Though somewhat overshadowed by such legendary names as Josh Gibson and Roy Campanella, when the Negro League's top catchers are discussed, Biz Mackey is among those considered the greatest of his era.
“Actually, as much as I admired Campanella as a catcher, all-around, and Gibson as a hitter,” said Hall of Famer Cool Papa Bell, “I believe Biz Mackey was the best catcher I ever saw.”
In fact, a 1954 Pittsburgh Courier poll saw Mackey edge Gibson as the greatest Negro league catcher.
Mackey would don the tools of ignorance in a career that spanned almost 30 years, from the early 1920s to the late 1940s. As a member of teams like the Hilldale Giants, Philadelphia Stars, Newark Eagles, Indianapolis ABCs and the Baltimore/Washington Elite Giants, he always proved to be a leader behind the plate or later as a manager.
Fellow Hall of Famer Cumberland Posey, a longtime Negro League executive, once said: “For combined hitting, thinking, throwing and physical endowment, there has never been another like Biz Mackey. A tremendous hitter, a fierce competitor...he is the standout among catchers.”
A line drive hitter whose batting average rarely dipped below .300, Mackey, named to five East-West All-Star teams, was a favorite receiver among pitchers and had a strong throwing arm.
“I’ve pitched to some great catchers, but my goodness, that Mackey was to my idea the best one I pitched to,” said Hall of Fame hurler Hilton Smith. “The way he handled you, the way he just built you up, believing in yourself. He was marvelous.”
Mackey has been given credit for furthering the development of a number of Negro Leaguers who would go on to success in the major leagues, such as Campanella, Monte Irvin and Larry Doby.
“In my opinion, Biz Mackey was the master of defense of all catchers,” Campanella said. “When I was a kid in Philadelphia, I saw both Mackey and Mickey Cochrane in their primes, but for real catching skills, I don’t think Cochrane was the master of defense that Mackey was.”
Mackey passed away on Sept. 22, 1965. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2006.