Ray Dandridge, a Hall of Fame third baseman who starred in the Negro Leagues and the minors, died Saturday. He was 79.
The cause of death was prostate cancer, his wife, Heneritta, said.
Dandridge was considered one of the best third basemen ever but was little known because he played most of his career before 1947 in an era when blacks were excluded from the majors.
Dandridge began his career with the Detroit Stars of the Negro National League in 1933. He retired in 1953 after five seasons in the minor leagues, four with Minneapolis of the American Association and one year in the Pacific Coast League.
"He was a natural third baseman because he was short, stocky and quick as a cat," said the Hall of Famer and former New York Giant star, Monte Irvin, who played with Dandridge on the Newark Eagles in the late 1930's. "You almost couldn't hit the ball past him."
Dandridge was 37 years old when he hit .311 with 11 home runs and 80 runs batted in to earn most valuable player honors in the American Association in 1950.
"The only reason they didn't bring him up is they said he was too old," Irvin said, referring to the Giants, which had a working agreement with Minneapolis. "I wish they had brought him up because he could play even at that age. He was flashy. People would have paid to see him play third base, let alone hitting."
When Dandridge was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1987, he took a good-natured jab at the Hall's veterans' committee, which considers the induction of Negro League players and others who have long been retired.
"Thanks for letting me smell the roses," he said. "But my only question is: What took you so long?"
Dandridge said he was good enough to play in the majors.
"I was just a step away from going from the cornfields to the big time," he said.
Besides his wife, he is survived by two sons, Raymond Jr. and Lawrence; a daughter, Delores, and 17 grandchildren.