Jackie Robinson broke baseballs color barrier in 1947, but it wasnt until more than a decade later, on July 21, 1959, that the Red Sox debuted Elijah Jerry Pumpsie Green, who became the first African American ever to play for the Red Sox, the last team in the major leagues to integrate. A reluctance to progress with the times has been a stigma that the Boston area has carried for some time.
TODAY-1959: Elijah Jerry “Pumpsie” Green became the 1st African American to play for the #BostonRedSox, the last team to integrate. #history
From the past accounts of African-American and Latinos who have played in Boston, it is a town where racism still rears its ugly head too often. As recently as May of this season, Baltimore Orioles outfielder Adam Jones was thrust into the headlines when he was bombarded with a barrage of N-words and peanuts by some proud Red Sox fans.
That was just Red Sox fans hanging onto an America that should be long forgotten. Bostons reluctance to relinquish the past was evident in 1959 and it remains palpable in 2017, though open expression of these bigotries are much less accepted by the majority of Americans.
Most folks would say, Thats just Boston being Boston. But even Boston had to cave and give in to the idea of including African-American players on their rosters to improve their chances of winning games.
According to history.com, Despite their obvious talent and potential to improve Bostons team, the franchises decision-makers did not want to hire black players. As the rest of the league integrated, Boston remained an all-white club for 10 more years. Along with the Philadelphia Phillies, who waited to integrate until 1957, and the Detroit Tigers, who did not hire a black player until 1958, the Red Sox floundered in the 1950s, while teams like the Dodgers, Giants, Braves and Indians spent that decade winning with black stars in the lineup.”
Pumpsie’s arrival in Bean-town had to be fate. The Red Sox had an opportunity to sign Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays in years prior to Green’s arrival, but their racist braintrust decided against it. Eventually, they caved to the political, internal and social pressures like Arizona with MLK Day, and Pumpsie Green became the great integrator of Boston baseball. He wasnt considered a great player, but he was certainly a brave one.
Id have to think that it was hell-on-earth for a Black man playing in Boston at that time. He retired in 1963 after five seasons, four in Boston and one as a sub for the New York Mets. He hit a respectable .246 in his career. His modest production, however, came second to his pioneering existence.
Being the first African-American to integrate any professional franchise was a huge undertaking back then and a brother usually had very little fan or team support off the field. To get your first crack at the big time playing for the Boston Red Sox back in those days makes Green’s MLB arrival worth remembering.
He was the guy who broke down the final wall of player segregation in pro baseball.