Whirty: Remembering San Diego’s Negro Leaguers and the Padres’ first black player

From SABR member Ryan Whirty at San Diego Magazine on March 25, 2016:

At the dawn of the 1947 baseball season, pitcher Walter McCoy, a San Diego native and member of the great Chicago American Giants of the Negro American League, urged his hometown pal, catcher Johnny Ritchey, to try out for the squad.

The Giants were one of the most storied franchises in the Negro Leagues, the professional circuits and teams that had been playing parallel to so-called “organized” (i.e., white) baseball for 27 years before Jackie Robinson stepped onto Ebbets Field.

But the Giants were a powerhouse at the time, and a fresh-faced Ritchey didn’t think he was up for the challenge. So McCoy gave him an ultimatum: If Ritchey didn’t make the team, McCoy would pay for his train ticket back to San Diego. The outcome? Ritchey made the team—and led the Negro Leagues in batting with a .369 average that year.

San Diego baseball historian William Swank says the San Diego black baseball scene was surprisingly robust, even though many baseball historians often gloss over it in favor of the more famous East Coast scene.

Read the full article here: http://www.sandiegomagazine.com/San-Diego-Magazine/April-2016/Early-All-Stars/

Originally published: March 30, 2016. Last Updated: March 30, 2016.