Steel Arm Dickey

"Listen, back [in the old days] Negro League teams had six, seven pitchers who could do something. I remember the Birmingham Black Barons had Robert Poindexter, Bill Byrd, Harry Salmon, Steel Arm Dickey--they had pitchers with something!"
Ted "Double Duty" Radcliffe.

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Negro Leaguer of the Month

January, 2010

John Claude "Steel Arm" Dickey
Born: ca. 1898 in Knoxville, TN
Died: March 13, 1923 in Etowah, TN
Ht:6'-1", Wt: 220
Batted and threw left
Position: pitcher
Playing Years: 1918-1922

Teams: Knoxville Grays, Montgomery Grey Sox, St. Louis Stars, Birmingham Black Barons

Steel Arm Dickey, nicknamed because he often pitched--and won--both ends of doubleheaders, had his promising career cut short due to tragedy, one of too many Negro Leaguers to meet a similar demise.

Dickey grew up in Knoxville, Tennessee and played in the late teens and early 1920s with the Negro Southern League's Knoxville Grays and Montgomery Grey Sox, establishing himself as one of the top lefthanders in the league.

The Grey Sox fielded one of the strongest teams of the era, even though it played in what was considered by some to be a minor league compared to the Negro National League. The team featured the top home run hitter in Negro League history, Hall of Famer Turkey Stearnes.

In 1921, the Grey Sox beat the Nashville Elite Giants four straight games to capture the league championship with Stearnes and Dickey leading the way.

Dickey was tall for his era, standing more than six feet tall, and was on the husky side--not unlike Francisco Liriano of the Minnesota Twins.

Dickey threw hard, had a good curve, and often dropped down sidearm, making him especially tough on lefthanded batters.

According to the book "The Biographical Encyclopedia of Negro League Baseball" by James Riley, some have suggested that Dickey could switch-hit, as well as pitch left-handed and right-handed.

A few months before the 1923 season was to start, Dickey was stabbed to death by bootleggers in Etowah, Tennessee. Robert Poindexter, a pitcher on the same staff as Dickey on Birmingham, was murdered six years later under similar circumstances.

If not for prohibition, Dickey may today be regarded as one of the top lefthanders in Negro League annals, along with Bill Foster, Slim Jones and Verdell Mathis.