Turkey Stearnes finally gets his due

Photo courtesy of John Collier/Detroit Free Press

By Alan Madlane
Let’s talk Turkey.
Major League Baseball has thrown a heckuva curveball, and it’s shaking up things in a good way.
In what is certainly a long-overdue move, MLB has finally, in its wisdom, married up the statistics from the old defunct Negro League – that would be the league where Black players were forced to play a segregated but no less vital brand of baseball due to, well, racism – with those of the Majors.
That shakes things up a bit, as far as all-time leaders in the various categories go.
One beneficiary of this shake-up, albeit far too late to enjoy it while still alive, is local Negro League legend Thomas “Turkey” Stearnes, who prowled the outfield right down there on the city’s southend at Hamtramck Stadium.
The stadium is one of only several still standing that hosted Negro League games back some hundred years ago. Its history helped it garner several federal and private grants that have allowed the field to be put back into decent shape.
The field at Hamtramck Stadium is named after Stearnes.
Stearnes, bearer of one of the great nicknames in a sport where the nickname flourished on both sides of the racial divide, back then, now becomes the sixth all-time leader in career Batting Average, at .348; sixth all-time as well in Slugging Percentage (a measure of power hitting where, for example, a double is worth more than a single) at .616; and ninth all-time in On Base and Slugging Percentage (OPS, which is the slugging percentage plus the on-base percentage, which is basically batting average factoring in walks) at 1.033.
These are elite numbers. Stearnes’ achievements have already been reflected in his induction, greatly delayed as it was, into MLB’s vaunted Hall of Fame in 2000. He passed away in 1979, at the age of 78.
The statistical reconfiguration finds long-time Negro League great and fellow Hall-of-Famer Josh Gibson taking over the number-one spot in all-time Batting Average and OPS, and other contemporary greats like Oscar Charleston, Jud Wilson, Buck Leonard and Mule Suttles now commingled among the best players of all time, as far as hitters go.
Now that’s a home run in our book.
Posted June 21, 2024

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *