Turkey Stearnes and the Detroit Stars: The Negro Leagues in Detroit, 1919-1933

Turkey Stearnes and the Detroit Stars: The Negro Leagues in Detroit, 1919-1933

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by Richard Bak
     
 

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In recalling the early part of this century in baseball history, casual fans tend to glorify legends like Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth. While these remarkable players dazzled fans and grabbed headlines, black players who were every bit as good went unnoticed outside the Negro leagues. Because a "gentleman's agreement" among the white owners of organized baseball banned…  See more details below

Overview

In recalling the early part of this century in baseball history, casual fans tend to glorify legends like Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth. While these remarkable players dazzled fans and grabbed headlines, black players who were every bit as good went unnoticed outside the Negro leagues. Because a "gentleman's agreement" among the white owners of organized baseball banned blacks from the major and minor leagues from the 1880s through 1946, the Negro National League provided black players the sole opportunity to display their talent. In Turkey Stearnes and the Detroit Stars, Richard Bak documents the extraordinary history of Detroit's first and foremost black professional baseball team. This groundbreaking analysis of Detroit's entry in the Negro National League brings to life a fascinating story of skill, pride, and perseverance. As a charter member of Andrew "Rube" Foster's National Negro League, the Detroit Stars quickly evolved into an integral part of black culture. From the team's beginning in 1919 to its demise in 1933, the Stars offered Detroit's black community entertainment and a short respite from the hardships of daily life. Moreover, the Detroit Stars represented a rare example of successful black entrepreneurship. The greatest Star of them all was Norman "Turkey" Stearnes, the brilliant longball-hitting center fielder. Stearnes established virtually all of the team's individual and career records during his nine seasons with Detroit. Through interviews with fans, players and their relatives, and sportswriters, author Richard Bak successfully captures the intrigue and drama of the Motor City's parallel sports worlds - one black, one white. Brimming with anecdotes, Turkey Stearnes and The Detroit Stars includes oral histories; biographical sketches of players, owners, and fans; and scores of unique photographs. A bonus is the comprehensive statistical overview, the first-ever for a single Negro league team.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A prodigious researcher, Bak ( And Cobb Would Have Caught It ) not only tracked down occasional references to black baseball in the white press of the 1920s and early '30s, but also interviewed surviving players and fans. His book is a plea for organized baseball to put Norman ``Turkey'' Stearnes (1901-1979) in the Hall of Fame, but Bak also depicts the Detroit Stars, a team in various Negro leagues that was more than competent but not great. He shows the many obstacles the Stars overcame, including franchise shifts and players jumping to other teams (as Stearnes did) and the crisis the club could not defeat, the Great Depression, which hit the Motor City harder than any other urban area. During his nine years with the Stars, Stearnes set almost all of the team's individual and career records and readers will most likely agree with Bak that he merits election to the shrine at Cooperstown. Photos. (Apr.)
Library Journal
One can count on two hands the number of worthwhile books dealing with the Negro Leagues; Bak's work certainly joins that number. As an introduction to a wide-ranging examination of Negro League baseball, he discusses the history of Detroit in general and its role as home for African Americans. The title is misleading: while Turkey Stearnes was unquestionably the stand-out of the Detroit Stars, Bak addresses the broader story of Negro League baseball in Detroit. Much of the related literature deals with great Negro League players or teams, but Bak, using thorough statistics and combining historical narrative with personal reminiscences, looks at an average team, to the benefit of both the baseball historian and fan. The publisher is to be saluted for making this book available. Highly recommended. For a related title, see The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball League , reviewed on p. 88.--Ed.-- William O. Scheeren, Hempfield Area H.S. Lib., Greensburg, Pa.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780814324837
Publisher:
Wayne State University Press
Publication date:
04/28/1994
Series:
Great Lakes Bks.
Pages:
302
Product dimensions:
6.28(w) x 9.27(h) x 1.02(d)

Meet the Author

Richard Bak is a freelance writer and is the author of Cobb Would Have Caught It (1991), and A Place for Summer (1998) both published by Wayne State University Press.

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