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Trouppe's career not about numbers

Well-traveled backstop: I was born '20 Years Too Soon'
February 16, 2011
The official record shows that Quincy Trouppe had a brief and thoroughly unmemorable career.

The Georgia-born backstop opened the 1952 season as a member of the Cleveland Indians and appeared in only six games before being demoted. He finished out the campaign with the organization's Indianapolis farm club (mentoring young pitchers such as Herb Score) and never again appeared in organized baseball.

But numbers never tell the full story, something that is especially true in Trouppe's case. In 1952, he was a 39-year-old veteran of 20 professional seasons. His pursuit of baseball had taken him to all corners of the United States as well as Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Venezuela and Colombia. Along the way, he played with, for, against or scouted an astonishing array of legendary players.

Trouppe caught Satchel Paige, roomed with Monte Irvin, managed Jackie Robinson (during a tour of Venezuela) and barnstormed with Bob Feller and the Dean brothers. He played alongside the likes of Roy Campanella and Buck Leonard in All-Star games and was so popular in Mexico that government officials pulled diplomatic strings so he could compete there during wartime. It was after playing in Mexico that he added a second "p" to his last name, explaining that "Troo-pay" was what they called him there and that he "liked the sound of it."

But when it came to getting a legitimate shot at the big leagues, Quincy Trouppe was born "20 Years Too Soon."

No record to go on?

20 Years Too Soon is the title of Trouppe's autobiography, self-published in 1977 and re-issued in 1995 by the Missouri Historical Society (which is selling it for $3 via its website). Written in a breezy, anecdotal style and packed with baseball wisdom, the tome is a whirlwind tour of a sporting landscape that had not yet embraced the theoretically self-evident truth that "All men are created equal." And, though Trouppe's all-abiding love for the game is apparent throughout, the title hints at the disappointment he felt at never getting a fair chance at big league stardom.

Indeed, Trouppe's fleeting time in the big leagues was exceedingly bittersweet. He was signed by Indians general manager Hank Greenberg, who in his playing days had established himself as baseball's first Jewish superstar. Perhaps because he was no stranger to prejudice, Greenberg was responsible for integrating his Cleveland ballclub at a pace that far outdistanced most of his Major League counterparts. Nonetheless, Trouppe didn't get a chance to prove himself.

The rookie-in-name-only recounts that he appeared in just three games over his first 2 1/2 months with the club, "not the easiest thing to do when you're 38 [sic] years old and accustomed to starting and running the show." The inaction was a harbinger of further indignity to come, as Greenberg soon informed Trouppe he was being demoted to Indianapolis (the only affiliated Minor League team for whom he ever suited up). One of the reasons given was that Trouppe "didn't have a record to go on."

The news hit hard.

"I thought about all the highs and lows that went into putting together 22 years of playing ball on two different continents and islands in between; of the too many, too often hello-goodbyes; of the big hotels, the jets, the cities strung out in lights below while I winged through the sky," he wrote. "I thought about it all, a thousand and one things that spelled out my quest for a golden American dream that was now collapsing under the razor-edged reality of Hank Greenberg's voice telling me that because I didn't have a record playing in organized ball I had to return to their Minor League farm club."

Save for some brief stints playing Winter Ball in Latin America, Trouppe's playing career ended after that difficult 1952 campaign. He remained in baseball, however, accepting a scouting post with the St. Louis Cardinals. That endeavor also ended in frustration, as the club ignored his enthusiastic recommendations of both Ernie Banks and Roberto Clemente while lavishing signing bonuses on less talented white prospects.

Nearly 60 years have passed since Trouppe last donned "the tools of ignorance" on a professional ballfield, and his name has been largely forgotten. In 20 Years Too Soon, he explains his relative anonymity via a conversation he once had with Negro League legend Cool Papa Bell.

"He who hollers the loudest will be seen and recognized," Bell said. "I guess, Quincy, you just haven't hollered loud enough."

But actions speak louder than words. Trouppe quietly and determinedly compiled a baseball resume that says volumes about his talent and perseverance, a body of work that helped pave the way for those who followed. His son, Quincy Jr., acknowledged that in his "Poem For My Father," a moving jazz-inflected elegy that prefaces 20 Years Too Soon.

Of the old, negro baseball league, a promise
you were father, a harbinger, of shockwaves, soon come

Benjamin Hill is a reporter for