Bill James ranked Oscar Charleston as the best player of the game in the 1917 to 1919 time period with Cristobel Torriente and in 1933. That is a long spread for winning best player. He also won 3 years in between.
Bill ranks him as the fourth greatest player of all time in his latest historical abstract just ahead of Ty Cobb. I think that is a good position for him just ahead of Ty Cobb. I think his hitting stats in the Negro League show he was about as great a hitter as Ty Cobb. He was probably not as aggressive a base runner, but from what I read he was a better fielder. I give the edge to Charleston, but these aren’t easy comparison’s to make. We can only look at the stats, the stories and opinions and take an educated guess.
Charleston came from a poor family and at age 15 he lied about his age and joined the Army. He ended up being stationed in the Philippines which is on the other side of the Pacific. My Dad was stationed there when I was 10 and it took forever to get there by plane. I am sure when Charleston went there in 1911 he didn’t fly. I wonder what he saw in that long voyage across the largest ocean in the world. He was assigned to the 24th Infantry Regiment an all-black Regiment, which they had in those days. He played ball for the Regiment as a pitcher and center fielder. It sounds like he was a dominant player. The team was all black, but I wonder if they played some white teams and some teams with Pilipino players.
Charleston came back and had a long career as a player and was a successful manager. He is an easy hall of famer and is most peoples choice as the greatest Negro League player, which is an opinion I agree with.