David D. Dawson tells the historic story of the Claybrook Tigers baseball team and their owner John C. Claybrook, in his film Swingin’ Timber. John C. Claybrook became one of the most successful Southern African Americans of his era and the Claybrook Tigers were a team in the Negro Leagues during the 1930s who became known as the “Champions of the South”.
John C. Claybrook was a lumberman and sawmill operator who built the town of Claybrook around his farming and logging businesses. The town of Claybrook – which is no longer around today, was in the Eastern part of Arkansas just thirty miles southwest of Memphis, Tennessee. At its peak, Claybrook had around twenty buildings, businesses and shops.
John spent $4,000.00 to build their stadium, Claybrook Park, on his farm. This effort was to prevent his son from leaving their family buisnessess. Claybrook Park would later become the main attraction to the town of Claybrook.
The Claybrook Tigers were back to back league champions of the Negro Southern League in 1935 and 1936. According to the Arkansas Baseball Encyclopedia, they have a known record of sixty-seven wins and thirty threes losses before they disbanded in 1937.
Claybrook’s rivals were the Memphis Red Sox who played at Martin Park in Memphis, Tennessee. The Red Sox had four players who moved up from the Negro Leagues to play in the Majors:
Dan Bankhead (Brooklyn Dodgers, 1947)
Jay Heard (Baltimore Orioles, 1953)
Marshall Bridges (New York Giants, 1953)
Bob Boyd (Chicago White Sox, 1950)
Other notable teams Claybrook played were the Pittsburgh Crawfords, Chicago American Giants, Cuban All-Stars, Cincinnati Tigers and the Kansas City Monarchs (Jackie Robinson, 1945).
Some of the most famous players for the Claybrook Tigers include: Theolic “Fireball” Smith who eventually went on to play for the San Diego Padres. Ted “Double Duty” Radcliffe who went on to play with the Kansas City Monarchs and became roommates with Jackie Robinson. Radcliffe also became a baseball scout for the Cleveland Indians in the 1960s. Logan “Slap, Eggie” Hensley who was one of the top pitchers in the Negro Leagues.
The event will be put on by the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center (MTCC) and the Department of Arkansas Heritage. The film will be held at MTCC on Saturday July 6 at 3:00 p.m. and free to the public.
MTCC’s auditorium seats 400 people and is part of the 35,000 square foot interior that also holds exhibits, classrooms and staff offices. This state-of-the-art museum complex was built after the original building was destroyed from by fire in March 2005.
For more information on MTCC visit www.mosaictemplarscenter.com