Jun 10, 2024 - Sports

Nashville natives take place among baseball's statistical greats

A plaque honor Nashville native Turkey Stearnes

A plaque honoring Nashville native Turkey Stearnes. Photo: Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

When Major League Baseball added the accomplishments of Negro League players to its official statistical database last month, it placed the names of Nashville natives Turkey Stearnes and Henry Kimbro side by side with the sport's all-time greats.

Why it matters: Baseball is a statistics-obsessed sport. Between fantasy leagues and the data-driven sabermetrics approach to scouting, no sport fixates on its stats quite like baseball.

Yes, but: Segregation blocked Negro League legends from playing in MLB. As a result, they never registered among the sport's statistical leaders until the database update.

Zoom in: The database now shines a light on Stearnes and Kimbro, who began playing baseball in Nashville and then starred in the Negro Leagues.

What he's saying: "Home runs, strikeouts, hits, and errors have no skin color, but a significant error is being corrected by review, and it has been too long coming," Nashville baseball historian Skip Nipper tells Axios. "We are all equal in the sight of baseball."

By the numbers: In the new, inclusive database, Stearnes is No. 22 in all-time on-base percentage. Stearnes' hitting prowess is legendary.

  • His career on-base percentage was .417 over 18 seasons. Stearnes hit an astonishing .348 for his career, which was mostly spent with the Detroit Stars.

Kimbro's dominant career also stands out in the newly updated database. In particular, his 1947 season shines as one of the greatest offensive performances ever.

  • Kimbro won the Negro National League batting title, hitting .385 in 1947. He also led the league in doubles, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.

Zoom out: Stearnes was inducted into the Pro Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000, decades after his death. However, baseball's color barrier wasn't broken until Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. Stearnes' playing career ended in 1940.

Go deeper: Read about Turkey Stearnes' legacy and Kimbro's life and career.

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