Teams Include: Birmingham Black Barons, St. Louis Stars, Baltimore Black Sox, Detroit Wolves, Washington Pilots, Cole's American Giants, Newark Eagles, Indianapolis ABCs, New York Black Yankees,1923-1944
A ballplayer who gets the nickname "Mule" probably isn't a speedy middle infielder. George "Mule" Suttles was a hulking, powerful first baseman who didn't field all that well, but he had plenty of power in his 50-ounce bat. When he came to the plate, fans would chant, "Kick, Mule!" and George would try to oblige by slugging one out of the park. Raved one admirer, "When he swung, you could feel the earth quake."
Some say Suttles (1900-1966) got his power laboring in the coal mines of Birmingham, Alabama, where he began his ballplaying career on the mines' semipro teams. But by the time he reached the age of 23, he was a regular with the Birmingham Black Barons.
Suttles's place in history is largely due to the key hitting roles he played on several of the greatest Negro League units of all time. With the St. Louis Stars in 1926, he led the league with 19 triples and 26 homers, along with a .418 average and 11 stolen bases. In 1929, his 29 doubles led the league, and he batted .355. Suttles formed one-fourth of the famous "Million Dollar Infield" for the Newark Eagles in 1938. Two of his teammates -- Willie Wells and Ray Dandridge -- would be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Although sources vary, Negro League historian John Holway credits Suttles with 237 lifetime NL homers, more than even the great Josh Gibson. But the stories pile up quickly about not only the number of Mule belts, but their distances.
Willie Wells tells the story of a homer by the big fellow in Havana's Tropical Park that didn't just clear the fence (some 500 feet away and 60 feet high) but also soared over the heads of the horseback soldiers providing crowd control behind the fence. In 1929, it is said, he hit three homers in the same inning against the Memphis Red Sox, and when he came up the next time, the opponents simply left the field.
Named to the East-West All-Star Game five times, he hit the first homer in the game's history in 1933. Two years later, he was part of a bit of trickery that capped a fabulous finish for the West team. In the 11th inning, the score was tied with a man on second and Josh Gibson at bat. Suttles was due up next, but he sent a pitcher out to the on-deck circle.
The ploy fooled the East team, which walked Gibson. Suttles responded with a huge three-run homer off no less than Martin Dihigo for the noisy win. Overall, against the best players in the Negro Leagues he batted .412 with a sensational .833 slugging percentage.
Suttles retired after 26 years with a lifetime average of .329 in league play. He was elected to the Hall by the Special Committee on Negro Leagues in 2006.
Here are Mules Suttles's Negro League Statistics*
|BA||G ||AB ||H ||2B ||3B ||HR ||SB |
|.329||870||3,077||1,011||171||65|| 190|| 46|
*Note: Suttles's career statistics are incomplete.
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