It was on today's date in 1959 that the Boston Red Sox brought up a switch hitting infield utility player of the name of Elijah Jerry "Pumpsie" Green. Why is the promotion of a switch hitting utility player during 1959 something of importance? With the promotion of Green to the Major Leagues, all 16 teams of Major League Baseball had now been integrated. Starting with the signing of Jackie Robinson with the Brooklyn Dodgers on August 28, 1945 (and his becoming the first black player to cross the color barrier on April 15, 1947) it took twelve years for all 16 teams to have at least one black player. Now I say black rather than African American since if you look at the list of the first players to integrate the 16 teams, not all of them were African American:
Brooklyn Dodgers – Jackie Robinson (1947)
Cleveland Indians – Larry Doby (1947)
St. Louis Browns – Hank Thompson (1947)
New York Giants – Hank Thompson (1949)
Boston Braves – Sam Jethroe (1950)
Chicago White Sox – Minnie Minoso (1951)
Philadelphia Athletics – Bob Trice (1953)
Chicago Cubs – Ernie Banks (1953)
Pittsburgh Pirates – Curt Roberts (1954)
St. Louis Cardinals – Tom Alston (1954)
Cincinnati Reds – Nino Escalera (1954)
Washington Senators – Carlos Paula (1954)
New York Yankees – Elston Howard (1955)
Philadelphia Phillies – John Kennedy (1957)
Detroit Tigers – Ozzie Virgil (1958)
Boston Red Sox – Pumpsie Green (1959)
Four of them were from Latin America (If you want to know more about these players, you can click here: Black Latino Pioneers from my Latinoball blog page). Back to Green.
Green's first appearance came as a pinch runner against the Chicago White Sox on July 21, 2011. His role would normally be that of a defensive infield replacement and pinch runner for the four years (1959-1962) he played with the Red Sox. Green would play his last season with the New York Mets in 1963.
Green's best season was in 1961 when in 88 games he batted .260 with 57 hits (12 2B, 3 3B, 6 HR) and 27 RBI in 219 at-bats. Green walked 42 times while striking out 32 times and stealing 4 out of 6 bases.
The promotion of Green in 1959 casts a negative light on the Red Sox not due to Green himself, but that it took so long for the team to integrate. This could have been avoided on two earlier occasions if the airs of racial intolerance had not permeated the Boston Red Sox. The first time was in April of 1945 when under pressure of the removal of their Sunday day permit allowing the team to play Baseball by local City Councilor Isadore Muchnick, the Red Sox held a tryout for three African American players. One was Marvin Williams. The second was Sam Jethroe, and the third was Jackie Robinson.
The other occasion was in 1949 when Red Sox scouts refuse to waste their time waiting for rain to stop falling so they could scout a young black player named Willie Mays. The thought of Willie Mays and Ted Williams patrolling the same outfield is mind boggling. So instead of Boston being the first team to integrate their racial stubbornness caused them to be the last team to integrate. And the rest is history.
For a more in depth look at the racial climate in Boston in relation to the Red Sox I recommend that you check out Howard Bryant's book called Shut Out: A History of Race and Baseball in Boston.
In a weird twist of fate for Pumpsie Green, following a series of losses to the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium, Green and fellow teammate Gene Conley got off of the team bus while sitting in a traffic jam in the Bronx. They went to a bar to use the restroom and after a few drinks, they exited the bar and noticed the bus was gone. Green rejoined the team the next day. Conley went missing for a total three days spending his time at Toots Shor and at the Waldorf Astoria He would be spotted at Idlewild Airport (now known as JFK International Airport) trying to board a flight for Israel without any passports or luggage of any kind. Why? That question has never been answered.
For Further Reading
- Click Here for Pumpsie Green's career statistics from Baseball Reference.com
- Click Here for the article The Boston Red Sox and Racism dated October 11, 2002 from the NPR.org website
- Click Here to access the article Red Sox Give Jackie Robinson Tryout at Fenway Park in 1945, Two Years Before He Breaks MLB Color Barrier dated June 26, 2011 from NESN.com
- Click Here to access Dan Shaughnessy's article Conley's stories fit to print dated December 15, 2004 from the Boston Globe website