Blessed, or cursed, with an awkward left-handed batting stance that made competitors wonder if he’d be able to make contact, Turkey Sternes became one of the most prolific home run hitters in the history of the Negro Leagues. Leading the Negro National League in homers seven times, Stearnes was more than a home run hitter as he showed in 1933 when he batted in the leadoff spot to utilize his speed and finished the season with a .387 batting average, leading Chicago to the Negro National League’s first pennant. His sterling play earned him a spot in the first East-West All Star game, his first of four, and two years later he batted a league high .430 while with the American Giants. He closed out his career as one of the most prolific long ball hitters in the Negro Leagues, with an all-time mark of 185 home runs in league play, 7 home run titles, and a .359 league batting average. Another player who may have been a superstar had baseball been integrated, he is credited with a .351 batting average in exhibitions against major leaguers. Satchel Paige considered Stearnes “One of the greatest hitters we ever had, he was good as Josh (Gibson).”
While attending the 2014 Jerry Malloy Negro League’s Conference in Detroit, MI, Hall Ball creator Ralph Carhart had a chance to discuss the project with Stearnes’ granddaughter, Vanessa Thompson, who endorsed it enthusiastically.