baserunning and tough, intelligent style of play made him a complete ballplayer.
A native of Louisville, KY, Hughes began his pro career with the local black White Sox in 1930. After spending 1932 with the Washington Pilots, he joined the Elite Giants in 1933. With the exception of 1941, which he spent in Mexico, Hughes stayed with the Elites until his retirement.
From 1930 through 1937, Hughes batted .333. In the 1937 Denver Post Baseball Tournament, he batted .379. In 10 exhibition games with white major leaguers, he collected 16 hits for a .390 average.
Hughes started the 1934 and 1935 East-West all-star games for the West, and the 1936, 1938, and 1939 contests for the East. He batted .263 (5-for-19) in his five all-star appearances.
Two things eluded Hughes. The first was a Negro League championship. The closest he came was 1936, when his Washington Elite Giants won the NNL first-half crown and faced the second-half winners, the Pittsburgh Crawfords. The league championship series was canceled after one game. The Giants won that contest, 2-0.
The second thing to elude Hughes was an opportunity to enter organized baseball. In 1943, Hughes and Roy Campanella were to receive tryouts with the Pittsburgh Pirates, but the opportunity never materialized. Along with Larry Doby, Monte Irvin, Sam Jethroe, and others who eventually made the major leagues, Hughes was promoted by Negro League sportswriters as a candidate for the integration of baseball. By the time Branch Rickey tabbed Jackie Robinson, Hughes was long past his prime.