Branch Russell

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Branch Lee Russell

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Biographical Information[edit]

Branch Russell was a good contact hitter in his 11 years in the Negro Leagues. Prior to his Negro League career, he was a private in the Twenty-Fifth Infantry, serving 8 years (one source lists him as reaching the rank of corporal). He served along the Mexican border during World War I. In the army athletic championships that helped form the 1920 US Olympic team, Russell competed in the running hop, step, and jump, finishing second. On June 28, the 25th infantry team played the St. Louis Giants, with Russell batting second and playing third base (moving to shortstop later in the game). Branch went 2 for 3 in a 4-1 victory by the Army unit's team. He remained in the service for a while longer, then made his professional baseball debut at age 26 with two games for the 1922 Kansas City Monarchs, going 0 for 5.

The next year, he joined the St. Louis Stars, where he spent the bulk of his career. Branch batted .283/.341/.416 his first year in St. Louis, outhitting fellow rookie Cool Papa Bell and leading the team in triples (9, tied for sixth in the Negro National League) and runs (64). He bounced around the field, playing 25 games at third base, 22 at shortstop, 17 in right field and 14 in left field while hitting third, first or seventh.

In 1924, Russell hit .328 as St. Louis's main second baseman. Moving to right field more or less for good in 1925, Branch hit .311 as the weakest member of a fine outfield featuring Bell in center and Frog Redus in left. That unit remained together for 7 years. He went 6 for 24 in a post-season series which St. Louis lost to Kansas City. The strong-armed outfielder hit .319 the next year.

During the 1927 season, the 31-year-old batted .320. He slipped to .286 in 1928, next-to-last on the top NNL team, ahead of another Russell, 2B John Henry Russell. Branch Russell's 6 triples tied for fifth in the league. Branch was 6 for 26 in a post-season win over the Chicago American Giants. In the 1928-29 Cuban Winter League, Russell hit .307/?/.404 for Cienfuegos, again as a teammate of Cool Papa Bell. It was his only winter in Cuba.

Branch bounced back in 1929, with a .351 mark, the top mark from that elite outfield and his 10 triples tied him for third in the NNL. In 1930, the veteran flyhawk contributed a .324 average and 8 home runs, tied with Huck Rile for 4th in the NNL. In the post-season, he had a bad error in a game five loss to the Detroit Stars but went 9 for 28 with a double and triple as St. Louis won 4 of the 7 games. Russell hit .315 in the last year of the Redus-Bell-Russell outfield in 1931 and also spent some time with the Cleveland Cubs.

In 1932, Russell concluded his career by leading a weak Cleveland Stars outfit with a .347 average.

After his baseball career ended, Russell worked for the St. Louis Parks and Recreation Department as a supervisor.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • NNL At-Bats Leader (1930)
  • 2-time NNL Bases on Balls Leader (1926 & 1929)

Sources[edit]

Related Sites[edit]