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Encyclopedia > Turkey Stearnes

Norman "Turkey" Stearnes was born in Nashville, Tennessee, USA, on May 8, 1901. He 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 was one of the greatest all-around players in the history of baseball, but because of his race and his quiet personality, he never received the recognition that he deserved. He batted over 400 three times and led the Negro Leagues in home runs seven times. He hit 172 home runs in his career, the all-time Negro League record and 30 more than second place Josh Gibson. Since Negro League seasons were very short, sometimes lasting fewer than thirty games, it is unknown how many home runs Stearns would have hit in a 154 game Major League season. The 165-pound Stearnes was a fast baserunner in spite of his awkward-looking running form. He was also one of the best outfielders of his generation.


In spite of all of his accomplishments, Stearnes was underappreciated and underpaid, having to work winters in Detroit's auto plants to survive financially. In a bitter stroke of irony, he was forced to work 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. He did not live to see his 2000 Hall of Fame induction, having died 21 years earlier on September 4, 1979, at 78 age.


Known Statistics: .350 Career Batting Average, 172 Home Runs, 750 Games, .664 Career Slugging Percentage


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