Turkey Stearnes

Norman Thomas Stearnes
Inducted to the Hall of Fame in: 2000
Primary team: Detroit Stars
Primary position: Center Fielder

Negro Leagues legend Satchel Paige called Turkey Stearnes “one of the greatest hitters we ever had. He was as good as Josh [Gibson]. He was as good as anybody who ever played ball”.

Off the field, Norman “Turkey” Stearnes had a quiet unassuming personality and no vices. Teammate Paul Stevens recalled “[he was] very quiet. About all he would say were ‘yes’ and ‘no’- he was never a fellow to pop off”, but the Tennessee native was far from reserved on the ball field. He was a five-tool player and five time All-Star selection to the Negro leagues East-West All-Star Classic. He is said to have earned the nickname “Turkey” because of the unusual way he ran, which resembled that of a turkey, arms flapping and all, however Turkey himself claimed it was because he had a pot-belly as a child. Regardless of how the nickname came about, he was widely recognized as one of the game’s all-time great players during his career. Negro Leaguer Jim Canada, who played against Stearnes recalled “He hit the ball nine miles. He was a show, people would go to see him play.”

Turkey Stearnes could beat you in so many ways, whether he was hitting a home run from the third or fourth spot in the line-up, batting lead-off and beating out a bunt for a base hit, or tracking down a gapper in left-center field, there was almost nothing he couldn’t do on the field. "That man could hit the ball as far as anybody. But they don't say too much about him," said Hall of Famer Cool Papa Bell, "And he was one of our best all-around players. He could field, he could hit, he could run. He had plenty of power."

As with many Negro League stars, Stearnes played for a variety of teams during his career, including the Chicago American Giants with whom he won the Negro Southern League pennant in 1932 and the Negro National League pennant in 1933. It was during his time with the American Giants that Stearnes was selected to play in the first East-West All-Star Game where he received more votes than any other outfielder.

Negro Leaguer Jimmie Crutchfield described his former teammate as a "quicky-jerky sort of guy who could hit the ball a mile. Turkey 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 to stand that way, and you couldn't criticize him for it when he was hitting everything they threw at him!"

"One of the greatest hitters we ever had. He was as good as Josh [Gibson]. He was as good as anybody who ever played ball. "
Satchel Paige

Career stats

Year Inducted: 2000
Primary Team: Detroit Stars
Position Played: Center Fielder
Bats: Left
Throws: Left
Birth place: Nashville, Tennessee
Birth year: 1901
Died: 1979, Detroit, Michigan
At BatsAB
Home RunsHR
Stolen BasesSB
Batting AverageBA
On Base %OBP
Slugging %SLG