Turkey Stearnes

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Turkey Stearnes
Norman Turkey Stearnes.png
Born: (1901-05-08)May 8, 1901
Nashville, Tennessee
Died: September 4, 1979(1979-09-04) (aged 78)
Detroit, Michigan
Batted: Left
Threw: Left
1920, for the Nashville Giants
Last appearance
1940, for the Kansas City Monarchs
Negro league statistics
Plate appearances3,662
Batting average.344
Home runs176
Career highlights and awards
  • All-Star (1932, 1934, 1935, 1937, 1939)
Member of the National
Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Baseball Hall of Fame Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg
Election methodVeterans Committee

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


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 1920 with the Nashville Giants, 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 176 home runs in his Negro league career, the all-time Negro league record, and 50 more than second-place Mule Suttles. Since Negro league seasons were very short, sometimes lasting fewer than 30 games, it is unclear how many home runs Stearnes might have hit in a 154-game major league season. The 175-pound Stearnes was a fast baserunner despite his awkward-looking running form, and was one of the best outfielders of his generation. In 2001, writer Bill James ranked Stearnes as the 25th greatest baseball player of all-time and the best left fielder in the Negro leagues.[2]

Stearnes' known career statistics include a .344 batting average, 176 home runs, 750 games, and a .621 slugging percentage.

He led Negro league baseball in triples six times (1923–25, 1927, 1934, 1936), which is the most all-time. In light of Major League Baseball announcing the Negro Leagues from 1920-1948 as a major league, Strearnes now shares the record for most times leading a league in triples with Sam Crawford.

Other work and later life[edit]

Despite his accomplishments, Stearnes had to work winters in Detroit's auto plants to survive, primarily in a factory owned by Walter Briggs, who was the owner of the Detroit Tigers, a team he couldn't play for because he was black.

Stearnes was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2000, 21 years after his death in Detroit. His wife, Nettie Mae, a schoolteacher, who was instrumental in her husband's posthumous induction, died in 2014.

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

A display in Stearnes' honor is on display along the 3rd base concourse at The Corner Ballpark presented by Adient (the Historic Site of Old Tiger Stadium aka Michigan & Trumbull).


External links[edit]