1989 Greater Flint Afro-American Hall of Fame Inductee
Category: MULTIPLE SPORTS
James Wesley’s career began in Flint during a period when descrimination was a common practice in the field of sports. Wesley was always a fierce competitor, never backing away from a challenge. His accomplishments were many throughout his career. In his teens he had a terrific arm. He received a trial with the Homestead Grays and when it appeared he had made the team, his parents stepped in and said “No” because they felt he was too young to be away from home. Wesley’s loss to the Grays was a blessing to Flint.
In the early 30’s Wesley was pitching on Flint sandlots. In 1936, while pitching for the Sinclair Oil Team, he became the talk of the league. Not only did he pitch Sinclair to the Play-off Championship but from 1936 to 1939, he ranked second or third in the league in pitching the most innings and games in a season,while averaging about 7 strike-outs a game. He had some great pitching duels against the legendary Steve Bysco and Ted Pritchard. It was nothing to see Wesley pitch three or four games in a week. He even pitched a doubleheader in 1936. Wesley won the most games, was the team’s strike-out leader and one of the three top strike-out leaders in the league. He was also one of the three best pitchers in the city league. He pitched all five games in the playoffs one year, winning four of the games. Because of the rules governing state amateur baseball, no black team could play in the State Tournament despite the fact that Wesley’s team had defeated the State Truckers for that right.
Wesley continued to be the dominate black pitcher for the Hornets team, Red Devils and Flint Aces. Once when Wesley was pitted in a pitching duel with Joe Kinzel … which Wesley won in extra innings … a scout from the Brooklyn Dodgers organization witnessed the outstanding play of the two teams and remarked, “No wonder baseball was such a hit in this area. There was no need for a professional team here.”
In later years, Wesley lost his eyesight. This led to his becoming a member of the Federation of the Blind. Being the competitor that he is, he started bowling and became one of the best blind bowlers in the state. Among his many accom- plishments: In 1976-Michigan Blind Bowlers Association Handicap Series – 687 (3 game total); selected on State Championship Bowling Team three years; 1977, highest average in league (207); 1978, high game (285) handicap, first place trophy, Michigan Blind Bowlers Association; 1978-79, most strikes in a row M.B.B.A.; and in 1986 American Blind Bowlers Association National Championship Tournament (420 actual).
His influence has transcended personal gain for the benefit of others.