He was considered the next Satchel Paige as he came up through the Negro Leagues. He dominated the Negro Leagues, pitching for the Birmingham Barons and Memphis Red Sox from 1940-1947. He was then signed by Branch Rickey of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Unfortunately, his MLB stats do not do the man justice. Though he hit a home run in his first MLB AB, he gave up 8 runs in 10 IP over 4 games of relief for the Dodgers in 1947. After two seasons in the minors, he was back with the big club in 1950, going 9-4, 5.50 with 3 saves in 41 games, 12 starts. In 129 IP, he walked 88 batters and struck out 96. In 1951, he got into just 7 games (1 start), pitching to a 15.43 ERA and did not pitch in the major leagues again.
Though the stats are incomplete, Bankhead was at the top of is game in the Negro Leagues, going about 15-4, 2.56 in unofficially 18 starts, 10 CG and 3 shutouts. Bankhead's time in the minors in 1948 and 1949 provided a walk to remember. He was 24-6, 2.53 in 1948 and 20-6, 3.76 in 1949 throwing well over 200 innings both seasons. Bankhead did not have the command that Paige had and all those walks held him back a little bit. After pitching in the minors for Brooklyn's farm teams for the rest of 1951 and 1952, Dan went to Mexico where he pitched and played the outfield through the year of 1966.
It is great to see a lot of the great African American players get the respect they deserve. I love hearing stories about Rube Foster, Buck O'Neill, Ray Dandridge, Cool Papa Bell and others. However, I wonder why few talk about the importance of the first African American pitcher. Bankhead paved the way for Newcombe, Mudcat Grant, Ferguson Jenkins and others put does not get the same respect that others have gotten. I agree that Jackie Robinson is in a league of his own, for what he went through and the fact that he was THE first. More pitchers should give a tip of the cap to Dan Bankhead, without who may never had made it to the majors. Perhaps carrying that burden was the reason that he did not sustain much MLB success. Whether that is true or not, he deserves some more respect for what he represents to the game of baseball.