Mickey Casey (Courtesy of Gary Ashwill)

Mickey Casey

This article was written by Paul Hofmann

Mickey Casey (Courtesy of Gary Ashwill)Mickey Casey was a stout, 5-foot-7½-inch, 200-pound journeyman catcher who had a 12-year professional career in the Negro Leagues. Known for his strong work ethic, the well-traveled backstop was characterized as “a mediocre hitter, not noted for either consistency, contact ability, or power.”1 Though accurate from an offensive perspective, it understates Casey’s value to the teams he played for. He was a serviceable catcher and versatile enough to play other positions, particularly third base and the outfield.2

Casey played for the Brooklyn Royal Giants, Baltimore Black Sox, Philadelphia Stars, Washington Black Senators, Newark Eagles, Pittsburgh Crawfords, New York Cuban Giants, and Baltimore Elite Giants. Along the way his career intersected with greatness. He was an integral member of the 1934 Negro National League II (NNL2) champion Philadelphia Stars, driving in the series-clinching run, and was teammates with 10 future Hall of Famers: Turkey Stearnes, Monte Irvin, Willie Wells, Roy Campanella, Leon Day, Biz Mackey, Ray Dandridge, Oscar Charleston, Mule Suttles, and Jud Wilson.

William Cofer Casey was born on May 5, 1905, in Newport News, Virginia.3 He was the youngest child and only son of the four known children of William and Eleanor (Roberts) Casey. William had three older sisters: Lattie, Ruth, and Peachy. His father was a laborer in the shipyards of Newport News. His mother, Eleanor, died when William was young.4

Little is known about Mickey Casey’s childhood. He went by his middle name as a child and is listed as “Coffer” [sic] in both the 1910 and 1920 censuses, perhaps to distinguish him from his father. While most sources identify Casey as Black, the 1920 census identified him as a 15-year-old mulatto. His light complexion and a noticeable scar above his left eyebrow later were noted on his World War II draft card. By 1920, he was already working as a laborer and presumably starring on the local sandlots of Newark News.

Casey played baseball at Johnson C. Smith University (JCSU) in Charlotte, North Carolina.5 His path to JCSU is unclear and like many university athletes at that time, there is no record of Casey having attended classes at JCSU. In addition to Casey, JCSU produced three other Negro League players: “Steel Arm” Johnny Taylor, Burnalle “Bun” Hayes, and William “Red” Lindsay.6 One source indicates Casey finished three years of high school.7

By the age of 21, Casey had two sons, William (b. 1924) and Cofer (b. 1926). While there is no record of Casey being married at this time, the two boys were consistently identified as his children in public records. Cofer, the younger of the two, died of tuberculosis just before his 19th birthday in 1945.

Casey began his professional career in 1930, a season in which he played first for the Brooklyn Royal Giants and later for the Baltimore Black Sox.8 Currently available statistics suggest Casey had a feast-or-famine type of rookie season at the plate in games against other major Eastern Independent clubs. He played in eight games for the Royal Giants, sharing catching duties with Willie Creek, and hit only .037 (1-for-27) with one RBI. By July, Casey had moved to Baltimore and in 12 games with the Black Sox he hit .370 (10-for-27), with 4 RBIs and an .859 OPS. For the year, he batted a cumulative .204 and drove in five runs. He also made his only professional pitching appearance with the Black Sox, throwing one inning and giving up four runs (three earned) on two hits and two walks.

In 1931 Casey returned to the Black Sox, who were still playing as one of the major independent clubs along the Eastern Seaboard. He was primarily used behind the plate, sharing the catching duties with Bob Clarke, but also saw some action in the outfield, and he hit .306 and drove in 15 runs in 36 games against other top Black teams. That year the Pittsburgh Courier identified the chunky catcher and first baseman Dave Thomas as “two of the best youngsters who have broke in around here in many moons.”9

There is some evidence that Casey may have toyed with the idea of playing for the Detroit Wolves in 1932. After Detroit signed Cool Papa Bell and Tom Young, the Pittsburgh Courier assessed the Wolves’ potential catching duo as formidable. Said an article in the Courier: “Young is a great receiver and dependable hitter and teaming with Casey in back of the plate will give the Motor City Club just about the greatest catching staff in the league.”10

Ultimately, Casey continued to play for the Black Sox, now managed by Dick Lundy, after the franchise joined the East-West League (EWL) in 1932. He played a utility role for Baltimore as he appeared in 31 games as a catcher, 17 at third base, 9 at second base, and 4 in the outfield. He batted .258 with one home run, the only known major-league home run he hit, and 16 RBIs. The Black Sox finished in third place behind the runaway champion Detroit Wolves, the team Casey was linked to during the offseason. The East-West League folded in June, but there is no evidence that Casey played elsewhere for the remainder of the season.

Casey moved to Philadelphia in 1933 when he was signed by the independent Philadelphia Stars as a reserve catcher to back up veteran receiver Biz Mackey. W. Rollo Wilson wrote in his season preview of the Stars that “Mackey and Casey left nothing to be desired in the way of catchers,” emphasizing their strong arms and ability to manage the pitching staff.11

Mackey undoubtedly played an integral part in development of Casey and other young catchers. The consensus among Negro Leagues scholars is that Josh Gibson was the better hitter, but that Mackey was by far his defensive superior.12 Negro League historian James A. Riley may have stated it best when he wrote, “Considered the master of defense, (Mackey) possessed all the tools necessary behind the plate. … An expert handler of pitchers, he studied people. … [H]e was a master at … framing and funneling pitches. Pitchers recognized his generalship and liked to pitch” to Mackey.13 His defensive prowess, understanding of people, and level-headedness made him an ideal tutor for Casey.

A personal highlight of Casey’s 1933 season came toward the end of the season. On September 28 the Stars beat the Pittsburgh Crawfords 4-3 in a five-inning rain-shortened affair. Pinch-hitting for pitcher Cliff Carter, Casey drove in the tying and winning runs off Satchel Paige with a single to right-center in the bottom of the fifth.14 For the year, Casey played in 21 games including 11 at catcher, in which he did not commit an error behind the plate, while hitting .222 with 10 RBIs. The Stars finished with a record of 22-13 and had the most victories of all the independent clubs in the East.

The Philadelphia Stars joined the NNL2 in 1934, and Casey became the team’s starting catcher when the aging Mackey went down with an injury. In addition to handling the bulk of the catching duties (52 games), he played third base twice, two games in the outfield, and one game at second base. He batted .250 with 24 RBIs, helping the Stars capture the league’s second-half title, which secured a spot in the NNL2 Championship Series against the first-half-champion Chicago American Giants.

Rollo Wilson, commissioner of the Negro National League, named Gibson and Larry “Iron Man” Brown as the best catchers, but singled out Casey of the Stars as the “hardest-working mask man in the league and deserving honorable mention.”15 The recognition was earned in large part because Mackey had not been able to perform and Casey had been forced to take on extra work without a reliable backup. Casey finished sixth among catchers in fan voting for the East-West All-Star Game, receiving just under 4,000 votes.16

Casey played in six games in the 1934 Negro League Championship series, two behind the plate and three games in left field. Although he hit only a meager 1-for-15 with two walks in 18 plate appearances, his fourth-inning RBI single that plated Mackey in Game Eight proved to be the series-winning RBI as the Stars won the series over the American Giants, 4-3-1.17

Casey returned to a backup role with the Stars in 1935. He played in 31 games, which included 25 appearances behind the plate and two games in left field. He enjoyed his best season offensively, hitting .383 with 23 RBIs and a .932 OPS. The increased offensive production was in part due to a decreased workload behind the plate. Fans continued to take notice of Casey; he finished fourth in the East in fan voting (Mackey was second) with 5,940 votes.18 The Stars finished in fourth place, behind the first-half and eventual league champion Pittsburgh Crawfords, the New York Cubans, and the Columbus Elite Giants. Casey filled a similar role with the Stars in 1936, this time backing up starting catcher Larry Brown. In 30 games he hit .278 with 11 RBIs as the Stars fell to last place in the NNL.

In 1937, his last full season with the Stars, Casey married Ophelia Mack. She was the youngest of the three children of Thomas and Gertrude (Gatling) Mack of Philadelphia. He was 32 years old at the time and Ophelia was 23. The couple eventually had nine children together, five boys (William, Johnny, Michael, Thomas Richard, and James) and four girls (Bonnie, Geneva, Eleanor, and Maureen). Ophelia, commonly known as Mother Casey,19 worked at St. Vincent DePaul Hospital as a nurse.20 At the time of her death in 2005, the family included “27 grandchildren and a host of great-grand and great-great-grandchildren.”21

Casey was steady behind the plate in 1937, but his offensive production dropped off to a .206 batting average, 8 RBIs and a .471 OPS. The Stars did better that year but still finished in third place, behind the league champion Homestead Grays and second-place Newark Eagles.

Casey traveled throughout the Northeast in 1938, playing for four teams, the Philadelphia Stars, Pittsburgh Crawfords, Newark Eagles, and Washington Black Senators. As he probably had trouble remembering his address from one day to the next, he hit a combined .225 (16-for-82 with 9 walks) with only 6 RBIs.

After the collapse of the Black Senators, Casey signed with the New York Cubans for 1939. He appeared in 14 NNL2 games at catcher and enjoyed one of his better seasons at the plate. In 14 games he hit .320. The Cubans finished in last place.

Casey played a second season with the Cubans in 1940, and the now 35-year-old backstop shared the team’s catching duties with his 44-year-old player-manager José María Fernández. Casey slumped to a .192 batting average in 19 league games as the Cubans finished tied for last with the New York Black Yankees. On his World War II draft registration card, dated October 16, 1940, Casey indicated that he had no employer. Wherever he may have found employment in 1941, it was not with a team in professional Black baseball.

In 1942 Casey played one final game in the NNL2 with the Baltimore Elite Giants, which featured a 20-year-old catcher named Roy Campanella. Whether Casey was a player-coach is unclear, but he made just one appearance, as a pinch-hitter, and was hitless.

According to Riley’s The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues, Casey’s playing career extended into the 1950s. Casey’s entry in the encyclopedia states:

In 1950, twenty years after he started his professional career, he finally played in organized ball, playing at Eau Claire in the Northern League, where he registered a .282 average. In 1953 the veteran receiver was with Jacksonville in the Sally League, where he hit .253. the next season he split time between Jacksonville and Dallas in the Texas League, hitting an aggregate .184. His last season was split between Charlotte in the South Atlantic League (.214) and Atlanta in the Southern Association (.250), where he was used sparingly.22

However, this is not the same William Casey. Baseball-reference.com identifies the William Casey who played in Eau Claire, Jacksonville, Dallas, Charlotte, and Atlanta as William Carl Casey, born on July 14, 1930, in Parkin, Arkansas, not Mickey Casey. In 1950 Mickey was residing on Saybrook Avenue in an African American community in Philadelphia with Ophelia, six of their children, two nephews, and a niece.

The additional account that Casey took “a turn in the latter stages of his career as a manager”23 is unsubstantiated. While he had a baseball pedigree that suggests he would have had the opportunity to manage, there is no evidence that he managed in the Negro Leagues or any other league in Organized Baseball. Any managerial position he had would have been at the amateur or semipro level.

Casey finished his 12-year Negro League career with a .259 batting average, 1 home run, and 128 RBIs. While his offensive numbers, albeit incomplete, may seem relatively modest, he obviously brought value to the teams he played for, or he would not have had a career of such length.  

Little is known about Casey’s post-baseball life. He and Mother Casey were active in the church and helped others in the local community. Casey died of stomach cancer on January 23, 1968, in Philadelphia. He and Ophelia are buried in Rolling Green Memorial Park in West Goshen, Pennsylvania, just outside of Philadelphia. 



In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author also consulted Baseball-reference.com.

Negro League player statistics, team records, and league standings were taken from Seamheads.com.

The author would like to acknowledge the contributions of Frederick C. Bush and Bill Nowlin, whose research contributed to this piece.



1 James A. Riley, The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues (New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc., 1994), 159.

2 Riley, 159.

3 While there are conflicting dates of his birth, ranging anywhere from 1905-1906, May 5, 1905, is the most commonly cited date and the only date cited more than once.

4 The 1910 US Census lists the 5-year-old boy’s father (William Casey) as a widower.

5 Johnson C. Smith University is a private liberal arts university with proud Historically Black College and University (HBCU) traditions.

6 JCSU was founded as Biddle Memorial Institute in 1867. In 1876 it became Biddle University. Biddle University changed its name to JCSU in 1923. Taylor played there prior to 1923 when it was still Biddle University.

7 Casey’s World War II draft registration card dated October 16, 1940.

8 James Riley’s work states that Casey played for famed Hilldale Daisies of Philadelphia in 1930. However, there are no sources to support that.

9 “Baltimore-Daisy Tilt Saturday Interests,” Pittsburgh Courier, May 2, 1931: 15.

10 Dizzy Dizmukes, “Dizzy’s Dope on Baseball,” Pittsburgh Courier, March 19. 1932: 14.

11 W. Rollo Wilson, “Sports Shots: Bolden’s Philly Stars Have That Thing Called Class,” Pittsburgh Courier, May 13, 1933: 14.

12 Chris Rainey, “Biz Mackey,” SABR BioProject. Retrieved on February 13, 2023 from sabr.org/bioproj/person/biz-mackey/.

13 Riley, 502-03.

14 “Phillies Rally Tops Crawfords,” Pittsburgh Courier, September 30, 1933: 14.

15 W. Rollo Wilson, “Baseball’s Curtain Falling on Season,” Pittsburgh Courier, September 15, 1934: A4.

16 “Voting for East-West Stars,” Pittsburgh Courier, August 25, 1934: 15. Josh Gibson won the fan voting for catcher with 5,496 votes.

17 The two half-season champions of the 1934 NNL were the Philadelphia Stars and the Chicago American Giants, who met in a best-of-seven series, which went eight games because of a Game Seven tie.

18 “The East,” Pittsburgh Courier, August 10, 1935: 15.

19 Perhaps in recognition of how she was commonly referred to, Mickey Casey listed Ophelia as his mother on his 1940 World War II draft registration card. 

20 Ophelia M. Casey obituary. Retrieved from www.terryfuneralhome.com/obituaries/Ophelia-M-Casey?obid+2056973#/celebrationWall.

21 Ophelia M. Casey obituary.

22 Riley, 159.

23 Riley, 159.

Full Name

William Cofer Casey


May 5, 1905 at Newport News, VA (USA)


January , 1968 at Philadelphia, PA (USA)

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