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Frank Samuel Austin
(Pee Wee, Junior, Bin Bin)
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 7", Weight 170 lb.
- High School La Boca High School
- Debut 1944
- Final Game 1948
- Born May 22, 1917 in Canal Zone Panama
- Died January 15, 1960 in Panama, Panama Panama
Frank Austin played five years in the Negro Leagues and eight years in the high minor leagues. Dave Roberts recalls him as the number one ballplayer" in Panama at the time. He was a talented bunter who had good range at short to compensate for a mediocre arm.
1944-1946: Young Negro League star
Austin debuted with the 1944 Philadelphia Stars and hit well over .337 as a rookie. That winter, he hit .248/?/.312 as the second baseman for Marianao in the Cuban Winter League. In his second year, the 23-year-old remained dazzling, batting .377, second to Ed Stone, and tying for 4th with 5 doubles. He was also 4th in the NNL in steals. He started for the East in the 1945 East-West Game, batting second and going 0 for 2 with a walk and an error; his counterpart at shortstop for the West was another promising young performer, Jackie Robinson. He was 3 for 14 in an exhibition series that year against white major-leaguers (the pitchers were Hal Gregg, Ralph Branca and Virgil Trucks). He spent the winter with teams in Venezuela and Panama and they both won titles.
He then hit .339 in 1946, leading the Negro National League in hits for the second straight year. He served as a pinch-runner for the East in the first 1946 East-West Game. He had his best winter ball season, hitting .357 for Chesterfield in the 1946-47 Panama League.
1947-1948: The last Negro League seasons
Austin's brilliant first three seasons were not to be duplicated later in his career as he declined quickly. He batted .324 in the 1947 NNL. He played at short for the East in both of the 1947 East-West Games and went 0 for 2 each time. He batted .356 in his final year with the Stars. He was the backup SS for the East in the first 1948 East-West Game and went 0 for 1 with an error. In the second 1948 East-West Game, Pee Wee started and hit 7th for the East, going 2 for 3 at the plate.
Overall, Austin hit .200/~.273/.200 in 7 East-West Games and .347 in the Negro Leagues.
1949-1956: Organized baseball
The 26-year-old infielder signed with the Newark Bears, hitting .282/~.363/.352 in 19 games. He then moved on to the Portland Beavers, where he spent the vast majority of the rest of his career. He hit just .242/~.300/.294 his first year in Portland. In 1950, Frank batted .277/~.319/.338 for Portland and his .972 fielding percentage led regular Pacific Coast League shortstops by a wide margin.
In 1951, Austin had his best average in the PCL with a .293/~.348/.382 line. Frank put up a .265/~.314/.320 batting line and again led PCL shortstops in fielding (.958). He was fifth in the PCL with 186 hits and led with 702 at-bats. His 177 games tied him for second, one behind Dick Cole and he stole 17. He played for Carta Vieja in the 1952 Caribbean Series, going 4 for 24 with a double.
In 1953, the Panamanian batted .280/~.343/.364 with the Beavers and slammed a career-high 7 home runs. He played all 180 games, tying four others for the lead in the Coast lead. His 739 at-bats were third; he scored 91, stole 14 and legged out 39 doubles, third in the PCL. He again led Pacific Coast League shortstops in fielding percentage (.970). In the 1953 Caribbean Series, he only was 3 for 23 with a double for Chesterfield.
In 1954, Austin batted .269/~.323/.346 for Portland. That winter, he hit .331 in his last season in the Panama League.
At age 33, the veteran only hit .233/.283/.280 with a single steal in the 1955 year, his last with Portland. His .969 fielding was "just" second in the league. He tied Nippy Jones for the league lead with 172 games played in that 1955 campaign.
In his last year in the PCL, he moved to the Vancouver Mounties as a backup infielder, mostly at third. He hit .285/.347/.335 in a good cap to a fine career which only was missing a chance in the major leagues after the demise of the Negro National League.
One last curtain call
He was the second baseman for Panama's Azucareros team in the 1959 Caribbean Series and hit .308, his best showing in the Series. Overall, he had hit .200 in three Series.
- 4-time NNL All-Star (1945-1948)
- 2-time NNL Hits Leader (1945 & 1946)
- 2-time NNL Singles Leader (1945 & 1946)
- NNL Doubles Leader (1948)
1951 and 1953-1954 Baseball Guides, A Baseball Odyssey by Dave Roberts and Tony Salin, The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues by James Riley, The Complete Book of Baseball's Negro Leagues by John Holway, Cuban Baseball: A Statistical History by Jorge Figueredo, Black Baseball's National Showcase by Larry Lester, The International League: Year-by-Year Statistics by Marshall Wright, 1949-1956 PCL seasons for Diamond Mind Baseball by Stephen Davis
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