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Thu, 05.09.1901

“Turkey” Stearnes, Icon of the Negro Leagues

"Turkey" Stearnes

Norman (“Turkey”) Stearnes was born on this date in Nashville, TN, in 1901. He was a Black baseball player in the Negro Leagues.

When he was 20, he entered professional baseball with the Montgomery Grey Sox of the Negro Southern League in 1921. A fleet-footed power hitter, his unusual batting style gave him his nickname. Stearnes demonstrated his hitting prowess early and was signed by the Detroit Stars of the Negro National League in 1923. Through the 1920s, Stearnes compiled a .360+ batting average with the Stars, winning the league batting title four times. But Stearnes' success did not solely rest on his hitting.  He was an excellent outfielder with exceptional range and a strong arm.

In 1932, Stearnes joined the Chicago American Giants where his performance earned him appearances in four East-West All-Star games, including the inaugural all-star game in 1933.  Leaving the windy city in 1936 to play with the Philadelphia Stars, Stearnes posted a .350+ season batting average. Again with the Detroit Stars in 1937, he earned another All-Star game appearance and hit for an incredible .383 average.

Former teammate Jimmie Crutchfield described Stearnes as "quick-jerky sort of guy who could hit the ball a mile.  He had a batting stance that you'd swear couldn't let anybody hit a baseball at all.  He'd stand up there looking like he was off balance. But, it was natural for him and you couldn't criticize him for it when he was hitting everything thrown at him!"

Stearnes finished his career with various teams during the 1938-40 seasons. Some included, the Nashville Elite Giants, Montgomery Grey Sox, Memphis Red Sox, Detroit Stars, New York Lincoln Giants, Kansas City Monarchs, Cole's American Giants, Philadelphia Stars, Chicago American Giants, Detroit Black Sox, and Toledo Cubs.

Norman Stearnes died on September 4, 1979 in Detroit, Michigan.

Reference:
The Negro Baseball Leagues A Photographic History
By Phil Dixon with Patrick J. Hannigan
Copyright 1992, Jed Clauss and Joanna Paulsen
Ameron House Publishing
ISBN 0-88488-0425-2

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