Number nine. Number nine. Number nine. It’s our ninth Negro Leagues election-results announcement, and if you picked up on the very subtle hint we gave last week, you won’t be surprised to learn the identity of this week’s honoree. Put your mitts together for Biz Mackey!
To recap, we’re not really interested in hair-splitting among the more obvious candidates for election, but we do feel they kinda sort themselves into little clumps of players. This is our second big clump and we’re going in alphabetical order through this gang of eight. It’s hard to make a case for Mackey as a top-tier guy. He’s not that kind of player, and, anyway, there’s this guy named Josh in the way among catchers.
Mackey’s halfway between Gary Carter and Carlton Fisk as a candidate. Tremendous defensive players, all. In their salad days they could really hit the ball. They oozed leadership, if each in slightly different ways. Their careers were long, and their best years would have garnered occasional up-ballot support, though they mostly got down-ballot votes. Overall, the sum of their accomplishments makes them easy to vote for but not necessarily inner-circle players. Also like both Carter and Fisk, Mackey played elsewhere than behind the batter, though that’s as much a Negro Leagues thing as a Mackey thing, perhaps.
I suspect that the combination of his cool nickname, his tutelage of Roy Campanella, and the homage of Biz Markie make James Raleigh Mackey’s name at least a little familiar to a wider swath of fans than, say, Pete Hill or Dick Redding. But he’s a Negro Leaguer who toiled in whitefolk obscurity, so it’s not exactly like he’s well known even today. So taking a deeper look at him, Mackey’s offensive game was well-rounded, especially for a catcher. He hit for high averages until his mid-thirties when age and catching caught up to his body. He walked a decent amount, with an OBP about 60 points higher than his batting average. Most of Mackey’s power was doubles power, though in his peak years, he hit with more authority, clearing double figures in triples twice and homers once. He had a little speed in his early to mid twenties and stole double-digit bases at ages 27 and 28, but by age 32, he stopped running as the speed drained out of his knees. Mackey has stellar defensive numbers at catcher with 31 DRA in the equivalent of three to five years of defensive innings (4,859). This supports his stellar defensive reputation in the lore of the Negro Leagues. Pitchers loved to pitch to Mackey, and he had a very strong arm.
Congratulations to Biz Mackey!
Keep it here next Friday to see who we’ll railroad into the HoME this time….