Red Sox First Black Player July 21,1959
Not until more than 12 years after Jackie Robinson’s debut with the Dodgers, did the first black player take the field for the Red Sox.
On July 21, 1959 the Red Sox were in Chicago, trailing the White Sox 2-1, going into the 8th inning. Vic Wertz hit a lead off single for Boston. Then Red Sox manager Billy Jurges, very belatedly, made history by pulling Wertz in favor of pinch runner, Elijah “Pumpsie” Green. White Sox pitcher Dick Donovan retired the next three batters. Then Green took the field and played short stop for two innings. He didn’t have any fielding opportunities and didn’t get up to bat, as Chicago held on to win the game 2-1.
Green played in 49 more games for Boston in 1959, hitting .239 with one homer and 10 RBIs. He had three more unremarkable seasons with the Red Sox and then wound up his career playing 17 games with the Mets in 1963.
Ironically, Robinson had tried out for the Red Sox in 1945, before Branch Rickey signed him to play for Brooklyn. He went on to lead the Dodgers to six NL pennants and one World Series Win.
In a 1965 Sports Illustrated article Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey had this to say about his team’s lack of black players:
“I have no feeling against colored people,” he says. “I employ a lot of them in the South. But they are clannish, and when that story got around that we didn’t want Negroes they all decided to sign with some other club. Actually, we scouted them right along, but we didn’t want one because he was a Negro. We wanted a ballplayer.”
Howard Bryant, who wrote the book “Shut Out: A Story of Race and Baseball in Boston”, said
The Red Sox were one of the most racist teams in baseball. You’ve got a 50-year legacy of difficulties between the Red Sox and the African-American population.
Harold Friend for Bleacher Report probably hit the nail on the head. He wrote:
The Red Sox rejected Robinson, Jethroe, and Mays, but selected Pumpsie Green. Only two conclusions are possible. Either discrimination existed or the Red Sox were the most incompetent organization in sports history.