Sunday, May 08, 2005


May 8th, 1901

Turkey Sterns Born

It has been a while since I've done a good ol' fashioned, "Hey! That's a funny nickname" so here we are with Norman Thomas "Turkey" Sterns. Sterns is, incredibly, one of three Turkeys to reach BaseballReference, although the other two played in the Majors, while Sterns was unfortunately confined to the Negro Leagues. He is, however, the only Turkey in the Hall of Fame, having been elected in 2000 on the basis of his amazing hitting talents. Although Negro League records are unreliable, Sterns is credited with hitting .400 three times, and leading the league in hitting seven times. He is also believed to be the Negro League home run champion, ahead of the better-known Josh Gibson. He was well-regarded by his fellow Negro Leaguers. Cool Papa Bell once said that "if they don't put Turkey Sterns in the Hall of Fame, they shouldn't put anybody in." Sadly, Sterns died several years before his induction.

Although a quiet man generally, Sterns was apparently a bit of a character when it came to his physical qualities. His batting stance was described by Satchel Page as having his right foot in the bucket (that is, stepping out) with his right ankle twisted up and pointing up with his big toe. Spectators apparently frequently marveled that Sterns was able to make contact, let alone succeed given his stance. His quirky physical characteristics are also the source of the nickname, acquired when his running style brought a turkey to the minds of his childhood playmates.

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