Norman “Turkey” Stearnes is credited with 186 home runs during Negro League play, among the most in the league’s history. A .349 lifetime hitter, Stearnes led the league in homers in seven seasons.
He earned two National Negro League batting titles as a member of the Detroit Stars in 1929 and 1931. BaseballReference.com also credits the left-handed Stearnes with leading his league in triples six times, and RBI twice.
Stearnes was bold and aggressive on the playing field. The versatile performer was a fleet-footed centerfielder and base stealer. He was the quintessential 5-tool player.
According to the Baseball Hall of Fame, Cool Papa Bell concurs.
“That man could hit the ball as far as anybody,” Bell said. “And he was one of our best all-around players. He could field, he could hit, he could run. He had plenty of power.”
Stearnes played 18 seasons from 1923-1940, suiting up for the Stars, Chicago American Giants, Philadelphia Stars, and the Kansas City Monarchs. In addition to his .349 lifetime average, Stearnes career stats include a .417 on-base percentage, a .617 slugging mark, and a 177 OPS+.
Because of his race and quiet nature, Stearnes remains largely forgotten by baseball historians. The Veterans Committee selected Strearnes, skipper Sparky Anderson, and infielder Bid McPhee in 2000. They were inducted into Cooperstown later that summer along with writers choices Tony Perez and Carlton Fisk.
In the collection is this 3×5 index card in which the center fielder has written, “Turkey Strearnes centerfielder of the Detroit Stars”.