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Jimmy Palermo, during a historic 7-day span in May, 1939, saw the meteoric rise of Williams and tragic decline of Gehrig.
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The field seemed vast to a 7-year old who had looked forward to this day for two months.
BREAKING THE COLOR LINE
The year marks the 60th anniversary of the first major league tryout for black players.
Bud Fowler is the first know black players on an integrated team.
of the '50s
Qualify as Grade A10.
First sports bar featured 12-inch Farnsworth TV.
Two unsuspecting vintage baseball fans rediscover a "National Treasure."
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A REMARKABLE ATHLETE: Ex-UCLA running back Jackie Robinson had not played organized baseball at any level for six years before being invited to a tryout with the Boston Red Sox in April 1945. The tryout ultimately turned out to be a sham and the Red Sox did not field a black player until 1959, twelve years after Robinson debuted with the Dodgers.
Ironically, Rickey was not the first
to offer a tryout to Jackie Robinson. Robinson’s first tryout was
the result of lobbying by Wendell Smith, black sportswriter for the Pittsburgh
Courier and unrelenting champion of professional sports integration,
and Boston city councilman Isadore Muchnik, who had threatened to revoke
the Red Sox’ permit to play Sunday games at Fenway Park unless
they granted a tryout to black players.
BRANCH RICKEY AND BILL VEECK, recognizing the positive impact of baseball integration to the bottom line of baseball, were pioneers in signing stars like (left to right) Jackie Robinson, Larry Doby, Don Newcombe, Luke Easter and Roy Campanella.
Even before the Armed
Forces or the public schools, Major League baseball led the way for
America into an integrated society
PIONEERS: Jackie Robinson signs his contract with the Dodgers as Branch Rickey looks on.
In our research of the player’s represented
by the Booming Bats of the 50s we encountered numerous associated
themes, the most compelling of which is the evolution of the game’s
BRANCH RICKEY, Brooklyn Dodger GM, was of the firm opinion that integration of the MLs would not only improve the overall level of play, but also expand the fan base and bottom line.
However, the story of baseball integration begins
rather than ends with Robinson taking the field for the Dodgers in
1947. The breaking of baseball’s color line was not simply an
act of individual heroism on Robinson’s part. It took an inter-racial
protest movement among liberal and progressive activists, as well as
the Negro press, who had agitated for years to integrate major league
baseball, before Dodgers’ General Manager Branch Rickey signed
Robinson to a contract in 1945, then brought him up to the majors two
years later. Rickey, aware of the many great black ballplayers in the
Negro Leagues, believed that the integration of baseball would improve
the overall level of play. He also believed—correctly, it turned
out—that black baseball fans would flock to Ebbets Field to watch
black athletes play on the same field as whites. Branch Rickey was
not only a visionary but also a very practical businessman when it
came to his quest to integrate the Dodgers.
When Judge Kennesaw Landis (inset lower right corner) died in 1944, HAPPY CHANDLER became commissioner. Under his leadership baseball governance assumed a more receptive attitude toward integration.
THE FIRST black man to be awarded the American League Rookie of the Year by the Baseball Writers Association of America was Tony Olivo in 1964.
SUPERSTARS: Ernie Banks (MVP in '58 and '59) and Willie Mays (MVP in '54 and '65) were among the first black players in Major League baseball.
If Jackie Robinson had not been selected to play
the role he performed so well, no doubt other superb black athletes
would have soon stepped onto the stage. The skills of Larry Doby, Roy
Campanella, Sam Jethroe, Ray Dandridge, Willie
Mays, Monte Irvin, Ernie Banks and an aging Satchel Paige were too
great not to tempt major league clubs who were searching for new sources
of talent. Many people think that when Jackie Robinson took the field
for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947 the floodgates opened for African-American
players. This is simply not the fact. While the Cleveland Indians followed
almost immediately, and the St. Louis Browns toyed with integration,
it was two full years before the Giants joined the Dodgers in the National
League when they played Hank Thompson.
ELECTRIFYING: Jackie Robinson lit up Major League baseball.
At age 28, Robinson debuted as the Dodger first-baseman
on April 15th 1947 and set the league on fire. His .297 average, 175
hits, 12 homers, 48 RBIs and electrifying league leading 29 stolen
bases earned him the Rookie of the Year Award and the respect, albeit
sometime grudgingly, of baseball and its fans.
In early July of 1947, three months after Robinson
had broken the National League’s color line, Larry Doby was signed
for the Indians by Bill
Veeck (whom he affectionately called his "godfather")
and was the first black ballplayer in the American League.
LARRY DOBY, first black player in the AL, came to Cleveland as a star Negro League second baseman in mid-season 1947. He played sparingly and poorly during the last 2 months of the season, but was switched to the outfield in '48 and went on to a Hall of Fame career.
Doby, who would also be the first black player
named to the American League All-Star team in 1949, did not perceive
himself as a pioneer. "You didn't hear much about what I was going
through because the media didn't want to repeat the same story (as
Robinson).” He later said that he never thought of himself as
being second or anything other than a baseball player. “On the
field,” Doby noted, "I couldn't react to (prejudicial) situations
from a physical standpoint. My reaction was to hit the ball as far
as I could."
PICTURED IN THIS ORIGINAL photo from The Sporting News in July1947 are Hank Thompson (left) and Willard Brown of the St. Louis Browns. These two players hold the distinction of being the first two blacks to appear as teammates in a major league lineup.
Thompson, Brown first black teammates in Major Leagues
Irvin and Giant rookie sensation Willie
Mays made up the first all-black outfield when they appeared in
the starting New York line-up in the 1951 World Series against the Yankees.
Thompson had a very respectable nine-year Major League career. Hall
of Famer Irvin, an established star in the Negro League when he became
a 30 year old Giant rookie in 1949, went on to hit .293 lifetime over
8 seasons and .394 in two World Series.
LEGENDARY: There is no greater name in the history of Negro League baseball than Satchel Paige. The tall, lanky right-hander was the star of Negro League baseball for more than two decades, and registered a 28 and 31 lifetime ML record in the twilight of his career.
The remarkable Paige, a Negro League legend, pitched
for the Indians and Browns from 1948 to 1953 and made an appearance
for the Kansas City Athletics in 1965 at the age of 58 in which he pitched
3 scoreless innings allowing one hit, striking out one and earning a
save. He was inducted into the Hall
of Fame in 1971 based primarily on his brilliant Negro League career.
DODGER DON NEWCOMBE was featured on the cover of SI on April 22nd 1955. That year he paced Brooklyn to a NL pennant with a 20-5 record and a major league leading .800 winning percentage.
At age 23, Don Newcombe took the league by storm
and immediately helped the Dodgers to a pennant. He shut out the Reds
3-0 in his May 22 debut and finished 17-8, 3.17, with a league-leading
SAM JETHROE, pictured here playing for the Cleveland Buckeyes in the Negro League, said, "Jackie (Robinson) may have broken the barrier to playing, but I knew when I arrived (in Boston) there was more required of me than a white player. It still was a hard thing to go through."
Braves only team to intergrate in 1950 as Jethroe debuts with Boston
Ironically, Sam Jethroe, one of the participants
in the Red Sox sham try-out in 1945, returned in 1950 as a Braves rookie
and the first black player on a Boston team.
MINNIE MINOSO won the 1951 Sporting News ROY award, but was passed over for the BWAA ROY in favor of Yankee Gil McDougal despite outperforming McDougal in every offensive category except for home runs (10-14).
Minnie Minoso, star third baseman for the New York
Cubans from 1945 to 1948, appeared in nine games for the Cleveland
Indians in 1949, but he was still officially a rookie when obtained
by the White Sox in a three-team deal involving the Indians and A's
on April 30, 1951.
WILLIE MAYS shares a light moment with fellow All-stars and future Hall of Famers , Roberto Clemente (left) and Hank Aaron, at the 1960 Mid-season Classic at Candlestick Park.
No additional intergration in 1952; Trice breaks line for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1953
JOE BLACK started and won the first game of the 1952 World Series, defeating the Yankees 4-2 in the only World Series win by a black pitcher until Mudcat Grant won for the Minnesota Twins 13 years later in 1965.
No additional Major League teams integrated in 1952,
however Negro League vet and new Dodger Joe Black was named National
League Rookie of the Year at the age of 28 when he won 15 games and
had 15 saves with a sparkling ERA of 2.15.
In 1953 Bob Trice, a pitcher and outfielder for
the Homestead Grays from 1948 to 1950, was brought up to the Philadelphia
Athletics in September after winning 21 games at Ottawa in the International
League. He played three years with the Athletics posting a career 9-9
GENE BAKER, above, and Ernie Banks formed one of the best middle infields of the 1950s.
Cubs break line with Banks, Baker
The 1953 season saw another former Negro League
standout cop the National League Rookie of the Year Award. Dodger second
baseman Jim Gilliam set a league rookie record with 100 walks, led
the National League with 17 triples, scored a career-high 125 runs,
had 168 hits and averaged .278.
Pirates, Cards, Reds, Senators break line in 1954
Four teams integrated in 1954. Curt Roberts took
the field on opening day as the Pirates starting second baseman and
first black to play for Pittsburgh.
GUSSIE BUSCH, owner of Anheuser-Busch
Brewery and the St. Louis Cardinals, pictured here with the Cardinal
manager, Eddie Stanky, took over the still segregated club in 1953
and made integration a priority.
On April 13, 1954, 34 days before Brown v. Board
of Education was decided, Tom Alston became the first African-American
to play for the St. Louis Cardinals. By the end of the next decade,
St. Louis was something of a model franchise for race relations, but
in the early '50s, the Redbirds had been lily-white.
Dark-skinned Puerto Rican Nino Escalera and Chuck Harmon broke the color-line for the Cincinnati Reds in 1954 when they both pinch-hit in an April game at Milwaukee. Escalera appeared in only 73 major league games, mostly as a pinch-hitter.
Harmon had been signed by the St. Louis Browns
organization in the summer of 1947, less than two years after Jackie
Robinson signed with the Dodgers, and estimated that he was among the
first 10 blacks to receive professional contracts. After being picked
up by the Reds from the Browns organization Harmon played four years
in the major leagues with the Reds, Cardinals and Phillies.
CARLOS PAULA was the first black player for the Washington franchise in 1954.
Cuban outfielder Carlos Paula broke into the Senator
line-up late in the 1954 season to become the first black player for
the Washington franchise. He played only three seasons, all with the
Senators, hitting his best .299 in 1955.
Hank Aaron debuted with the Milwaukee Braves in
1954 and was hitting .280 with 13 homers and 69 RBIs as the regular
right fielder when an ankle fracture cut his rookie season short. That
year Cardinal Wally Moon won the
Rookie of the Year Award, the first time in five years that the National
League ROY was not a black player.
ELSTON HOWARD was hand-picked to be the first black Yankee.
The venerable New York Yankees had apparently not
integrated because they were looking for not only a talented ball player,
but a model citizen.
FRANK ROBINSON exploded onto the National League scene as a rookie in 1956 with 38 homers, 83 RBIs and a .290 average, earning him ROY honors.
The 1956 National League Rookie of the Year Award
was again won by a black player, Cincinnati Red Frank Robinson, who
would go on to a Hall of Fame career and become the first player to
ever win the MVP award in both leagues - and the first black Major
John Kennedy, a former shortstop for the Birmingham
Black Barons and Kansas City Monarchs, became the Philadelphia Phillies'
first African American player on April 22, 1957. The day before the
first games of the 1957 season, the Phillies traded for Brooklyn Dodgers
shortstop Chico Fernandez. The move left Kennedy without a position
and he played in only five games for the Phillies.
OZZIE VIRGIL, pictured here in the Detroit club house, had been in the major leagues for two years before breaking the color-line for the Tigers in 1958.
Ozzie Virgil, the first Dominican to play in the
Major Leagues, debuted with the New York Giants in 1956. He was traded
to the Detroit Tigers in January of 1958 and on June 6, 1958 became
the first black player to appear in a Tiger game. A utility player
most of his career, he played every position except pitcher during
his nine year Major League tenure.
The Giants, recent transplants from New York to San Francisco in 1958, again fielded the National League Rookie of the Year, Puerto Rican and future Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda.
Red Sox last to intergrate, 14 years after sham tryout
PUMPSIE GREEN, pictured here with manager Billy Jurges, finally broke the Red Sox color-line 14 years after the infamous sham Boston tryout.
On July 21, 1959, in a 2–1 loss to the White
Sox, Pumpsie Green, pinch ran for the Red Sox who have the dubious
distinction of being the last Major League team to play a black player.
Green, a utility infielder, played four seasons with the Sox and one
with the Mets.
Twelve years after the Dodgers' Branch Rickey and
Jackie Robinson broke the disgraceful color barrier, 14 years after
the Boston “sham” tryout of three black players, two of
whom became Major League ROYs, and in a year in which the National
League Rookie of the Year, future Hall of Famer Willie McCovey, was
one of the last Major Leaguers to have played in the rapidly fading
Negro League, the Boston Red Sox finally integrated.
JACKIE ROBINSON, still wearing his Montreal Royals uniform, waves to photographers and reporters as he symbolically enters the here-to-fore forbidden confines of major league baseball.
Jackie Robinson did more than integrate major league
baseball. The dignity with which he handled his encounters with racism
among fellow players and fans—on the diamond as well as in hotels,
restaurants, trains, and other public places—drew public attention
to the issue, stirred the consciences of many whites and gave black
Americans a tremendous boost of pride, paving the way for the civil
rights movement a decade later.
Jackie Robinson, Brooklyn Dodgers, 2B —
Jackie Robinson, Brooklyn Dodgers, 1B —
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