"TURKEY STEARNES AND THE DETROIT STARS: The Negro Leagues in Detroit, 1919-1933" by Richard Bak

"TURKEY STEARNES AND THE DETROIT STARS: The Negro Leagues in Detroit, 1919-1933"

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Bak, a Detroit-based journalist (And Cobb Would Have Caught It, not reviewed) has added another chapter to the history of baseball's Negro Leagues with this generally interesting history of black professional baseball in the Motor City between the wars. Norman ""Turkey"" Stearnes, the fleet center fielder of the Detroit Stars, may well have been the greatest home-run hitter in the history of the Negro Leagues, but he is not in the Hall of Fame. Bak wrote this book as much to address that injustice as to chronicle baseball in Detroit's black community before the major leagues finally abandoned the color barrier. The Detroit Stars played in the Negro National League (NNL) for virtually all of its 13 seasons of existence, generally registering winning records, but made the playoffs only once. However, as a model of the workings of black baseball, Bak finds them exemplary. Using the Stars as a lens, he follows the city's black community through the Depression, which killed the NNL and the Stars. In addition, he offers what little information he could find about Stearnes, who looks like an admirable candidate for Cooperstown. Along the way, Bak also retells the story of Rube Foster, the league's founder, and briefly profiles numerous other black baseball greats unjustly forgotten. The book also includes an excellent statistical appendix, the most complete one ever assembled for a single Negro League franchise. Although the book is a useful addition to the growing library of works on the Negro Leagues, Bak clearly had to pad what should have been a series of magazine articles on Stearnes and the Stars with extraneous material, much of which is available elsewhere.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1994
Page count: 297pp
Publisher: Wayne State Univ. Press