O'Neal Pullen

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O'Neal Pullen
(Neal, Neil)

  • Bats Right, Throws Right
  • Height 6' 1", Weight 240 lb.

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Biographical Information[edit]

O'Neal Pullen caught briefly in the Negro Leagues and spent a decade in the California Winter League. He was known for his defensive work but was hampered by excess weight.

Start in baseball and military service[edit]

Pullen got started with a team in his hometown of Beaumont, probably as a teammate of Bob McClure. He then served in the US Army during World War I, spending 18 months in France.

1920-1931: Playing career[edit]

After being discharged, Neal hit .167 as a sub for the Brooklyn Royal Giants, New York Lincoln Giants and Hilldale in 1920 in the Negro Leagues. Pullen then began his California career in 1920-1921, hitting .333/?/.431 in 17 games. In 1921-1922, he caught for the Colored All-Stars, a team featuring Hall of Fame catcher Biz Mackey at third base and two other Hall of Fame members, Jose Mendez and Oscar Charleston. Pullen hit .326/?/.457 in 12 contests.

In 1922-1923, Neal caught for the St. Louis All-Stars in the CWL and went 1 for 4 as the back-up to Tex Burnett. In 1923-1924, Neal batted .400/?/.800 in 6 games in California, splitting catching duties with Burnett and Otto Ray. Pullen actually led a strong club in average and tied for the home run lead (2); Turkey Stearnes was among his teammates.

Neal returned to the Negro Leagues in 1924 with the Baltimore Black Sox and batted .316 while splitting catching duties with Julio Rojo. In the 1924-1925 California Winter League, Pullen caught for the Los Angeles White Sox and hit .339/?/.525. Battling weight problems and "a lack of ambition" (as per James Riley), Pullen backed up Rojo with the 1925 Baltimore Black Sox.

During the 1925-1926 California Winter League, Neal hit .254/?/.462 in 36 games. His 6 homers were more than Mackey, Bullet Joe Rogan, Babe Herman and everyone in the CWL except Tank Carr (who hit 8). Pullen batted .343/?/.457 in the 1926-1927 winter league season as the backup to Frank Duncan.

Neal then took a trip to Japan with manager Lonnie Goodwin, Mackey and others. It was one of the first trips to Japan by American baseball stars and is credited with helping spur the development of baseball there. The club won 14 games in a row.

Pullen made his final Negro League appearance with the 1927 Lincoln Giants, backing up a familiar face, Julio Rojo. In the 1927-1928 winter league season, the 35-year-old veteran split catching duties with Duncan on the Cleveland Stars and hit .206/?/.206 in 9 games. He improved to .368/?/.368 with the club the next year. Pullen backed up Mackey in the 1930-1931 CWL season, barely playing, but going 3 for 5 at the plate when he did.

Overall, Pullen hit .314/?/.460 in 127 games in the California Winter League and just misses the top 12 list in career homers (he had 11 - #12 Jake Dunn had 13). Pullen's .314 mark compares well with players like Irish Meusel (.319), Willie Wells (.301), Ping Bodie (.310) or Bibb Falk (.253).

Birthdate error[edit]

He is listed in the 3/7/1924 Chicago Defender as being born in March 1910 and the date is copied in Riley's book but this does not jibe with his career or military service as he would have been in the Army at age 8 and playing for top Negro League teams by 10. More recent research has uncovered the correct date.


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