Jackson: The year after Jackie Robinson, John Ritchey integrated the PCL

From Josh Jackson at MiLB.com on February 21, 2018, with mention of SABR member Bill Swank:

John Ritchey never wanted to make history.

“He just wanted to play baseball and be judged on his ability and not the color of his skin,” baseball historian Bill Swank said. 

In a better time or in a better world, he may have gotten his wish. But Ritchey was an African-American man born in 1923. Being the best ballplayer he could be — even in his comparatively black-friendly hometown of San Diego — meant that he also had to be a pioneer. On Nov. 22, 1947, a little more than two months after Jackie Robinson was named Major League Baseball’s first Rookie of the Year, Ritchey sat in the office of Padres president William Starr and signed a contract.

When the following April rolled around, he was the first black player to see action in the Pacific Coast League since 1916 (when Jimmy Claxton passed as part Native American). A friendly and upbeat person by nature, Ritchey was a trailblazer by necessity. Even though he never sought any laurels for integrating the PCL, he’s commemorated with a bust in Petco Park.

That monument is there thanks in large part to the efforts of Swank, who was friends with Ritchey. Speaking at his funeral in January 2003, Swank relayed to mourners a conversation the two of them had not long before Ritchey’s death.

Read the full article here: https://www.milb.com/milb/news/john-ritchey-broke-pcl-color-barrier-with-hometown-san-diego-padres/c-265897724?tcid=tw_article_265897724

Originally published: February 22, 2018. Last Updated: February 22, 2018.