(ThyBlackMan.com) There are very few cities in America that are viewed as “black” as the city of Detroit, Michigan. Detroit is the most notable “black” city that doesn’t reside in the southern United States. There is a history of numerous black Detroiters who have achieved national recognition in various fields including art, technology, and music. The city known as “The Motor City” and “Motown” also has a prominent sports history as well with passionate sports fans. While the Detroit Lions, Detroit Pistons, and Detroit Red Wings are experiencing their respective “offseasons”, the Detroit Tigers are enduring a difficult 2019 baseball season during the 35th anniversary of their last World Series team in 1984. It is also the 100th anniversary of another Detroit baseball team, the former Detroit Stars baseball team of Negro League Baseball.
As many sports fans are aware of, modern Negro League Baseball, which was comprised of virtually all-black baseball teams, was at the peak of its prosperity and notoriety during the 1920s. The Detroit Stars “were formed in 1919 as an independent black baseball club by pioneering future Hall of Fame executive Rube Foster of Chicago”. The Detroit Stars were also notable as the first major Negro League team in the city of Detroit. In 1920, the Stars were a Charter Member of the first major Negro Leagues, the Negro National League. Stars played in Detroit until 1931 when they became a victim of the Great Depression along with the Negro National League. It was hard during the Great Depression for Major Baseball League teams to stay afloat financially as well. Back during that time, boxing and baseball were the prominent and popular sports in America and the Negro Leagues were very important.
In 2019, the Detroit Stars and Hamtramck Stadium in Hamtramck, Michigan are getting extra attention this year. Hamtramck Stadium is one of the last remaining stadiums left in the country where Negro League teams played baseball and maintaining a stadium of its age is very costly. There was a fundraiser related to the maintenance and upkeep of Hamtramck Stadium earlier this year and there are opportunities for people to donate because its existence allows the public to be educated about an important part of history. The Detroit Stars are being featured by the Detroit Historical Museum doing a tribute to the 100th anniversary of their founding. There is currently an exhibit dedicated to the team, Negro League Baseball, and Black baseball in Detroit at the Detroit Historical Museum and one of the significant features of the exhibit is the life-sized painting of former Detroit Stars great, Norman “Turkey” Stearnes.
“Turkey” Stearnes was one of the first black sports stars in Detroit. Long before Detroit Lions legendary running back Barry Sanders and Detroit Pistons Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas, “Turkey” Stearnes make his mark during his baseball career. The five-time Negro leagues All-Star earned the nickname “Turkey” because he had a potbelly as a child. Stearnes earned respect from his peer for his all-around game as a hitter and outfielder and in 1987, he was inducted into the Afro American Sports Hall of Fame. In 2000, he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. As with other Negro League players, he encountered segregation but believed that although black men were not allowed to play in Major League Baseball, they felt they were as good or better than the white baseball players in Major League Baseball. He died in 1979 in Detroit, Michigan and this summer would be a good opportunity to learn about the special history of Black baseball in Detroit.
Staff Writer; Mark Hines