Joe Caffie

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Joseph Clifford Caffie

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Biographical Information[edit]

"I have seen a lot of fast ones, but Caffie is the fastest, and that includes guys like Sam Jethroe." - Luke Easter, quoted in Crossing the Line: Black Major Leaguers 1947-59

"What does a fellow have to do to make it up here?" - Joe Caffie in spring 1957, after having hit .342 at the major league level in 1956 and having had a good spring in 1957 but still getting sent down to the minors

Outfielder Joe Caffie had a lifetime major league batting average of .291. He broke in with the Cleveland Indians in 1956 and hit .342 in 38 at-bats (with a .432 on-base percentage). The next year, he dropped to a still decent .270 average in 89 at-bats, yet 44 games in two seasons was the sum total of his major league career.

Joe was born in Ramer, AL, also the birthplace of Oscar Gamble. Caffie was a four-sport star in high school, playing football, baseball, track and boxing. In 1950 he played for the Cleveland Buckeyes in the Negro League and was signed by the Cleveland Indians before the 1951 season. He won two minor-league batting titles. In 1952, he hit .342 to lead the Northern League, edging out Hank Aaron by points. Caffie also led the loop with 18 triples, 171 hits, 271 total bases, 34 doubles and 105 runs scored. Caffie outslugged Aaron .542 to .493. In 1955, he led the International League in steals, and in the winter in the Venezuelan League he hit .360. He hit .311 with Buffalo in 1956 and .331 in 1957, the latter a league leading figure. He then led the same league in doubles in 1958. During the winter of 1957-58, he played in Cuba. His career ended with Montreal in 1960 and Charlotte in 1961.

The players with the most similar last names are Ivanon Coffie and Ben Caffyn.

Main source: Crossing the Line: Black Major Leaguers 1947-59.

Career Analysis[edit]

Was Caffie a victim of racism? Possibly. His credentials in the minors certainly seemed to justify a spot in the majors. However, the 1957 Indians had an unusually good outfield, with veteran Gene Woodling hitting .321 and slugging .521 and youngsters Roger Maris and Rocky Colavito, both of whom went on to tremendous careers. Backup outfielders on the team included Dick Williams, who went on to become a Hall of Fame manager. Caffie's range and fielding percentage in the outfield were certainly decent, and with his hitting one would have thought that another team would have wanted to pick him up. It did not happen. And so, he spent most of his career (1951-1961) as a minor league star.

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