Willie Wells – Negro League Baseball Player Known as “The Devil”


Willie James Wells, or also known as The Devil, is a professional baseball player. From 1924 to 1948, he played as a shortstop for different teams in the Negro Leagues and Latin America. During his career, Wells was a fast base-runner who always go for both average and power. His performance increased when he was wearing his gloves. In fact, he almost commits no errors, and he has the speed to run down nearly anything in his direction when he is wearing his gloves. Back in his day, Willie Wells was considered to be the best black shortstop, and he is also known for being the first player ever to use a batting helmet. In this article, we are going to learn more about the career of Willie Wells.

Early Life

Willie Wells was born in Austin, Texas, where he attended Anderson High School. That is where he showed his talents at playing baseball; that is why he eventually ended up playing professional baseball in 1923. He spent one season with the Austin Black Senators of the Texas Colored League. Wells briefly attended Samuel Houston College before he got called up to the St. Louis team of the Negro National League.

Professional Career at the Negro National League

Willie Wells entered the NNL along with the St. Louis Stars in 1924 up until 1931. In 1926, Wells managed to hit 27 home runs, which is a Negro League single-season record. From 1932 to 1935, Willie Wells moved to play for the Chicago American Giants. After that, he switched teams and played for the Newark Eagles from 1936 to 1939. While Wells was playing with the Newark Eagles, he got the chance to be a part of the “Million Dollar Infield,” along with Mule Suttles, Ray Dandridge, and Dick Seay.

From 1940 to 1941, Wells played in Mexico, where he experience democracy, freedom, and acceptance. When he was there, he was nicknamed “El Diablo” because of his incredible intensity. Wells brought his nickname back to the United States, where it was translated to The Devil. In 1942, Wells decided to get back to the Negro Leagues as a player-manager for the Eagles. However, a year after that, Wells went back to Mexico for the 1943 and 1944 seasons.

Willie Wells returned to the United States in 1945. That’s the time when he played for several Negro League teams, including the Memphis Red Sox, where he got the chance to play together with his son. After that phase, Wells went to Canada to be the player-manager of the Winnipeg Buffaloes. He stayed in Canada and played baseball until his retirement in 1954. After that, Willie Wells went back to the United States and went back to be the Birmingham Black Barons manager.


Willie Wells died in Austin in 1989 because of congestive heart failure. In 1997, he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee. Aside from that, he was also inducted into the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame and Mexican Professional Baseball Hall of Fame.

Willie Well’s known statistics are: .510 slugging percentage, .319 career batting average, 399 runs batted in, 644 runs scored, 98 home runs, and 756 games played.

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