Notable Alumni: John Henry “Pop” Lloyd, Judy Johnson, “Nip” Winters and “Biz” Mackey
The Kansas City Monarchs are one of the most famous teams in the history of Negro Leagues Baseball. But every great team needs a foil, a challenger, someone to push them. And for a time in the mid-1920s, the Hilldale Daisies took to that role.
Also referred to as the Hilldale Athletic Club or the Darby Daisies, the team was formed by Ed Bolden and based in the Philadelphia area. A turning point came in 1923, when Bolden formed the Eastern Colored League, with Hilldale as a charter member. Set up as a rival to Rube Foster’s Negro National League -- which included the Monarchs -- the ECL began with six teams: Hilldale, the Cuban Stars East, the Brooklyn Royal Giants, the Atlantic City Bacharach Giants, the New York Lincoln Giants and the Baltimore Black Sox.
Immediately, Hilldale was the team to beat, going 37-21-1 in that inaugural season to finish first in the standings by five games and claim the first of three consecutive league pennants. Meanwhile, over in the Negro National League (formed in 1920), the Monarchs overtook Foster’s three-time defending-champion Chicago American Giants to win that pennant in ‘23. They repeated in ‘24, but this time, there was another prize to seek.
That was the first year of the Negro World Series, staged between the champions of the NNL and the ECL. In 1924, Hilldale went 47-26, won the ECL by three games and faced the mighty Monarchs in the World Series. They did not back down. Hilldale had the talent to compete, including Hall of Famers Johnson, Mackey and Santop. Behind brilliant pitching from Nip Winters and hot hitting from Johnson, Hilldale grabbed a 3-1 series lead -- one game also ended in a tie after 13 innings -- before ultimately falling 5-4.
But Hilldale would get another shot. In 1925, both teams won their third consecutive league pennants. The Daisies posted a 53-18-1 record to pace the ECL, and again met the Monarchs in the World Series. The teams split the first two games, before Hilldale reeled off four consecutive victories, taking the best-of-nine series on the strength of great pitching (1.58 team ERA) and strong offensive performances from the likes of Mackey, who went 9-for-25 (.360) and slugged .680.
It was the first and only Negro World Series championship for Hilldale, and the ECL. The Daisies did not win the next two ECL pennants, and the league broke up in 1928, with the team carried on in other leagues through ‘32. In their heyday, though, the Daisies were a force to be reckoned with.