If only he had been white, he could have been the best baseball pitcher ever. He had amazing speed and control, he even once had player align baseball bats about 6 inches a part and threw a baseball in the hole.
There are 3 pitchers I think can be argued as having been better than Lefty Grove, though, as y'all know, I rate Grove #1 by a substantial margin. They are Roger Clemens, Walter Johnson and Satchel Paige. The difference between Clemens and Johnson on the one hand, and Paige on the other, is this:
I can go on at great length with objective reasons why I think Grove was probably better than Clemens and certainly better than Johnson. In fact, I've already done so, on this and 3 other websites. But with Paige, I'm only guessing... as I would be if I flip-flopped and rated Paige ahead of Grove.
Considering how close in time they were born, that's an obscene shame--much like the fact there's no intelligent way to compare Babe Ruth (born, 1895) and Oscar Charleston (born, 1896). It's worth knowing, though, that whereas the Dead Ball-fanatic fans and players who thought Cobb better than Ruth have been pretty clearly disproven with the top statistical evaluators of today, it will never be proven who was better between Ruth and his great black contemporary, Oscar Charleston.
Bill James did a lot of research into Charleston's career, given what little recorded info there is, and concluded he ranks #4 all time, behind only Ruth, Mays and Cobb. But James pretty much admits it's a guess--and he quotes all kinds of guys who said things like "Oscar Charleston could run faster than Ty Cobb," "Oscar Charleston was like Tris Speaker; he could play you so shallow in CF, then run down anything that was hit over him;" "Oscar Charleston was so fast he made Ty Cobb look slow;" and "Oscar Charleston was like Babe Ruth: naturally left-handed; hit for great average to all fields; and had a huge chest, shoulders, arms and wrists that gave him the ability to hit the ball unbelievably far." One Negro Leaguer who made the Hall--I think it was Monte Irvin--said that Willie Mays was the best MLB player he ever saw, but that Oscar Charleston was the best BASEBALL player he ever saw. Irvin was too young to have seen Ruth through an adult's eyes, but I saw Mays when I was a child, an adolescent and an adult, and if Irvin thought Charleston was better than Mays, all I can say is WOW!
It's a great tragedy that we cannot intelligently compare Grove to Paige, Wagner to Lloyd, whomever you choose at catcher to Gibson, and, of course, Ruth to Charleston. I realize many historians have tried, usually rating the Negro Leaguers far too low. I know better than to try, and it both frustrates and angers me. Talk about injustice.
Anyway, Mr. Charleston, whether you were actually better than Ruth (as some said) or not, you were one hellacious ballplayer and I sure wish I could have seen you... or at least that I could see extensive films of your work. Those who saw you play are pretty much all gone, and the ranks of those who played under you when you managed in the final years of your life are growing thin.
I guess we'll have to settle for Bill James' guess that you're the #4 player of all time. The guess could be unduly generous to you, or, on the other hand....