Biz Mackey

Position: Catcher; Manager
Teams Include: San Antonio Black Aces, Indianapolis ABCs, New York Lincoln Giants, Colored All-Stars, Hilldale Giants, Philadelphia Royal Giants, Philadelphia Stars, Washington Elite Giants, Newark Dodgers, Baltimore Elite Giants, Newark Eagles, 1918-1950

Biz Mackey was a large, fun-loving catcher, but his personality was only part of his legend. Generally acknowledged as one of the top defensive players ever at his position, he was also a fine hitter.

An outstanding defensive catcher, Mackey handled pitchers masterfully and owned a gun for an arm.
An outstanding defensive catcher,
Mackey handled pitchers masterfully
and owned a gun for an arm.

But perhaps most important was his success as a teacher and mentor to young talent. Mackey never played a day in the majors, but several of his students certainly did: Larry Doby, Don Newcombe, Monte Irvin, and most notably Roy Campanella, who began his personal tutelage under Mackey at the age of 15.

James Raleigh "Biz" Mackey (1897-1965) was born in Eagle Pass, Texas, and began playing baseball with his brothers Ray and Ernest on the Luling Oilers, a Prairie League team, in 1916. Two years later, he turned pro with the San Antonio Black Aces. But when that team folded, his contract was sold to the Indianapolis ABCs in time for the Negro National League's first season.

In Indianapolis, Mackey joined some heady company. In the outfield was Oscar Charleston, one of blackball's greatest. At first was Ben Taylor, another superstar and fellow Hall of Famer. And managing was C.I. Taylor, a legendary teacher of the game. The youngster learned well, batting .315, .317, and .344 in his three seasons there, and making himself a switch-hitter.

When Ed Bolden started assembling a team for the Eastern Colored League, he attracted the talented Mackey, and Biz joined the Hilldale Giants for the 1923 season. During his first year there, he played as much shortstop as catcher because the venerable Louis Santop was still around. It didn't seem to hurt his hitting.

He batted at least .364 (some reports say it was more like .423) to lead the league, and he also logged 20 homers and a .698 slugging average. Hilldale easily took the flag. The next year, the Hilldales repeated (although they lost the World Series to the Kansas City Monarchs). By 1925, the catching job was his full-time, and the Daisies won their third crown. When they took on the Monarchs in the Series, Biz starred at the plate and the Hilldales won it all. During his years in Hilldale, Mackey hit more than .300 eight times, and he rapped .400 once.

Although his team didn't return to the postseason again, Mackey continued his fine hitting and superb defensive performance, improving even further as a master psychologist and handler of pitchers. In voting for the first Negro League All-Star Game in 1933, he was selected at catcher over the young Josh Gibson. He would play in three more All-Star Games by 1938.

By 1937, Mackey was managing the Baltimore Elite Giants, where he began mentoring youngster Campanella in the fine points of catching. Moving to manage Newark in 1939, he worked with Irvin, Doby, and Newcombe. In 1946, he took the Eagles to the title and then topped the Satchel Paige-led Monarchs in the World Series.

Even in his 40s, Mackey was still an effective player. He batted .307 in 1945, and he appeared in the 1947 All-Star Game at age 50. When the crippled Campanella was feted at Dodger Stadium on May 7, 1959, he asked Mackey to be there to share in his moment. The Special Committee on Negro Leagues elected him to the Hall of Fame in 2006.

Here are Biz Mackey's Negro League statistics*:


*Note: Mackey's career statistics are incomplete.

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