Born in Oklahoma City, July 28, 1889, just months after the land run into the Unassigned Lands of central Oklahoma, Wilber "Bullet Joe" Rogan was elected as a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998, even though racial separation kept him from ever playing in the white major leagues.
After growing up in Oklahoma City, Rogan moved to Kansas City, Kansas, where he played ball for the Kansas City Giants. Joining the U.S. Army in 1911, he played on military baseball teams until he was discovered in 1919 by future New York Yankee manager Casey Stengel. Realizing his ability, Stengel sent him to see J. L. Wilkinson, manager of the Kansas City Monarchs, the premier team of the Negro Leagues.
At age thirty-one in 1920, Rogan began a long career as the Monarch's star pitcher from 1920 to 1938. In fifteen years in the Negro Leagues, Rogan completed 131 of the 192 games he started, an incredible baseball feat. He was master both on the mound and at the plate. In forty-seven games in 1922, a banner year, he belted thirteen home runs. His career batting average of.339 was tenth in the Negro Leagues, and on the mound his .721 winning percentage was never equaled in the league.
Bullet Joe Rogan was a hero to African American baseball fans everywhere. His picture graced movie screens to advertise Monarch games. After retiring, Rogan umpired in the Negro Leagues and owned a pool hall in Kansas City. He worked for the U.S. Postal Service for twenty-three years. He lived out his life at a home on the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri. He died in Kansas City on March 4, 1967.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Bob Burke, Kenny Franks, and Royse Parr, Glory Days of Summer, The History of Baseball in Oklahoma (Oklahoma City: Oklahoma Heritage Association, 1999). James A. Riley, Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues (New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 1994).
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