|Raleigh "Biz" Mackey
Hall of Fame Inductee - 2006
|Full Name: Raleigh "Biz" Mackey
Bats: Both Throws: Right
Weight: 215 lbs.
Born: Jul 27, 1897 in Eagle Pass, TX
Died: Sep 22, 1965 in Los Angeles, CA
Biz was a switch-hitting catcher considered by many the greatest catcher in Negro League history. With a powerful arm and a ôsnap throw." He was strong enough to throw to second base from a sitting position, which he customarily did in between-inning warm-ups.
Biz originally came up as a shortstop. In 1923 he split time at short with Pop Lloyd on the Philadelphia Hilldales, taking over for Lloyd when Frank Warfield replaced Lloyd at manager. Mackey led the league in hitting and the Hilldales won the Eastern Colored League title.
Mackey remained the Hilldale shortstop in 1924, when the team again won the ECL pennant; Mackey finished 3rd in average and doubles. That year they lost the inaugural Negro League World Series to the Kansas City Monarchs 5 games to 4.
In '25, Hilldale won their third straight ECL title. Mackey hit .346 but mroe importantly moved to catcher, where he would become acclaimed as the top defensive catcher in the history of the Negro Leagues. Hilldale got their revenge against the Monarchs in the Series, this time winning 5 games to 1 with Mackey batting .360.
A year later Hilldale slipped to second, but Mackey kept hitting - tied for the league lead with 17 doubles, tied for 3rd with 10 homers and even leading the league in steals (14).
After 4 more years of solid .300 hitting, Mackey put up another strong show in 1931. He hit .359, tops in the east for the second time.
It appears that Mackey spent most of the 1932 season touring overseas, including a long stay in Japan which supposedly played a major role in inspiring the formation of pro baseball in that country. Mackey's stats declined significantly when he returned to the States in '33, never really returning to former levels.
In '34, the Stars were the champions of the combined East-West League and Mackey had another fine post-season as they beat the Chicago American Giants 4 games to 3. At age 37, Mackey was in decline offensively, though still productive.
After a couple years with the Washington Elite Giants, the team moved to Baltimore in 1938; Mackey, at age 41, got new life as the mentor to a young Roy Campanella. Campy later credited Mackey with teaching him basically everything he knew about catching, and was a big exponent of Mackey's talent.
In '39, Mackey moved to the Newark Eagles during the season, allowing Campanella to become a starter. A year later Mackey replaced Dick Lundy as manager of the Eagles, while still being the regular catcher at 43 years of age. Mackey's managerial career didn't last long (writer Donn Rogosin said his ethics conflicted with owner Effa Manley's style) - by 1942 he was out of the helm at Newark and no longer playing regularly after 20 years in the Negro Leagues.
Mackey was also a long-time regular in the California Winter League, playing there for a record 26 seasons. He holds the all-time league records for doubles (62) and triples (17, tied with Tank Carr). His 28 homers rank third behind Mule Suttles and Turkey Stearnes and he was 6th all-time in average, .366.
Mackey has often been advanced as a Hall of Fame candidate. He is generally ranked as the #2 catcher all-time in Negro League history, and fans of defense at catcher have rated him ahead of Josh Gibson. Some contemporaries clearly ranked Mackey ahead of Gibson - in the first East-West Game in 1934 Mackey started ahead of Gibson and hit cleanup. That was the case again in 1936, even though Mackey was almost 40 and Gibson was in his prime.