- - Sunday, January 8, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Max Scherzer has become the most decorated and honored starting pitcher in Washington since the glory days of the great Big Train, Walter Johnson himself.

Scherzer’s had two no-hitters, a near perfect game, and won the coveted National League Cy Young award for his outstanding 2016 season — a 20-7 record with a 2.96 ERA and 284 strikeouts in 228 1/3 innings pitched.

We all know about Cy Young. He is the stuff of legends, even though his 22-year career ended 105 years ago. If you are a baseball fan, there is certain knowledge that is seared into your brain. Cy Young’s career 511 major league wins is one of them — a number so distant from anyone else who ever took the mound that is it unforgettable.

And, if you want to learn more about what Cy Young did, you can find those major league baseball statistics easily — his 815 major league starts, his 7,356 innings pitched and the rest of his historic career. It’s been recorded and documented for history.

The Cy Young honor wasn’t the only noteworthy award Scherzer won, though.

He recently won the Negro League Baseball Museum’s Legacy Award for National League Pitcher of the Year — the Wilber “Bullet” Rogan award.

This honor certainly doesn’t have the profile of the Cy Young award. But it is no less significant in the legacy it carries.

The Negro League Baseball Museum, based in Kansas City, established the Legacy Awards in 2000 — presented annually to the best players, managers and executives in each league — named after Negro League baseball greats.

It is a way to remind baseball fans in the 21st century that for nearly half of the previous century, African-American ballplayers, because of the racist practices of the major leagues, were forced to create their own version of the national pastime. They did so with style and greatness and did not let the hatred that kept them away from major league baseball take away from their love for the game.

That’s the powerful message that comes with the Bullet Joe Rogan award Scherzer added to his trophy case.

But what does that mean to the kid who roots for the Nationals and wonders who Bullet Joe was? He — or she — will have a tough time finding statistics in their research. There won’t be a 511 mark that stands out like Cy Young.

No, numbers from Negro League baseball are tough to come by. Those limited statistics that we do have available are the product of the diligent work of those who have worked hard to quantify the greatness of these players.

Rogan, at 5-foot-9 and 160 pounds, is believed to have had a career record of 119-50 against Negro League competition (over the course of a season, Negro League teams would barnstorm against all levels of competition, and sometimes a season of games against other Negro League teams would be 40 or 50 games).

Like Babe Ruth, though, Rogan was an excellent position player, often playing the outfield as well, with a career batting average of .338. He led the Negro National League in home runs in 1922 with 13. He didn’t get started until late, after the age of 30, but wound up having a lengthy career as a player and manager from 1917 to 1946.

Rogan, who passed away at the age of 73 in 1967, led the Kansas City Monarchs to three straight pennants from 1923 to 1925 and a Negro League World Series championship in 1924 — a series in which Rogan had 13 hits and won two games. He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998.

In an interview on file in the library at the Baseball Hall of Fame, conducted by the great author and researcher John Holway, Negro League Newt Allen said that Rogan “was the greatest pitcher of all. Rogan was better than Satchel (Paige) because he was smarter… he threw hard and had everything — fork balls, spit balls, any kind of ball — and he had a master curveball. He was an awfully good hitter, hit anything you threw.”

Paige himself paid homage to Rogan in an interview. “Rogan was one of the world’s greatest pitchers,” Paige said. “I never did see him in his prime. I came up from Birmingham to Kansas City. He beat me 1-0 in the 11th inning … he could throw hard, he could throw as hard as Smokey Joe Williams. Oh, yes, he was a number one pitcher, wasn’t any maybe so.”

Max Scherzer is in the company of greatness when he wins an award named for Bullet Joe Rogan.

• Thom Loverro hosts his weekly podcast “Cigars & Curveballs” Wednesdays available on iTunes and Google Play.

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