Taylor: Pumpsie Green, the last of the firsts

From Shakeia Taylor at Baseball Prospectus on July 3, 2019:

As early as the 1930’s, African-American reporters sent open letters to owners while polling white managers and players and bringing Black players to unscheduled tryouts in hopes of integrating baseball. These journalists—along with several white writers from mainstream papers—pressed hard for baseball’s gatekeepers to hire Black players as unions and civil rights groups picketed outside of ballparks in multiple cities.

After a member of Boston’s city council threatened to ban baseball on Sundays until the Red Sox gave at least one Negro Leaguer a tryout, the Sox held what became known as a “sham tryout,” inviting Jackie Robinson, Sam Jethroe, and Marvin Williams to Fenway Park in April 1945, though it was clear the team had no intention of signing any of them. (It’s rumored that the Red Sox passed on Robinson, Willie Mays, Larry Doby, Ernie Banks, Roberto Clemente and Hank Aaron.) In 1950, the team signed Lorenzo “Piper” Davis to a minor league contract, but he was released before making it to the majors.

Born Elijah Jerry Green in 1933, Pumpsie ended Boston’s fight against integration by becoming their first Black player.

Much is said about Jackie Robinson being the first, but Pumpsie Green’s experiences as the last doesn’t garner as much attention. He never wanted to be in that position. “I did the best I could with what I had,” Green told The San Francisco Chronicle in 2018. “I had a little success, and I enjoyed that. I always say to myself, ‘I accomplished the first thing I set out to do because I always wanted to be …’ well, I didn’t always want to be a major-league ballplayer, I’ve always wanted to be an Oakland Oaks ballplayer because that was the big team around here.”

Read the full article here: https://www.baseballprospectus.com/news/article/51310/prospectus-feature-pumpsie-green-the-last-of-the-firsts/

Originally published: July 3, 2019. Last Updated: July 3, 2019.