Friday, April 15, 2016

Every MLB Team's 1st Black Player

1. April 15, 1947, Brooklyn Dodgers (moved to Los Angeles 1958): Jackie Robinson. Hall of Fame.

2. July 5, 1947, Cleveland Indians: Larry Doby. Hall of Fame.

3. July 17, 1947, St. Louis Browns (became Baltimore Orioles 1954): Hank Thompson. Probably should have been an All-Star at some point in his career.

4. July 8, 1949, New York Giants (moved to San Francisco 1958): Hank Thompson, again. Monte Irvin, a future Hall-of-Famer, debuted later in the same game.

5. April 18, 1950, Boston Braves (moved to Milwaukee 1953, Atlanta 1966): Sam Jethroe. All-Star.

6. May 1, 1951, Chicago White Sox: Orestes "Minnie" Minoso. The 1st black Hispanic player. Should be in the Hall of Fame. This was also the game in which Hall-of-Famer Mickey Mantle hit his 1st major league home run.

7. September 13, 1953, Philadelphia Athletics (moved to Kansas City 1955, Oakland 1968): Bob Trice.

8. September 17, 1953, Chicago Cubs: Ernie Banks. Hall of Fame.

9. April 13, 1954, St. Louis Cardinals: Tom Alston.

10. April 13, 1954, Pittsburgh Pirates: Curt Roberts. Both Alston and Roberts started the games in questio, but Alston was involved in a play first.

11. April 17, 1954, Cincinnati Reds: Nino Escalera. He entered the game as a pinch-hitter. Chuck Harmon, also back, did the same in the very next at-bat.

12. September 6, 1954, Washington Senators (became Minnesota Twins 1961): Carlos Paula.

13. April 14, 1955, New York Yankees: Elston Howard. All-Star. Honored in Monument Park.
14. April 22, 1957, Philadelphia Phillies: John Kennedy. Of course, no relation to the man who won the next Presidential election.

15. June 6, 1958, Detroit Tigers: Ozzie Virgil Sr. All-Star.

16. July 21, 1959, Boston Red Sox: Elijah "Pumpsie" Green. They could have taken any number of future All-Stars and Hall-of-Famers. Instead, they chose a guy who turned out to be so bad, he got cut by the 1963 Mets. It was as if they were trying to say, "See, none of them are good enough for us!" This was in Year 13 of a 20-year stretch where they won no Pennants.
Nevertheless, they have honored Green in recent years,
including this first ball ceremony.

Ironically, Boston was ahead of the curve in other areas. Earl Wilson of the Red Sox was the first black pitcher to throw a no-hitter in an American League game, in 1962. (Sam Jones of the Cubs did it first in the National League, in 1959.) The Celtics made Bill Russell the first black head coach in North American major league sports. (Fritz Pollard was a player-coach on the first NFL Champions, the 1920 Akron Pros, but the NFL could hardly have been called "major league" at the time.) And the Bruins had the first black player in the NHL, Willie O'Ree -- on January 18, 1958. That's right, a hockey team had a black player 547 days before the Red Sox did.

17. April 10, 1961, Washington Senators (new version, became Texas Rangers 1972): Willie Tasby. He was the only black player who started the game for the Senators. Nobody ever thinks about who were the first black players on each of the expansion teams, because the established 16 were all integrated. Maybe we'd think about it if one hadn't been. But, by 1961, the idea of a team's first black player was no longer a big deal. Not even in Texas in 1962 or in Georgia in 1966. (Hank Aaron played in the Braves' 1st game in Atlanta.)

18. April 11, 1961, Los Angeles Angels: Julio Becquer. He was the only black player who started the game for the Angels. Lou Johnson later entered as a defensive replacement.

19. April 10. 1962, Houston Colt .45's (renamed Astros 1965): Jim Pendleton. He and Roman Mejias both started the game, but Pendleton was involved in a play first.

20. April 11, 1962, New York Mets: Felix Mantilla. An All-Star, and the starting 2nd baseman on the 1957 World Champion Milwaukee Braves, he was the 2nd Met to bat, after the white Richie Ashburn. Also in the lineup for the Mets in this away game in St. Louis was Charlie Neal.
21. April 8, 1969, Kansas City Royals: Ellie Rodriguez. As the starting catcher in a home game, he was involved in a play before any of the other black players came to bat.

22. April 8, 1969, Seattle Pilots (became Milwaukee Brewers 1970): Tommy Harper. He was the leadoff hitter in their first game, in Anaheim. Tommy Davis was also in the starting lineup.

23. April 8, 1969, Montreal Expos (became Washington Nationals 2005): Maury Wills. He was the leadoff hitter in their first game, at Shea Stadium. Mack Jones and Jim "Mudcat" Grant were also in the starting lineup. Of course, the first team in white baseball for whom Jackie Robinson played was the Dodgers' top farm team in 1946, the Expos' Triple-A predecessors, the Montreal Royals.

24. April 8, 1969, San Diego Padres: Ollie Brown. One of six black players in the starting lineup in a home premiere, he was the first one involved in a play.

25. April 6, 1977, Seattle Mariners: Diego Segui. He was the starting pitcher in a home game.

26. April 7, 1977, Toronto Blue Jays: Pedro Garcia. One of four black players in the starting lineup of a home game, he was the first one involved in a play.

27. April 5, 1993, Florida Marlins (renamed Miami Marlins 2012): Benito Santiago. The Marlins were at home, and he was the catcher, so he was involved in a play before fellow members of the starting lineup Junior Felix and Orestes Destrade.

28. April 5, 1993, Colorado Rockies: Eric Young Sr. He was the leadoff hitter in their first game, at Shea Stadium. Unlike Maury Wills of the '69 Expos, though, he was a local, from New Brunswick, New Jersey. Both he and his son Eric Jr. would play for the Mets. Eric Sr. would also hit the first home run in Rockies history, four days later in their home opener. Why do I list the Marlins first? Because their game started first, that's all.

29. March 31, 1998, Arizona Diamondbacks: Jorge Fabregas. The D-backs were at home, and he was the catcher, so he was involved in a play before any of the other black players.

30. April 1998, Tampa Bay Devil Rays (renamed Rays 2008): Wilson Alvarez. He was the starting pitcher in a home game, so he handled the ball first.

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