Fred Bankhead

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Fred Bankhead

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Biographical Information[edit]

Infielder Fred Bankhead was the middle of the five Bankhead brothers in terms of talent. His baseball siblings were Sammy Bankhead, Dan Bankhead, Joe Bankhead and Garnett Bankhead. Like Charles Murray, he had a superstar brother, a more talented brother who played in the majors but not as a star and two brothers with short and inconsequential careers. Fred played for 13 years in the Negro Leagues.

After college, Fred signed with the Birmingham Black Barons and hit .167 in 1936 as a regular shortstop. John Holway lists "Sam Bankhead" as hitting .298 for Birmingham in 1937, but this may have been Fred, as Sam was playing in the Dominican League that year. In 1938, Fred hit .154 as the regular 2B for Birmingham.

Fred moved to the Memphis Red Sox and hit .067 as the third baseman in 1939. Moving to second again in 1940, Bankhead batted .205. He returned to third for 1941 and was 2 for 10.

In 1942, Bankhead hit .182. He made the East-West Game roster for the only time. In the first East-West Game of 1942, he pinch-ran for Hilton Smith in the third inning. He was nearly caught in a rundown but Pat Patterson dropped the throw. Bankhead later scored on a sacrifice fly by Parnell Woods. He did not stay in to play the field. In the second game, he was a defensive substitute for Tommy Sampson and made an error. He did not get a chance to bat. He was slated to be in the lineup for a third game that was rained out.

In 1943, the infielder hit .257 and he followed with a career-best .282 mark in 1944. At age 32, he hit .242. He slipped to .188 in 1946 and remained a starter in 1947. He finished his 10-year run with Memphis, often spent in the top two slots of the batting order, in 1948.

Fred was known primarily for his sure-handed play on defense, speed and bunting.

While going to pick up his mother from the airport for a Christmas visit, Fred was driving on a road covered with ice. His car ended up in an accident and Bankhead died, one of three Bankhead brothers to die in a tragic accident or homicide.

Sources: The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues by James Riley, The Complete Book of Baseball's Negro Leagues by John Holway, Black Baseball's National Showcase by Larry Lester

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • NAL All-Star (1942)
  • NAL Runs Scored Leader (1940)

Related Sites[edit]