Nowlin: How Sam Jethroe was received in Boston

From SABR Vice President Bill Nowlin at The National Pastime Museum on March 24, 2016:

My interest in Sam Jethroe sprang from my ongoing documentation of the history of the Boston Red Sox. Most students of baseball history know that the Red Sox were the last team in the Major Leagues to desegregate. That came in 1959, when the Red Sox finally bowed to overwhelming pressure and promoted Pumpsie Green to the big leagues in the middle of the 1959 season.

Many—perhaps most—probably also have learned that the Red Sox had the opportunity to become the first team to desegregate. That opportunity was presented to them on a golden platter when Boston City Councilman Isadore Muchnick forced a tryout at Fenway Park in April 1945. Present at that tryout were three Negro League players—Jackie Robinson, Marvin Williams, and Sam Jethroe. The tryout showed them off to good advantage, Robinson standing out, but none of them ever heard a word from the Red Sox again. The team had passed on the opportunity to sign the man who became the National League’s Rookie of the Year just two years later—Jackie Robinson.

Boston had two Major League teams at the time, and, a few years later, the Boston Braves did sign Sam Jethroe. Jethroe debuted in 1950, a full nine years before the Red Sox brought up Pumpsie. And the Red Sox had lost out once again: Sam Jethroe won Rookie of the Year that year—1950. There’s also the story of how they passed on Willie Mays, but that’s a story for another day.

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Originally published: March 24, 2016. Last Updated: March 24, 2016.