Negro Leagues Spotlight: Bullet Rogan
The import of Shohei Ohtani by the Los Angeles Angels brought some real excitement to the baseball world in 2018. He is an special talent on the mound and at bat. Some have said that the Angels’ star’s specific skill set hasn’t been seen since Babe Ruth.
Fans of Charles Wilber “Bullet” Rogan might disagree.
Rogan was the rare Negro League ballplayer connected to one team – the Kansas City Monarchs, one of the great franchises of Negro League ball. He was a part of the club from 1920 until 1938, first as a player then as manager.
Per his contemporaries, he was recognized as one of the great pitchers of all-time. While his fastball wasn’t at the level of guys like Satchel Paige and Smokey Joe Williams, his command and pitching savvy moved him among the elite. He had an “easy” sidearm delivery that gave his fastball extra life to go along with his sharp curveball and devastating changeup/palmball. Hall of Fame infielder Judy Johnson stated what seemed to be the consensus – “Satchel was fast. But Rogan was smart.”
Rogan wasn’t just a pitcher, he could hit as well. I’m not talking about “good hitter for a pitcher” either. He could hit. On many of the days he wasn’t pitching, he was patrolling the Monarchs’ outfield and accumulated a lifetime slash of .336/.408/.511. Per the Seamheads.com database, he ranks seventh in Negro League lifetime pitching WAR, and seventeenth in lifetime offensive WAR.
From 1921-1928, Rogan was one of the dominant players of the Negro National League averaging 15-7, 2.68 ERA on the mound (the average Kansas City NNL season was about 80-90 games) while batting .349. The Monarchs won three NNL championships during that period, including the 1924 Negro League World Series over the Hilldale (Philadelphia) Club in which he was 2-1, 2.89 on the mound and batted .350 while playing centerfield when he wasn’t pitching.
If he wasn’t busy enough being a two-way player, in 1926, Rogan took on the Monarchs’ managerial duties as well. He piloted the club to the 1929 NNL pennant and managed his teams to a .699 winning percentage from 1926-1929.
Like many Negro League players, Rogan spent winters barnstorming, sometimes against white major league players. He also participated in the integrated California Winter League in the 1920s and 1930s and per anecdotal reports performed quite well against major league competition. John Holway’s great book Blackball Stars: Negro League Pioneers documents Rogan as having a .389 lifetime batting average in exhibition games against major league pitchers, including Dizzy Dean, Charlie Root and Bob Feller.
After his tenure with the Monarchs, he took on umpiring, officiating in the Negro American League into the 1940s.
Rogan was inducted to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998.