Considered by many the greatest catcher in Negro League history, Mackey was a master practitioner behind the plate. He possessed a powerful arm, and used the current standard “snap throw.” He was strong enough to throw to second base from a sitting position, which he customarily did in between-inning warm-ups. He was a switch-hitter who batted for power and a high average.
Homestead Grays manager Cum Posey rated Mackey as his number-one all-time catcher: “Mackey was a tremendous hitter, a fierce competitor; although slow afoot he is the standout among catchers who have shown their wares in this nation.” Roy Campanella was a 15-year-old with the Baltimore Elite Giants when Mackey taught him the fine points of catching. Campanella said, “I gathered quite a bit from Mackey, watching how he shifted his feet for an outside pitch, how he threw with a short, quick accurate throw without drawing back.
After two seasons with the San Antonio Giants, Mackey joined the Indianapolis ABC’s and hit .352 in 1922 before being traded to the Hilldale team. He led Hilldale to their first title in 1923, batting .364. The next year he hit .325, helping Hilldale earn an invitation to the first Black World Series, against the Kansas City Monarchs. From 1922 through 1931, Mackey compiled a .327 average, with a high of .365 in 1930. In the first East-West all-star game, he was chosen over Hall of Fame teammates Josh Gibson and Oscar Charleston to bat cleanup.
Mackey’s cherubic face and jolly nature never failed to delight fans and teammates. He completed his brilliant career as player-manager for the Newark Eagles. There he prepared Larry Doby, Don Newcombe, and Monte Irvin for the major leagues. Irvin called Mackey “the dean of teachers.”