Louis Santop

Hall of Fame Inductee - 2006

Full Name: Louis "Top" Santop
Bats: Right Throws: Right
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 240 lbs.
Born: Jan 17, 1890 in Tyler, TX
Died: Jan 22, 1942 in Philadelphia, PA


  • Lou Santop was one of black baseball's earliest superstars, one of its highest paid players, and its first legitimate home run slugger. He played from 1909-'26 and was the starting catcher for several of the greatest black teams of the pre-league era including the Philadelphia Giants, New York Lincoln Giants, Brooklyn Royal Giants and Hilldale Daisies. In his prime, he was the biggest drawing card in black baseball.
  • Santop was the catching half of two of baseball's great batteries, teaming for several seasons with Smokey Joe Williams and Cannonball Dick Redding. He was noted for his strong arm behind the plate and for tape measure home runs at bat, perhaps best remembered for clearing a fence 485 feet from home plate in Elizabeth NJ in 1912.
  • In 1917 in a three-game series against a major league all star team, Santop raked Chief Bender and Bullet Joe Bush for six hits as his Hilldale squad won two of the three games. Historian James Riley's Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues reports a lifetime .316 batting average against major league pitching. The Diamond Angle.Com web site reports that in 14 exhibition games for which we have records, available statistics give him a .296 average against major league pitching.
  • His Negro leagues batting average, in the twilight of career, was .324. Ed Bolden and Oscar Charleston list Santop as their catcher, on their all time all-star teams.
  • Rollo Wilson, the Grantland Rice of black sports writers, who followed Santop's baseball exploits across his entire career, paints a vivid picture of the aging slugger in his twilight years, describing him in phrases such as "Santop and his arrogant swagger towards the plate when a hit means a run and mayhap the old ball game," and, "Santop tramping the turf of the batter's box.," and "He retains his edge even at his advanced baseball age. His joints may be creaky, his eyes may be rheumy, but his educated bat can always pick out the good ones and ride them to and over the outfield barriers."
  • And then, from Wilson, the following, "When we get around to that all-time all-star stuff, and someone-for instance, Rube Foster, with an intimate knowledge of Negro baseball and its players, writes a history of the game, his All-Time team will have as its first-string catcher our boy friend of the Rio Pecos, Louis Napoleon Santop."

The original "Black Babe Ruth," Louis Santop was a solid catcher but was more famous for his power. In a 1912 game, he was credited with a tape-measure 500-foot bomb -- not only well before the juiced ball, but well before the dead ball had died.

Receiving for Negro League legends Smokey Joe Williams and Cannonball Dick Redding, Santop played for the New York Lincoln Giants after beginning his career with the Fort Worth Wonders, Oklahoma Monarchs and Philadelphia Giants in 1909. In 1910 he collaborated with Redding for the first time under manager Sol White.

From 1911-1914, Santop not only demonstrated power, but hit for high averages, hitting .470, .422, .429 and .455.

After a brief stint with the Chicago American Giants, Santop returned to New York, this time to play for the Lincoln Stars, where he played with Spots Poles, John Henry Lloyd and Redding. He returned to the Lincoln Giants in 1918, and lost in the championship game against the American Giants.

Stories of his good nature abound. According to The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Leagues, Santop was the recipient of a knockdown pitch from ex-New York Giant Jeff Tesreau in an exhibition game. Both Tyler, Texas natives, Santop yelled to Tesreau, "You wouldn't throw at a hometown boy, would you?" But the gentle giant could become perturbed if provoked. On another occasion, he broke three of Oscar Charleston's ribs in an altercation.

Santop joined the Hilldale Daisies in 1917, joining the team for a three-game series against a Major League All-Star team. Facing pitchers Chief Bender and Bulleg Joe Bush, Santop collected six hits as the Daisies won two of the three matches. In all, Santop hit .316 against big league hurlers.

After serving in World War I (1918-1919), Santop returned to spend the remainder of his career with Hilldale, and was well paid for it. He was the league's biggest drawing card and received $500 a month, one of the highest salaries paid. They won pennants from 1923-25, but an error in the 1924 Negro World Series basically ended Santop's career.

With Hilldale leading a game 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth, Santop dropped a popup that would have ended the game. On the next pitch, the batter delivered a bases-loaded game-winning hit to win the game. In addition to the embarrassment, Santop was berated by his manager, Frank Warfield, in a profanity-filled tirade. The following year, Biz Mackey took over as starting catcher, and Santop was released the next season.

Santop became a broadcaster and eventually a bartender in Philadelphia after retiring from the game, before falling ill and eventually dying in a naval hospital in 1942.