Pumpsie Green played for the Boston Red Sox from 1959-1962, during which time he hit .244, with 12HR, and 69 RBI's. Basically, he was an earlier version of Alex Cora.
Why am I writing about him? Because he was the first African-American to ever play for Boston. He made his debut 12 years after Jackie Robinson broke MLB's color barrier. The Red Sox were the last team to integrate in baseball, and after former owner Tom Yawkey passed away, stories began to leak out about Yawkey's racism, not only toward black players, but Jewish ones as well.
In 1945, Jackie Robinson was given a tryout at Fenway Park. Obviously, he did not sign with Boston. The Red Sox also had a chance to sign Frank Robinson a while later, and chose not too. I'm not naive enough to think that racism was not on every team back then, but Yawkey's idiotic policy probably set the team back at least 5 years behind the teams that were integrating when he wasn't.
Monday, we celebrate as a country, the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. My daughter Ciera, 8, brought home a book on Dr. King, as well as one on Rosa Parks this week from school. She was shocked to read about white-only resteraunts, schools, and water fountains. Could not get her mind around the fact that a person could not sit anywhere they wanted to on a bus, but had to instead sit all the way in the back. These are kid friendly books, so it'll be a few years before she sees the really dark history of racism and integration.
Dr. King had a vision of racial equality, and over the years, America has made huge strides toward that goal. It ain't perfect yet, but it's progress. And 48 years after Pumpsie made his Red Sox debut, the team looks nothing like the one he joined. Led by Big Papi and Manny, the 2007 Red Sox are about as ethnically mixed as you'll find. Dominicans, Japanese, Black, and White players fill the roster of the team. As a parent, you try to teach your children to not see color, just character, and I'm trying to do that with my 3. When they see the Red Sox, they see the color of the jersey, not the color of the man. Yeah, I'm bragging, but I'm proud of them.
I can't imagine what Pumpsie Green had to endure during his short career, but given the team and the city's history, I know it was not pretty. We have all heard and read about the vile crap that was shouted at Jackie Robinson, not only by fans, but players as well. Pumpsie more than likely heard the same song, different verse.
So, as you remember Dr. King tomorrow, remember Pumpsie, Jackie, and all the other players who paved the road for guys like Mays, Aaron, and Pops Stargell. Who paved it for guys like Ortiz, Pujols, and Bonds. And remember the men who never made it, but should have: Josh Gibson, Buck O'Neil, and Satchel Page, who made it, but too late.
Martin Luther King, Jr.