Biz Mackey


"
Now I saw Josh Gibson. I just think there was no one greater as a hitter, but I can’t say he was a great catcher because he couldn't catch like I could catch. I know that. But he was a great hitter, and I caught against him, and that’s how I know he is a great hitter. He had a good arm. He could throw with anybody, but he missed pitches.

" I heard a friend of mine tell me Josh used to catch him.
He said, 'Now it was different between you and Biz Mackey. You would ask for a pitch down in the dirt--low pitch--and I wouldn’t have to worry about it. But Josh, I couldn’t throw it, because I figured it would get by him.'"
--Negro League All-Star Catcher Quincy Trouppe
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Negro Leaguer of the Month
March, 2006

James Raleigh "Biz" Mackey

Born: July 27, 1897 in Eagle Pass, TX

Died: 1959 in Los Angeles, CA
Ht:6'1", Wt: 220
Batted both and threw right
Position: catcher
Years: 1918-1947
Teams:San Antonio Black Aces, Indianapolis ABCs, New York Lincolns, Hilldale Daisies, Philadelphia Royal Giants, Washington Elite Giants, Baltimore Elite Giants, Philadelphia Stars, Newark Dodgers, Newark Eagles

Recently elected for induction in to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, most Negro League historians have known for years that Biz Mackey rightfully belonged. One of the top defensive catchers in Negro League history and a slugging switch-hitter, Mackey was also the man most responsible for making Roy Campanella into a Hall of Fame catcher, too.

Born in Eagle Pass, Texas, Mackey actually grew up in the town of Luling, where he started playing semipro ball with his brothers. His first professional team was the San Antonio Black Aces in 1918, and by 1920 he was in the "Show" with the brand new Negro National League's Indianapolis ABCs who were managed by the famous C.I. Taylor. Mackey stayed with the ABCs for three seasons, averaging over .300 with a high slugging average.

In 1923, the Eastern Colored League was formed, and many teams "raided" the National League's stars; one of whom was Mackey who was convinced to sign with the Hilldale Daisies. Mackey played shortstop and catcher for Hilldale, as the Daisies had famous catcher Louis Santop behind the plate much of the time.

Mackey was a key member of the 1925 Hilldale club that beat the Kansas City Monarchs in second ever Negro League World Series. He batted .375 while playing a solid third base.

Mackey was an outstanding catcher for many reasons. Although he had little formal schooling, he was very intelligent, called a great game, was a huge target for pitchers to throw to, and threw out base runners like Pudge Rodriguez would 70 years later;

In the 1930s, Mackey joined the Philadelphia Stars and in 1933, at age 36, he was voted to start the very first Negro League All-Star game out-balloting Josh Gibson because of his superior defense. Mackey would be selected for four of the first six All-Star (East-West) games, despite the fact that he was a decade older than many of the other top catchers in the league.

In five total East-West Games, the last coming in 1947 when Mackey was 49 (more of an honorary appearance), Mackey batted .214 and represented four different teams.

In the late 1930s, while with the Baltimore Elite Giants, Mackey took teenager Roy Campanella under his wing and taught him how to catch, much like Bill Dickey had done with Yogi Berra. Negro Leaguers believed that Campanella learned so much from Mackey that he even started to walk like him. Not long after Campanella was paralyzed in an automobile accident in 1959, the Dodgers gave him a special day at the Los Angeles Coliseum. Campanella took the occasion to thank Mackey in person (Mackey was retired and living in L.A.) for all he had done for him.

In 1946, player-manager Mackey led the Newark Eagles in to the Negro League World Series championship over the Kansas City Monarchs. Mackey didn't play regularly, but was a dangerous pinch-hitter.

Lifetime statistics are sketchy, but offensively Mackey was a .300+ hitter, and probably hit more than 300 homers against all competition in his career. Maybe not quite a Mickey Mantle at the plate, Mackey was certainly the best switch-hitting catcher in Negro League history.

 


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