There are 18 individuals from the Negro leagues era in the Hall. A special committee selected 17 others for induction this year in a one-time effort to recognize players and executives who were not allowed in the majors until 60 years ago. None of the 17 is still alive.
"Josh is the one who got the most attention, but we had a lot of great power hitters," says pitcher Ross "Satchell" Davis, who played during the 1940s for the New York Elite Giants and Black Yankees, the Cleveland Buckeyes and the Boston Blues.
"There's a lot of people who did not get their due because they played in little towns. The guys who got the publicity played on Sundays in the big cities."
Once the color barrier was broken, the major leagues began to slowly add players from the Negro leagues, and their power hitting changed the game.
By the mid-1950s, black players were established among the National League's top home run hitters. From 1955 to 1969, 13 of the 15 NL home run titles were won by players who would have been excluded from the majors before 1947.
But for players like Suttles, whose careers predated baseball's integration, the majors -- and those players -- missed out.
Suttles was raised in Alabama and earned his nickname because he and his brother played with mules on the family property while growing up. He left home to play professional baseball at 17. His career started two years before the Negro National League's inaugural season in 1920 and did not end until after Robinson's rookie season with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
A regular in the East-West Classic, Suttles did his best against the best pitchers of the black baseball era. He batted .412 in five games with an .883 slugging percentage and also hit the first home run in the history of the East-West game.
"Our family always felt that Uncle George's career has never truly been recognized until now," says Merritt Burley, Suttles' niece, who lives in the Los Angeles area. "All of his statistics match up well against Josh Gibson's, if not better."
There are discrepancies depending on the resource used, but the statistics the Hall of Fame selection committee used said that in 26 documented exhibition games against white competition from the majors, Suttles hit .374 with five home runs.
And according to "The Complete Book of Baseball's Negro Leagues" his 237 homers in league games, an average of 40 homers per 550 at-bats, were the most of any player. Negro league teams played far fewer league games a season than major league teams, much of their schedules filled with exhibitions and barnstorming games.
"No one hit the ball farther than Uncle George," Burley said about Suttles, who played for the Birmingham Black Barons, Baltimore Black Sox, St. Louis Stars, Detroit Wolves, Washington Pilots, Cole's American Giants, Newark Eagles, Indianapolis ABCs and New York Black Yankees.
Suttles was about 6-3 and almost 250 pounds, powerful enough to use a bat larger than most players did. Babe Ruth reportedly used a 40-ounce bat during his 60-home run season of 1927; Roger Maris set his record of 61 with a 33-ounce bat. Suttles once hit three home runs in an inning against the Memphis Red Sox; reportedly, when he next came to bat, the Red Sox left the field.
The power he generated with that massive bat also reportedly sent a ball over the 60-foot-high center-field fence, which was 500 feet from home plate, in Cuba's Tropicana Field.
"His home runs are legendary," Burley says. "It's so nice that he's finally getting the honor he deserves."
\o7Times staff writer Ben Bolch contributed to this report.