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|George “Mule” Suttles|
NEW HAVEN, Ct. (BASN) — St. Louis superstar Albert Pujols became the 47th player in majpr league history to reach the 400-homer barrier.
Power hitters playing in the Gateway state have a long and glorious history. One man in particular helped pave the way for guys like Pujols, Stan “The Man’ Musial, and the late Ken Boyer.
Widely known as one of the Negro League’s greatest power hitters (twice leading the league in home runs), George “Mule” Suttles also consistently hit for a high average.
During his 21 seasons as an active player, including five years with the St. Louis Stars, he compiled a .321 career batting average.
In his heyday, fans would yell “Kick, Mule, Kick!” when he approached the plate. Born March 2, 1902 in Brockton, Louisiana, the Mule s 30-year career in Negro baseball began in 1918, two years before Rube Foster s Negro National League s inaugural season.
It would continue until after Jackie Robinson had his rookie season with the Brooklyn Dodgers under his belt. Suttles grew up in the Birmingham, Alabama area and first attracted the attention of the hometown Black Barons.
He signed his first professional contract with that club in 1923.
Suttles was a five-time selection for the East-West All-Star game. In the inaugural classic played at Chicago’s Comiskey Park in 1933, the Mule hit the first homerun in All-Star history, a three-run shot off Pittsburgh Crawfords ace, Sam Streeter.
In the five East-West games he played in, Suttles batted .412 with an .883 slugging average (two HR, six RBI). His 2nd All-Star homer won an 11-inning battle in 1935.
Playing against white major league squads, including an all-star team headed by Tigers’ Hall-Of-Famer Charlie Gehringer in 1929, Suttles demonstrated his ability to handle major league pitching as he smashed five home runs in 26 games and compiled a near .400 batting average.
Chico Renfroe, former Kansas City Monarchs infielder and longtime sports editor of the Atlanta Daily World recalled Suttles as the hitter who “had the most raw power of any player I ve ever seen.”
Renfroe added, “He went after the ball viciously! He wasn t a finesse player at all. He just overpowered the opposition.”
During his career he played with the Birmingham Black Barons, St. Louis Stars, Baltimore Black Sox, Detroit Wolves, Washington Pilots, Cole s American Giants, Newark Eagles, Indianapolis ABCs, and the New York Black Yankees.
During his five years with the St. Louis Stars (1926-30), he led the league in homers twice and in doubles, triples, and batting average once.
After cutting back his on-field action Suttles took the controls of the Newark Eagles as field manager. The Mule would pass away at Newark, New Jersey in 1968.
While you watch the great power hitters of the day, don’t forget about “The Mule” and his impact on the game. If you listen closely, you can still hear the crowds yelling……
“Kick, Mule, Kick!!”
Note: The African-American Registry and the Negro League Baseball Players Association contributed to this story.