Nickname: Max, Emilio, Dr. Cyclops
Teams: Newark Eagles (1938-1942, 1946-1948), military service (1942-1945), Houston Eagles (1949), Mexican League (1951), Canadian League (1951)
Height: 6' 4'' Weight: 185
Born: November 18, 1918, Rome, Georgia
Died: June 23, 2003, Pleasantville, New Jersey
This tall, bespectacled sidearmer was a power pitcher with a good but not overpowering fastball and a complementing curve and slider. Nicknamed "Dr. Cyclops" because of his thick glasses, he had some control problems but managed to keep everything low and had less trouble with power hitters than with punch hitters. A member of the 1946 Negro National League champion Newark Eagles' pitching staff, he finished the regular season with an 11-1 league record and compiled the league's second-highest strikeout total, surpassed only by teammate Leon Day. At one stretch during the year he was credited with 15 straight wins against all opposition, losing only his first game of the season. Manning pitched in 3 games in the ensuing World Series against the Negro American League Kansas City Monarchs, splitting 2 decisions and registering a 3.64 ERA.
After the Series he pitched with Satchel Paige's All-Stars against Bob Feller's All-Stars in a postseason barnstorming exhibition and, in one game at Dayton, Ohio, he struck out 14 batters, including Charlie Keller three times, but lost the game, 2-1. In Cuba the following spring he learned the straight change from Carl Erskine, which completed his repertory of pitches and filled a need, allowing him to change speeds more effectively. The following year he had a 15-6 record and appeared in the East-West All Star game.
In 1948 New York Cubans' owner Alex Pompez, who doubled as a New York Giants' scout, approached Manning about playing with the Giants. When Manning insisted that since he was part of the Eagles' organization, protocol necessitated that negotiations include the Manleys, Pompez never pursued the suggestion. The following spring, Manning was a holdout and missed spring training until the final week. Shortly after joining the team, he was called in to relieve early in a ball game without being sufficiently warmed up and, although he pitched 8 shutout innings, he suffered a shoulder separation that never completely healed and that robbed him of his speed. He underwent an operation and rehabilitation at Temple University but never fully recovered, and pitched with pain and without the same velocity as previously. Despite pitching in pain, he fashioned records of 10-4 and 8-4 in 1948 and 1949.
In his youth, the big right-hander starred with the Johnson Stars in Atlantic City and in high school in Pleasantville, New jersey. After graduating in 1937, he was contacted by a Detroit Tiger scout about a tryout with the Tigers, but the offer was rescinded upon learning that Manning was black. Instead, he pitched with the semi-pro Camden Giants and attended Lincoln University in the fall before being signed, along with Monte Irvin, by Eagles' owner Abe Manley in 1938.
In his first game as an Eagle, he faced the defending champion Homestead Grays in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, in the spring and struck out the first five batters he faced. After that auspicious beginning, he posted season records of 11-6, 5-4, and 6-4 in 1940-1941. Then his baseball career was interrupted when he entered military service during World War II.
Drafted in 1942, he was sent first to Fort Dix and then to Richland Air Force Base with the 316th Air Squadron, serving in the Quartermaster Corps, an assignment that shattered his dreams. Later he was shipped overseas to England and then to France, where he spent over two years as a truck driver on the Red Ball Express, supplying gasoline and supplies for General Patton's Third Army. During this time he helped supply the 101st Airborne Division, which was involved in the breakthrough at Bastogne. However, his military experience was not generally positive. Once, in an incident resulting from the existing racial climate, he served fifteen days in the stockade for insubordination. At another time Manning suffered a back injury in a truck accident, and he was glad when his Army service was over. After his discharge he resumed his baseball career with the Eagles, helping pitch them to the 1946 championship.
During his career he also played in most Latin American leagues, pitching with Ponce in Puerto Rico in 1938; the Dominican Republic in 1940; Guadalajara and Jalisco, Mexico, in 1941; Cienfuegos, Cuba, in 1946-1949 (where he won a shutout over Max Lanier and posted a combined 27-33 record); Maracaibo, Venezuela, in 1950; and again in Mexico with Torreon in 1951, where he played with Buck Leonard. He also played in Canada, pitching with Sherbrooke and Branford in the Provincial League, but still troubled with a bad arm from the shoulder separation three years earlier, that was his last year in baseball.
After ending his active baseball career, he utilized the G.I. Bill to complete his education, graduating from Glassboro State College and teaching in the Pleasantville, New Jersey school system for twenty-eight years before retiring.
Source: James A. Riley, The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues, New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc., 1994.