Elijah Jerry "Pumpsie" Green made his major league debut July 21, 1959. The Red Sox were the last major-league team to integrate, more than 12 years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. Green was a switch-hitter who threw right-handed and was used by Boston mostly as a pinch runner or utility infielder. Green enjoyed his best season in 1961, posting career highs in nearly every category; he also had the most errors of his career that year, with 16. He played his final game with the Mets in September 1963.
Jackie Robinson, Brooklyn Dodgers, NL
Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier on April 15, 1947, bringing the Negro Leagues' electrifying style of play to the majors. He was named NL MVP in 1949. He died in 1972 at age 53. Robinson's jersey number, 42, is retired by all MLB teams. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1962. (Bio from the Hall of Fame) It would be more than 12 years before every major league team* added a black player. Learn about the pioneers who joined Robinson as the first black player on each team. *Teams added after 1961 were integrated from their inception.
Larry Doby, Cleveland Indians, AL
Larry Doby made his major league debut on July 5, 1947. The first African-American player in the American League, Doby was a power-hitting center fielder and a key member of Cleveland's pennant winners in 1948 and '54. He starred with the Negro National League's Newark Eagles for four seasons, leading them to a championship in 1946. A seven-time major league All-Star, Doby twice led the American League in homers. He died in 2003 at 79. Doby was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1998. (Bio from the Hall of Fame)
Hank Thompson, St. Louis Browns, AL
Hank Thompson made his major league debut on July 17, 1947, just two days before teammate Willard Brown. A hard-hitting IF/OF Thompson played for the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues, later joining the military. Upon his discharge, he split time between Kansas City and Tampico in the Mexican League. He was with the Monarchs in 1946, when the team won the Negro American League pennant. After a "cup of coffee" in the majors, Thompson and Brown were released and Thompson returned to the Monarchs. He later got a second shot at the major leagues ... (Bio from the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum)
Monte Irvin and Hank Thompson, New York Giants, NL
Monford Merril "Monte" Irvin (left), made his major league debut on July 8, 1949, the same day Hank Thompson (right) began his second stint in the majors. In 1951, with Willie Mays (center), they formed the first all-black outfield in the majors. Irvin excelled in both the Negro Leagues and the Major Leagues. A high-average hitter with some power, he provided a potent bat in a Newark Eagles lineup and was a key contributor to two Giants pennant-winners, batting .458 in the 1951 World Series. He was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1973. (Bio from the Hall of Fame) Thompson remained with the Giants for eight years as a 3B/OF, playing in two World Series (1951 and 1954). He played one more season with Minneapolis in the American Association. He died in 1969 at 43. (Bio from the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum)
Sam Jethroe, Boston Braves, NL
Jethroe made his major league debut on April 18, 1950. Nicknamed "The Jet" because of his speed, it was said that Jethroe could "outrun the word of God." He was the premier base stealer in the Negro American League and in 1944-45 the switch-hitter led the league in both batting and stolen bases. In 1945, Jethroe, Jackie Robinson and Marvin Williams had a tryout with the Boston Red Sox, but were not signed. In 1950, Jethroe (shown signing autographs with Sid Gordon) hit .273 and led the league in stolen bases to earn Rookie of the Year honors. He died in 2001 at age 83.
Minnie Minoso, Chicago White Sox, AL
Saturnino "Minnie" Minoso made his major league debut on May 1, 1951. Minoso’s leadoff production helped the New York Cubans capture the Negro National League pennant and World Series. Minoso signed with the Cleveland Indians in 1949, but was traded to the White Sox. He led the league in stolen bases his first three seasons, prompting White Sox fans to chant "Go Go" as he ran the bases. Minoso (pictured with White Sox owner Bill Veeck) spent the most productive of his 15 big league seasons with the White Sox and also played for the St. Louis Cardinals and Washington Senators. A legitimate three-decade player, Minoso was brought back to the White Sox for pinch-hitting appearances in 1976 and 1980 (at age 57), so he could qualify as a five-decade player. (Bio from the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum)
Bob Trice, Philadelphia Athletics, AL
Bob Trice made his major league debut on Sept. 13, 1953. He joined the U.S. Navy at age 18 during World War II and later worked one day in a steel mill before joining the Homestead Grays of the Negro National League, as a pitcher. Trice was 27 when he broke into the big leagues. The next year was split between the Athletics and the minors. In 1955, when the A’s moved to Kansas City, Trice got one last shot at the majors, but pitched poorly and played his final MLB game on May 2, 1955 at age 28. He died in 1988 at 62. (Bio from Baseball-Reference.com)
Ernie Banks, Chicago Cubs, NL
Ernie Banks made his major league debut Sept. 17, 1953. Noted for his sunny disposition, excellent all-around play and powerful home runs, Ernie Banks was a favorite among Cubs fans. Banks was an 11-time All-Star, was NL MVP twice and hit 512 homers in his 19-year career. He twice led the National League in home runs and RBI and won a Gold Glove in 1960. "Mr. Cub" displayed his perpetual love for the game with his signature phrase, "Let's play two!" He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1977. (Bio from the Hall of Fame)
Curt Roberts, Pittsburgh Pirates, NL
Curt Roberts made his major league debut on April 13, 1954. A second baseman, he played for the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues. In his first major league at bat, he tripled against Robin Roberts of the Philadelphia Phillies. Despite that impressive debut, Roberts struggled at the plate, although he excelled defensively. He played in 134 games his rookie season, but only 37 over the next two, and was sent to the minors. He later played for the Athletics and Yankees organizations, but never reached the big leagues again. Roberts died in 1969, at age 40, after being hit by an automobile while changing a tire on his car.
Tom Alston, St. Louis Cardinals, NL
Tom Alston made his major league debut on April 13, 1954. He joined the Navy after high school and later graduated from North Carolina A&T. After college he played with the Jacksonville Eagles of the Negro Leagues and later the Saskatchewan Rockets. He split the 1955 and 1956 seasons between Triple A the big leagues. He played the 1957 season with the Cardinals and then retired. In all, he played in 91 major league games with the Cardinals. Alston died in 1993 at the age of 67. (Bio from the Baseball-Reference.com)
Chuck Harmon and Nino Escalera, Cincinnati Reds, NL
Chuck Harmon (left) and Nino Escalera made their major league debuts on April 17, 1954. Harmon played only five games with the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro Leagues before signing with Cincinnati. He also played on two Indiana high school championship basketball teams and in the NIT Championship game. He was the first African-American to coach in professional basketball and was a part-time scout for the Atlanta Braves and the Indiana Pacers. (Bio from the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum) Saturnino Escalera proved to be a consistent .300-plus hitter in the minors. He got his one chance at the major leagues in 1954, but disappointed. He toiled in the minors for years, retiring at 36. He remained in the game as a scout for the San Francisco Giants and most recently the New York Mets. (Bio from the Baseball-Reference.com)
Carlos Paula, Washington Senators, AL
Carlos Paula made his major league debut Sept. 6, 1954. The Cuban-born player was acquired by Washington via a transaction with the Paris Indians Big State League before the 1954 season. He played in 115 games during the 1955 season, batting .299 with 6 home runs and 55 RBI, but he committed 10 errors in the OF. In 1956, he appeared in only 33 games and batted .183. His last game was on June 23, 1956. Paula died in 1983 at age 55.
Elston Howard, New York Yankees, AL
Elston Howard made his major league debut on April 14, 1955. Howard (pictured with Mickey Mantle) played three seasons in the Negro Leagues with the Kansas City Monarchs as an outfielder-catcher. After two years of military service he played in the minor leagues. In 1955, he was called up by the Yankees and for 13 years he was one of their most indispensable players. In 1961 he hit .248 with 21 homers and in 1963 he hit .287 with 28 homers and 85 RBI. He ended his major-league career in 1968 with the Boston Red Sox. Howard died in 1980 at age 51. (Bio from the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum)
John Kennedy, Philadelphia Phillies, NL
John Kennedy made his major league debut on April 22, 1957. The shortstop signed as a free agent with the New York Giants before the 1953 season and was released before the 1954 season. Kennedy caught on with the Birmingham Black Barons, and later the Kansas City Monarchs, both of the Negro American League. Near the end of the 1956 season, the Monarchs sold his contract to the Philadelphia Phillies. He played in only five games, the last one on May 3, 1957. He died in 1998 at age 71.
Ozzie Virgil Sr., Detroit Tigers, AL
Ozzie Virgil Sr. made his major league debut on June 6, 1958 and was the first Dominican to play in the majors. Virgil went 5-for-5 in his first game with Detroit. Though used sparingly, he played every position but pitcher during his major-league career. He began coaching for the Giants in 1969, became Dick Williams' third base coach in Montreal in 1977, and went with him to the Padres and Mariners. His son Ozzie Jr. played in the majors from 1980-90. (Bio from the BaseballLibrary.com)