Lester: The best catcher ever, Biz Mackey

From SABR member Larry Lester at The National Pastime Museum on February 6, 2014:

Pound for pound, James “Biz” Mackey was a superstar behind the plate known for his ability to call a game and frame pitches to influence an umpire’s strike zone. Mackey possessed a powerful throwing arm while employing the “snap throw” release, popular with modern catchers. In addition to having school bus speed on the base paths, Mackey had a high on-base percentage.

The son of J. Dee Mackey and Bulah Wright was born between Luling and Prairie Lea, Texas, in Caldwell County, in 1897. Despite claims by other biographers that he was born in Eagle Pass or San Antonio, Mackey proclaimed the oil town of Luling as his birthplace in a 1951 Negro Digest article. Once known as the “toughest town in Texas,” Luling is known today for its watermelon thump contest, barbecue, and decorated oil pump jacks.

Mackey is one of fewer than nine players in Negro League history to play all nine positions. Hilldale scorekeeper Lloyd Thompson once boasted, “If any receiver is entitled to the nonpareil of the wire mask, give the token to Mackey. The smoothest receiver in four decades with an unerring throwing arm, switch-hitting Biz hit the ball hard from both sides of the plate. [He is] also capable of playing any position in the infield and surprisingly agile for a big fellow weighing more than 200 pounds.”

Read the full article here: http://www.thenationalpastimemuseum.com/article/best-catcher-ever

Originally published: February 6, 2014. Last Updated: February 6, 2014.