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"I enjoyed playing because I could execute.  I could play first base and I could hit the baseball.  I'm not bragging; anytime I walked up to the plate, I was going to hit the ball somewhere.  I wasn't worried about striking out."
--Highpockets Turner

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Negro Leaguer of the Month

Negro Leaguer of the Month
November, 2013

Thomas "Highpockets" Turner

Position: First base
Batted: Right Threw: Right
Height: 5 ’-11",  Wt. 175
Born: June 22, 1915 in Olive Branch, TN
Died: June 17, 2013 in Georgetown, OH
Career: 1936-1954

Teams: Cincinnati Braves, Dayton Monarchs, Cincinnati Stars, Special Command Unit army team, Hermosilla Orange Growers (Mexico), Chicago American Giants, Valley Tigers (Cincinnati)

Highpockets Turner played a mean first base, and played a big part in breaking barriers during his lifetime.

Born on his grandparents’ farm in Tennessee, Turner moved to Ohio when he was 10 and became a star baseball, basketball and football player as a youth and high schooler.  Turner was good enough in football that he attended Tuskegee Institute on a scholarship.

After college, Turner returned to Ohio and played for local black teams such as the Cincinnati Braves and Cincinnati Stars.  Turner was known as a fine first baseman who hit for average and little power--like a right-handed Ferris Fain.

Turner spent several years in the army before and during World War II, stationed a Fort Huachuca in Arizona; he was an expert marksman and  starred for the base’s baseball team, the 9th Service Command Unit, which won the Military World Series in 1942.  According to Turner, he attained his nickname by female fans when his army team played in California.

His stellar play in the army led to a contract with the Hermosilla Orange Growers in the Mexican League--a team that over the years featured Maury Wills, Curt Schilling and Larry Walker.  

Turner returned to the U.S. in 1947 and played with the Chicago American Giants, joining players such as Buddy Armour, Earl Bumpus, Riley Stewart and Jim McCurrine.  Turner’s highlights with the American Giants included an upper deck homer at Comiskey Park against the Cleveland Buckeyes’ star Chet Brewer, and two hits in three at bats versus Satchel Paige who was with the Chicago Brown Bombers.

As the color line had been broken in the Majors that season by Jackie Robinson, Turner was approached by a few teams (the Yankees, however, deemed him too small to play first base for them), but he instead chose to return to Cincinnati where he became player manager of the Valley Tigers for many years.  

Turner eventually moved to Seattle and worked for Boeing and for the city’s Park and Rec department, but he later returned to Cincinnati where he organized several women’s softball leagues.

Civil Rights were of great interest to Turner, and he attended Martin Luther Kings’ 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, D.C., and took part in the Selma to  Montgomery March in 1965 which gained attention for black voters’ rights.  

All told, Turner was involved in baseball and softball as a player, coach and official for more than 70 years.  He died five days shy of his 98th birthday!