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Turkey Stearnes: Wikis


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Norman Thomas "Turkey" Stearnes (May 8, 1901 – September 4, 1979) was an African American center fielder in the Negro Leagues. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000.

Early Life and career

Born in Nashville, Tennessee, Stearnes acquired his nickname at an early age from his unusual running style. He began his career in professional baseball in 1921 with the Montgomery Grey Sox, then played for the Detroit Stars, beginning in 1923. In 1931, the Stars failed to pay Stearnes his salary because of the Great Depression, so he moved from team to team for the remainder of his career, retiring in 1942 as a member of the Kansas City Monarchs.

Stearnes is considered by some as one of the great all-around players in the history of baseball, but because of his race and his quiet personality, he never received the recognition that many believe he deserved. He batted over .400 three times and led the Negro Leagues in home runs seven times. He is credited with 183 home runs in his Negro League career, the all-time Negro League record, and fifty more than second-place Mule Suttles. Since Negro League seasons were very short, sometimes lasting fewer than thirty games, it is unclear how many home runs Stearnes might have hit in a 154-game major league season. The 165-pound Stearnes was a fast baserunner despite his awkward-looking running form, and was one of the best outfielders of his generation.

Stearnes' known career statistics include a .350 batting average, 172 home runs, 750 games, and a .664 slugging percentage.

Other work and later life

Despite his accomplishments, Stearnes needed to work winters in Detroit's auto plants to survive financially. He worked in an auto factory owned by Walter Briggs, who was the owner of the Detroit Tigers, a team for which he was not allowed to play because of the color of his skin.

Stearnes did not live to see his Hall of Fame induction in 2000, having died 21 years earlier in Detroit at age 78. He was survived by his wife, Nettie Mae.

A plaque in Stearns' honor is on display outside the center field gate at the Tigers' home field, Comerica Park.

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