Whirty: Second black player signed after Jackie Robinson never made his mark

From Ryan Whirty at Baseball America on April 12, 2013:

Jackie Robinson has rightly assumed a place as one of the most significant figures in American sports, and the anticipated movie “42″ opens today as a further tribute to his legacy.

But within weeks of Robinson becoming the first African-American player in modern baseball history to sign in Organized Baseball in the fall of 1945, lanky New Orleans native John Wright became the second. A righthander with a solid array of pitches who had a decade of success in the Negro Leagues, Wright also signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers, with both Robinson and Wright set to report to Dodgers spring training in Florida for the 1946 season.

“(T)he baseball world again vibrated as the announcement flashed across the Nation,” wrote Hall of Fame sportswriter Wendell Smith in the Pittsburgh Courier.

Wright flamed out in Organized Ball, however, and by the beginning of the 1947 season, as Robinson was stepping onto the diamond at Ebbets Field, Wright was back in the Negro Leagues, hurling for the Homestead Grays, with any hopes of becoming a big leaguer dashed. And while Robinson has become a household name, Wright has been largely lost to history, a footnote in Branch Rickey’s crusade to integrate the game.

Aside from the obvious question of what happened to Wright, in the intervening years historians have also debated why exactly the Dodgers signed him. Did the trailblazing organization view him as a legitimate prospect, or was Wright simply viewed as a companion for Robinson, who was clearly Rickey’s chosen one to make history?

Read the full article here: http://www.baseballamerica.com/majors/second-black-player-signed-after-jackie-robinson-never-made-his-mark/

Originally published: April 15, 2013. Last Updated: April 15, 2013.