Biz Mackey, a Giant behind the Plate
The Story of the Negro League Star and Hall of Fame Catcher
Publication: Feb 20
Publication: Feb 18
Publication: Feb 20
5.375 x 8.5
1 tables, 3 figs., 20 halftones
The first biography of arguably the greatest catcher in the Negro LeaguesRead Chapter 1 (pdf).
“The best all-around catcher in black baseball history”—Cumberland Posey, Owner of the Homestead Grays
National Baseball Hall of Fame catcher James Raleigh “Biz” Mackey’s professional career spanned nearly three decades in the Negro Leagues and elsewhere. He distinguished himself as a defensive catcher who also had an impressive batting average and later worked as a manager of the Newark Eagles and the Baltimore Elite Giants.
Using archival materials and interviews with former Negro League players, baseball historian Rich Westcott chronicles the catcher’s life and remarkable career in Biz Mackey as well as providing an in-depth look at Philadelphia Negro League history. Westcott traces Mackey’s childhood in Texas as the son of sharecroppers to his success on the baseball diamond where he displayed extraordinary defensive skills and an exceptional ability to hit and to handle pitchers. Mackey spent one third of his career playing in Philadelphia, winning championships with the Hilldale Daisies and the Philadelphia Stars. Mackey also mentored famed catcher Roy Campanella and had an unlikely role in the story of baseball’s development in Japan.
A celebrated ballplayer before African Americans were permitted to join Major League Baseball, Biz Mackey ranks as one of the top catchers ever to play the game. With Biz Mackey, he finally gets the biography he deserves.
“ This new biography of a catcher whose career was limited to playing in the Negro Leagues because of segregation in major and minor league baseball is a welcome addition to the growing number of books on the Negro Leagues…. Rich Westcott, a journalist, weaves a readable story of the life of James Raleigh 'Biz' Mackey, a Hall of Fame catcher who played on Negro League teams.”
—Journal of African American History
"Before the time of Josh Gibson and Roy Campanella, James Raleigh ‘Biz’ Mackey was the quintessential catcher in the Negro Leagues. Cumberland Posey, who had managed the great Gibson, rated Mackey as his number-one catcher of all time. As a young talent with the Baltimore Elite Giants, Campanella credited Mackey with his own development into a Major League catcher. This previously untold story of an unheralded player is finally brought to light in Westcott's Biz Mackey, a Giant behind the Plate."
—Larry Lester, co-founder of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and author of Black Baseball in New York City: An Illustrated History, 1885–1959
"The baseball life of James Raleigh 'Biz’ Mackey takes readers to places they wouldn’t expect to go, as Mackey’s long career moved him to many baseball places. He was mentored by the great catcher Louis Santop and was mentor to the great Roy Campanella. Even Negro baseball in Japan is part of the Mackey story. Westcott’s very effective presentation of Mackey as ‘a giant behind the plate’ brings the reader into the tale of the important Hilldale Daisies Negro League team and introduces Mackey’s Japanese baseball story. This book is a good read about an overlooked giant of American baseball."
—Lawrence Hogan, Professor Emeritus of History, Union County College, and author of The Forgotten History of African American Baseball
"Born at the tail end of the 19th century in rural Texas, Biz Mackey resisted the limits that segregation and sharecropping imposed on African Americans and found his calling in the Negro Leagues. His peripatetic career took him across the United States, into the Caribbean, and as far away as Japan. Early in the 21st century, decades after his death, he was inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame. As Rich Westcott demonstrates in Biz Mackey, a Giant behind the Plate , this was a long-overdue honor bestowed on one of baseball's finest catchers."
—Rob Ruck, Professor of Sport History, University of Pittsburgh, and author of Raceball: How the Major Leagues Colonized the Black and Latin Game
"Westcott captures Mackey's legacy behind the plate in addition to being a career .300+ hitter. In a chapter on Americans in Japan in 1927, he attributes the growth of baseball’s popularity there to Mackey and other players. His final chapter on Mackey's and other African Americans’ induction into the Hall of Fame is a fitting conclusion. VERDICT An excellent addition to works on the history of baseball." —Library Journal (starred review)
"This very readable story chronicles the life of Biz Mackey, a forgotten gem of professional baseball.... Biz Mackey is an important contribution to the African American baseball literary canon."
"With the aid of memories from teammates and opponents (few of Mackey's letters survive), Westcott, a sports writer and baseball historian, has crafted an informative biography of a player whom many former Negro National League players call the greatest black catcher of all time—greater even than Josh Gibson.... Westcott provides an overview of black baseball, particularly in Philadelphia. The most interesting chapter deals with Mackey’s three barnstorming tours of Japan—1927, 1932, and 1935.... Baseball enthusiasts will enjoy this book.... Summing Up: Recommended."
"Mackey made quite a name for himself as a terrific defensive catcher and a player who could swing the bat as well. The book gives a good look at the history of Negro League Baseball in Philadelphia."
— Philadelphia Tribune
Table of Contents
Foreword by Monte Irvin
Foreword by Ray C. Mackey III
1. One of Baseball’s Greatest Catchers
2. From the Farm to the Diamond
3. Black Baseball in Philadelphia
4. Blossoming with the Daisies
5. Helping the Stars to Sparkle
6. Elevating Baseball in Japan
7. Moving Up to the Job of Manager
8. Teaching Campy the Tricks of the Trade
9. A Long-Overdue Induction into the Hall of Fame
Appendix: Biz Mackey’s Year-by-Year Negro League Statistics Sources