Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Talkin Turkey - Norman Stearnes Myths/Truths & Biscuit News

Little happening, but we can confirm that the World Series party held by the Biscuits the past two years is now being billed as "Annual". Cool, its a fun little event!

Former Biscuit Joe Espada has taken a job with the New York Yankees as a special assistant to Brian Cashman. Espada, who batted .265 with the 2004 Inaugural Biscuits, had been working with the Marlins as a coach.


Turkey Day is fast approaching, and I hoped to cover this Hall of Fame Negro League great from the Montgomery area to celebrate the autumn holiday. Also, I also wanted to try to help give him a little extra face time so to speak.

Turkey Stearnes is one of the most famous negro leaguers from our area, known even to fans just moderately familiar with the Alabama River Region baseball history. I studied his career and found out he isnt exactly what the legends say he is, he certainly isnt from the Montgomery area and he had a few things going on that even those who have heard of him maybe don't realize!

When Montgomery and the Biscuits celebrated Montgomery Baseball Leadership Heritage Day this year, (which ISNT on the calendar of promotions for the Biscuits team in 2014! For shame!) one of the main players noted was Turkey Stearnes.

Satch faced Stearnes often
As well it should be, as Turkey Stearnes was one of the best to don the Montgomery GraySox uniform, or any other for that matter. "If you don't put Turkey Stearnes in the Hall of Fame, they shouldn't put anybody" was how Cool Papa Bell felt, and he knew a thing or two about great hitting.

Legend has it that Satchel Paige gave up six consecutive hits to Stearnes. When he faced him the seventh time, Satchel rolled the ball along the ground to the plate saying "Let's see you hit that one!"

My complaint about the "event"?
(other than it being a one-off way for Montgomery city officials to flap gums about their own efforts AND the fact that the event was announced less than 48 hours before it took place)
Its that there was exactly one picture of Stearnes used by the city, the newspaper and all other media covering the event, stolen from the BaseballHall.org website. And it is a particularly bad photo....
NOT the only known photo of Turkey Stearnes!

So, in order to make things better for future generations who hopefully plan their events a little farther in advance, I thought I would offer other images of one the few Montgomery players to have a berth in the Hall of Fame.
 Norman T. Stearnes, Hall of Famer

Stearnes in 1971 w/grandson
Stearnes, whose real name is Norman T. Stearnes (no the "T." does not stand for turkey!) was born in 1901 in Nashville Tn. - not Montgomery in spite of many considering him a Montgomery native.

In his twenty year career in baseball, Turkey would be known as one of the most dangerous hitters in the game, a four time All-Star and one of the top two all-time Negro league home run leaders, depending on who's stats we trust its either him or Mule Suttles.

Stearnes hit a homer every 16 at bats, an equal rate to Hank Aaron and Lou Gehrig.

His outfield play was usually in centerfield and always exemplary - Willie Mays often received comparisons to Stearnes defense.

He was a multiple AllStar, won pennants, batting titles, led the league in homers, triples, doubles and stolen bases.

Turkey with the KC Monarchs, ca 1932
Sixty years after his last game in 1940 the premier leadoff hitter of the Negro Leagues 1920-30s heyday was finally given a pass to Cooperstown.

Over the next few posts we will look at some other long held myths and try to get a better idea of this Hall of Famer and his connection to the Montgomery area!

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