Soderholm-Difatte: Integration in the National League in 1956

From SABR member Bryan Soderholm-Difatte at Baseball Historical Insight on April 17, 2016:

With seven players, the Cincinnati Reds had more black players on their roster than any other major league team to open the 1956 season. The most talked about were right-hander Brooks Lawrence, acquired in an off-season trade with the Cardinals, and highly-touted rookie outfielder Frank Robinson. Questions about Lawrence focused on whether he could recapture what he had going for him in his impressive 15-6 debut for the Cardinals in 1954 after being a bust in 1955 and being sent to the minor leagues in August. Questions about Robinson were about whether he would really be as good as he gave every indication of being.

On opening day, Frank Robinson made a very strong case that indeed he would be. Robinson was the only one of the Reds’ seven black players to start on opening day, batting seventh in left field. Facing the Cardinals’ Vinegar Bend Mizell, Robinson hit a ground-rule double in his first major league at bat in the second and singled in his next at bat in the fourth. After hitting into a force-out in the sixth, Robinson was intentionally walked with runners on second and third with two outs to load the bases in a tie game in the eighth; the Cardinals, it seemed, preferred to pitch to veteran, light-hitting shortstop Roy McMillan, who had doubled to tie the game after Robinson’s single in the fourth, rather than have to deal with the rookie who was now 2-for-3 in his big-league career. Good move. McMillan fouled out to end the threat and Stan Musial hit a two-run home-run in the ninth that decided the game.

Read the full article here:

Originally published: April 18, 2016. Last Updated: April 18, 2016.