Turkey Stearnes
As most of the nation gathers to celebrate Thanksgiving, we at the Philadelphia Baseball Review figured it was a perfect time to spotlight Norman "Turkey" Stearnes. 

Stearnes didn't have the power of Josh Gibson or the speed of Cool Papa Bell, but he was a five-tool talent and one of the all-time Negro League greats. 

Stearnes played professionally for portions of 20 seasons, won multiple batting and home run titles, and was a perennial .300 hitter. 

He began his baseball career with the Nashville Elite Giants in 1920 but became a star during an eight-year stint with the Detroit Stars starting in 1923. Following Detroit, Stearnes jumped to Chicago and spent the next five seasons with the American Giants. 

A three-time All-Star while in Chicago, he helped push the Giants to the 1934 Negro National League championship before his club fell to Ed Bolden's Philadelphia Stars. 

In a salary-shedding move, Stearnes was given his release by Chicago at the end of the 1935 season. He joined the Philadelphia Stars in early May of 1936. 

According to published box scores in the Philadelphia Tribune, the 35-year-old Stearnes made his Philadelphia debut in a pair of exhibitions during the first week of May. He then made his regular season debut in the Stars' season opener on May 9, 1936, in a 14-13 walk-off victory over the visiting Homestead Grays. He finished the day with a hit, a run scored, and three putouts while playing centerfield. 

"That man could hit the ball as far as anybody," Bell once said. "And he was one of our best all-around players. He could field, he could hit, he could run. He had plenty of power." 

Stearnes went on to piece together an impressive campaign in Philadelphia, hitting .352 with ten homers, 43 RBIs, and a 152 OPS+, according to Baseball Reference. It's important to note that these figures include contests against numerous amateur and semipro clubs, not just the professional teams of the Negro National League. 

The Stars, who just two years prior in 1934 won the Negro National League pennant, finished in the bottom half of the standings in 1936 with an unofficial league mark of 12-18. 

Stearnes left Philadelphia after one season, returning to Detroit in 1937. He went on to play for another four seasons before ending his career in 1940 at the age of 39 years old. 

The left-handed hitting Stearnes had an unorthodox style at the plate, including a batting stance where he would spread his legs in the box with the right heel turned and appear over-matched. 

"Turkey had a batting stance that you'd swear couldn't let anybody hit a baseball at all," said fellow Negro Leaguer Jimmie Crutchfield. "He'd stand up there looking like he was off balance. But, it was natural for him to stand that way, and you couldn't criticize him for it when he was hitting everything they threw at him." 

The legendary Satchel Paige said Stearnes was "one of the greatest hitters we ever had. He was as good as Josh [Gibson]. He was as good as anybody who ever played ball." 

Stearnes earned enshrinement into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000. 

And the nickname Turkey? 

That was a reference to how Stearnes looked while running the bases. He had an unusual motion of flapping his arms while he ran, similar to a turkey. 

"He was one of the best, for sure," Bell said.
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