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Jim "Big Stick" McCurine
courtesy of Steven M. Dial)
Leaguer of the Month
Jim McCurine's bat impressed even the most grizzled of baseball men. In 1945, while playing for the Chicago Lincoln Giants semipro team, McCurine, known as "Big Stick," belted hits off the best pitches the Chicago American Giants pitchers had to offer. American Giants manager Candy Jim Taylor, a player and manager starting in 1908, immediately offered the 24-year-old a contract.
For the next several years McCurine would bat in the heart of the order for the American Giants, and would belt more than 20 homers per year, some into the upper deck of Comiskey Park's left field stands. McCurine and teammate John "Mule" Miles gave the Giants a fearsome one-two punch. Miles also hit 20+ homers a season in his prime.
McCurine's greatest thrill in baseball came when he pinch hit in a game against the Birmingham Black Barons in 1948. With the bases loaded and his American Giants down 4-1, McCurine belted a grand slam over the head of youngster Willie Mays and into the stands to win the game 5-4.
"People were throwing dollars and quarters to me out there," remembered McCurine.
McCurine was scouted by the Boston Braves in the late 40s, but he threw his arm out and it never recovered and his baseball days came to an abrupt end.
Following baseball, McCurine was a successful insurance agent until retiring in 1985.
McCurine relished the past decade in which Negro League awareness has risen, and fans young and old have taken an interest in his career.
"It's amazing how here in later years I get so much of a thrill from people who were not even born during those days," said McCurine. "It's amazing the letters I get, and the requests for autographs."
Note: I first met "Big Jim" at a baseball game in the summer of 2000 in Schaumburg, Illinois. He was one of the great ambassadors of the game, very friendly and willing to talk with fans. McCurine died on May 24th 2002. His fame may have been fleeting, but he is fondly remembered.