I played first base, but one time my coach called me in to pitch because it was cold and no one else wanted to. I came in for two innings, and nobody got a hit. I guess that means I’ve got a perfect record as a pitcher.
The most exciting game of my life was when I tried out for the Cincinnati Reds. They liked what they saw, but only offered to pay me a hundred and fifty bucks a month. I told them I have a wife and kids to support and that I couldn’t do it on that much money.
St. Louis recruited me but they wanted me to pay for my own travel, and I couldn’t do that. The Yankees said I wasn’t heavy enough to play for them, but I don’t know where the scale was. So that was my time with the Majors: Cincinnati couldn’t pay me enough, St. Louis wanted me to pay to play, and I wasn’t big enough to be a Yankee.
Satchel Paige was a great pitcher. When I started playing in 1947 he was just getting ready to make the move from the Negro Leagues to Major League Baseball. I batted against Satchel one time and hit two singles. I doubt many people could ever say they went two for three against Satchel.
I got my nickname when we played some games to entertain the soldiers in California. All the women kept yelling at me and calling me “high pockets.” I don’t know why. I don’t think my pockets were higher than anybody else’s.
I preferred the Negro Leagues to the big leagues. We always played with respect, and we weren’t worried about all the money. We played because we loved baseball.
A League of Their Own Kept out of Major League Baseball in the late-19th century, black players formed their own teams. The Negro Leagues began to take shape in the early 1920s and continued into the 1960s, even after the sport was integrated.
Respect the Game Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Jackie Robin-son, and other legends got their start in the highly-disciplined culture of the Negro Leagues. “We didn’t have fights,” Turner recalls. “We treated each other well all the time.”
Farm Team Tom Turner was born on June 22, 1915, the ninth of 13 children, on his grandmother’s Tennessee farm. “That’s where I learned to love the sport of baseball,” he says.
Originally published in the March 2013 issue.Photograph by Jonathan Willis
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