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Mule Suttles

Sport: Baseball

Born: March 31, 1901

Died: July 9, 1966

Town: Newark

George Suttles was born March 31, 1901 in Blocton, Alabama. He spent the first half of his life as a baseball vagabond before settling down in Newark, where he lived and worked for more than three decades. He earned the nickname “Mule” because he was a quiet, laidback ballplayer with sudden and explosive power. When he came to the plate, fans would chant “Kick-Mule-Kick!”

Mule had strong arms and hands and a powerful upper body. During his career, he used bats weight 50 ounces or more. He began playing professionally in 1923 with the Birmingham Black Barons. He went on to become the main power source for several top Negro League teams, including the St. Louis Stars, Baltimore Black Sox and Chicago American Giants. Mule also played winter ball in California and the Caribbean. In 1929, he hit a ball more than 500 feet during a game in Cuba. It couldn’t be measured because it left the park, sailed over the beach and landed in the sea. Mule’s homers were often compared to Babe Ruth’s. In one game against the Memphis Red Sox, he his three homers in one inning.

Mule was no slouch on defense. He played left field primarily, and later in his career—when his weight ballooned to 250 pounds—moved to first base.

Mule’s time in New Jersey began in 1936, when he signed with the Newark Eagles. He was well into his 30s at this point, but was still a .300 hitter with prodigious power. The Newark infield included Dick Seay at second base, Ray Dandridge at third base and longtime friend and teammate Willie Wells at shortstop. All but Seay would be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

While playing for the Eagles, Mule provided an important link between the old days of black baseball and the era of integration by mentoring Newark’s young talent, including Monte Irvin, Larry Doby and Don Newcombe. From 1942 to 1944, Mule was a coach and manager with the Eagles. He retired with 129 home runs in official Negro League games, second-most in history.

Mule married a Newark girl and lived the rest of his life in the city, tending bar and working a variety of other jobs. He passed away at the age of 65 after a battle with cancer. In 2006, Mule was enshrined in the Hall of Fame. A new headstone was made for his gravesite in Bloomfield. It recognizes his enshrinement in Cooperstown and includes the words “Kick Mule Kick.”

 

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