Biz Mackey

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James Raleigh Mackey
(Biz)

  • Bats Both, Throws Right
  • Height 6' 0", Weight 200 lb.

Inducted into Hall of Fame in 2006

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Biographical Information[edit]

A career .329 hitter, Biz Mackey ranks 14th in Negro League history. He originally came up as a shortstop - in 1923 he split time at short with Pop Lloyd on the Hilldale Club, taking over for Lloyd when Frank Warfield replaced Lloyd at manager. Mackey led the league in batting average with a .413 mark as the Hilldales won the Eastern Colored League title.

Mackey was Hilldale's main shortstop in 1924, when the team again won the ECL pennant; Mackey finished 3rd in batting average and doubles. That year they lost the inaugural Negro League World Series to the Kansas City Monarchs 5 games to 4, with one tie.

In 1925, Hilldale won its third consecutive ECL title. Mackey hit .341 but more importantly moved to catcher on a full-time basis, where he would become acclaimed as the top defensive catcher in the history of the Negro Leagues. Hilldale gained revenge against the Monarchs in the Series, winning 5 games to 1 with Mackey batting .360.

A year later Hilldale slipped to second, but Mackey kept hitting - tied for the league lead with 20 doubles, tied for 3rd with 10 homers and even leading the league with 14 stolen bases.

After 4 more years of solid .300+ hitting, Mackey put up another strong show in 1931. He hit .341, tops in the east for the second time.

Mackey spent the 1932 season touring overseas, including a long stay in Japan which supposedly played a major role in inspiring the formation of pro baseball in that country. Mackey's stats declined significantly when he returned to the States in '33, never really returning to former levels.

In '34, the Stars were the champions of the combined East-West League and Mackey had another fine post-season as they beat the Chicago American Giants 4 games to 3. At age 37, Mackey was in decline offensively, though still productive.

After a couple years with the Washington Elite Giants, he moved with the team to Baltimore in 1938; Mackey, at age 41, got new life as the mentor to a young Roy Campanella. Campy later credited Mackey with teaching him basically everything he knew about catching, and was a big exponent of Mackey's talent.

In '39, Mackey moved to the Newark Eagles during the season, allowing Campanella to become a starter for the Elites. A year later Mackey replaced Dick Lundy as manager of the Eagles, while still being the regular catcher at 43 years of age. Mackey's managerial career didn't last long (writer Donn Rogosin editorialized that Mackey's ethics conflicted with owner Effa Manley's style) - by 1942 he was out of the helm at Newark and no longer playing regularly after 20 years in the Negro Leagues. He returned to Newark as a player in 1945 and became manager in 1946, leading the team to its only World Series victory that year. He managed the team in 1947, and then retired. Mackey also managed the East in the first 1947 East-West Game and pinch-hit on his 50th birthday; he was given a free pass by Gentry Jessup.

In documented games against white major-leaguers, Mackey hit over .350.

Mackey was also a long-time regular in the California Winter League, playing there for a record 26 seasons. He holds the all-time league records for doubles (62) and triples (17, tied with Tank Carr). His 28 homers rank third behind Mule Suttles and Turkey Stearnes and he was 6th all-time in average, .366.

After many years of being advanced as a Hall of Fame candidate, Mackey was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2006. He is generally ranked as the #2 catcher all-time in Negro League history, and fans of defense at catcher have rated him ahead of Josh Gibson. Some contemporaries clearly ranked Mackey ahead of Gibson - in the first East-West Game in 1933 Mackey started ahead of Gibson and hit cleanup. That was the case again in 1936, even though Mackey was almost 40 and Gibson was in his prime. Recent research shows Mackey died in 1965, not 1959 as previously reported.

Negro Leagues Career Statistics[edit]

Year Team League G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB BA SLG
.
1920 Indianapolis ABCs NNL 18 65 3 21 1 0 0 1 1 3 .323 .338
1921 Indianapolis ABCs NNL 46 169 18 51 6 6 5 19 2 12 .302 .497
1922 Indianapolis ABCs NNL 46 158 22 66 13 10 5 12 3 22 .418 .722
1923 Hilldale ECL 44 167 27 69 6 1 4 46 5 2 .413 .533
1924 Hilldale ECL 80 321 57 104 20 4 4 44 9 20 .324 .449
1925 Hilldale ECL 67 232 52 79 19 6 7 26 12 33 .341 .565
1926 Hilldale ECL 86 310 60 104 20 3 10 71 14 39 .335 .516
1927 Hilldale/Homestead Grays ECL/indep. 26 90 23 31 1 3 3 14 2 12 .344 .522
1928 Hilldale/Baltimore Black Sox ECL 55 208 45 73 12 4 4 35 6 20 .351 .505
1929 Hilldale ANL 30 116 19 38 3 2 2 9 2 11 .328 .505
1930 Baltimore Black Sox/Hilldale independent 36 128 28 52 7 5 4 32 2 16 .406 .633
1931 Hilldale independent 45 164 34 56 3 2 4 22 1 12 .341 .457
1932 played in Japan
1933 Philadelphia Stars NNL 23 79 7 23 2 0 0 13 1 5 .291 .316
1934 Philadelphia Stars NNL 28 73 7 23 5 0 2 9 0 7 .315 .466
1935 Philadelphia Stars NNL 44 156 19 38 5 0 2 10 0 6 .244 .314
1936 Washington Elite Giants NNL 32 119 16 36 6 2 1 12 0 9 .303 .412
1937 Wash. Elite Giants/Phil. Stars NNL 21 70 8 18 2 0 0 2 0 6 .257 .286
1938 Baltimore Elite Giants NNL 22 80 13 19 1 0 0 0 1 8 .238 .250
1939 Balt. Elite Giants/Newark Eagles NNL 16 34 5 20 0 0 0 1 1 1 .588 .588
1940 Newark Eagles NNL 34 115 14 35 4 0 1 25 0 12 .304 .365
1941 Newark Eagles NNL 21 54 6 15 1 1 0 7 0 9 .278 .333
1945 Newark Eagles NNL 36 114 15 35 2 2 1 21 -- -- .307 .386
1946 Newark Eagles NNL 7 6 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .167 .167
1947 Newark Eagles NNL -- 92 5 21 4 0 0 2 0 4 .228 .272
.
Totals 24 seasons 863 3120 503 1028 143 51 59 433 135 270 .329 .465
per 162 g 5.33 162 586 94 193 29 10 11 '81 25 51

Sources[edit]

Statistical information from Committee on African-American Baseball, 2005 Most biographical information from "The Complete Book of Baseball's Negro Leagues" by John Holway

Further Reading[edit]

  • Rich Westcott: Biz Mackey, a Giant behind the Plate: The Story of the Negro League Star and Hall of Fame Catcher, Temple University Press, Philadelphia, PA, 2018. ISBN 978-1-4399-1551-6

Related Sites[edit]