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Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, and the Boston Red Sox

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  • Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, and the Boston Red Sox

    What were the details of the Jackie Ronbinson "failed" April 1945 tryout with the Red Sox and did the Red Sox really have first dibs to sign Willie Mays and they passed on him because a scout didn't want to wait in the rain to watch Mays play?
    Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls - it's more democratic.-Crash Davis

  • #2
    I found this...

    Robinson and Mays: What Might Have Been


    Major League Baseball has dedicated the 1997 season to Jackie Robinson, who on April 15, 1947 broke the color line established in the 1880s. The fiftieth anniversary of Robinson’s debut features an on-field ceremony during the Mets-Dodgers game at Shea Stadium, with President Clinton scheduled to honor Robinson’s widow Rachel.

    But the Red Sox could have been first.

    By 1945, columnist Dave Egan and the Boston City Council were pressuring the Braves and Red Sox to integrate. Sox GM Eddie Collins insisted that the team was blameless. In his 12 years with the club, he explained, "we have never had a single request for a tryout by a colored applicant."

    That was easy to fix. Legendary black sportswriter Wendell Smith brought three Negro Leaguers to town: .338-hitting 2B Marvin Williams, outfielder Sam Jethroe (1950 NL Rookie of the Year with the Boston Braves)...and rookie shortstop Jackie Robinson. During their workout with the Sox a voice in the distance, widely believed to be Collins', shouted "Get those ******* off the field."

    Having refused to sign black players, the Sox worked to keep them off other rosters, too. In the summer of 1946, with Jackie Robinson tearing up the International League, Sox owner Tom Yawkey served on an owners' committee formed to study integration and other issues. The committee delivered its report at the August 27, 1946 owners' meeting -- a report so sensitive that recipients were asked to destroy their copies.

    The report launched every tired, circular weapon in Organized Baseball's arsenal to defend the color line. According to Yawkey and his colleagues, baseball was being singled out by meddling publicity hounds who didn't care about blacks. Most Negro Leaguers weren't good enough for the majors. The Negro Leagues offered inferior training and produced players with no grasp of the fundamentals. Besides, Negro League contracts must be respected!

    But the real reasons were buried deep in the text. Many teams profited from segregation. “The Negro leagues rent their parks in many cities from clubs in Organized Baseball. . . . Club owners in the major leagues are reluctant to give up revenues amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars every year." And black players would attract black fans, who would drive away more desirable white patrons: “a situation might be presented, if Negroes participate in Major League games, in which the preponderance of Negro attendance in parks such as the Yankee Stadium, the Polo Grounds, and Comiskey Park could conceivably threaten the value of Major League franchises owned by these clubs.”

    Even after Robinson integrated the majors, the Red Sox rejected black players who were practically dropped in their lap. The general manager of their AA team in Birmingham, Alabama alerted them to a phenomenal prospect on the Birmingham Black Barons whose contract could be bought for only $5,000. Even though the Red Sox' local scout echoed the rave reviews, GM Joe Cronin wasn't interested...and so Willie Mays became a Giant.

    The Red Sox were the last team to integrate, 12-1/2 years after Jackie Robinson's debut. By the time Pumpsie Green was called up to the Red Sox in July 1959, Robinson was long retired. Roy Campanella, Luke Easter, Monte Irvin and Satchel Paige had come and gone, Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks, Willie Mays, Minnie Minoso and Frank Robinson were in their prime -- and the Sox had fallen from pennant contenders to mediocrity.

    Just imagine two generations of New Englanders growing up with this memory:

    "FENWAY PARK, OCTOBER 1, 1951: Sparked by Jackie Robinson's first-inning steal of home and a three-run blast by rookie sensation Willie Mays, the Boston Red Sox today won their fifth American League pennant in six years, thrashing the New York Yankees, 8-3, in their one-game playoff."
    Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls - it's more democratic.-Crash Davis

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Honus Wagner Rules
      I found this...
      Pinky Higgins absolutely refused to put blacks on the team. The only reason Pumpsie Green even made the squad in 1959 was that Higgins had been fired.
      "Hall of Famer Whitey Ford now on the field... pleading with the crowd for, for some kind of sanity!"

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      • #4
        It wasn't Higgins as much as it was Yawkey, Eddie Collins and the town of Boston really. Have you ever heard of any Negro league teams from Boston?

        By the way, Mr. Honus Wagner Rules, I would appreciate the source of that quote. I'd like to keep it in my files. Thanks.
        Last edited by Brian McKenna; 10-13-2005, 11:21 AM.

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        • #5
          it was probably all 3...i've never heard about collins' racism, but higgins was real bad- the worst of the three

          probably the first guy in the boston organization who wasn't a bigot was sixties/ seventies gm dick o'connell, an underrated g.m. who really built up the club after the ghastly teams in the early/ mid 60's ,who actively worked hard to counter that image of the franchise by drafting guys like george scott, rice, ben ogilvie, and cecil cooper.

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          • #6
            Many would say that Yawkey's was the worst

            because he had the $$$$$$$$$ and the power and he was THE community leader.

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            • #7
              well, at any rate, i would hardly call him "a community leader"- he spent much of his time in south carolina or someplace like that, and despite all of the jimmy fund stuff, which is laudable wasn't exactly engaged in the everyday issues here... he also wasn't from boston.

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              • #8
                I think a community ties itself to a ballclub and that ballclub intertwines itself into the community. There is a lot of back scratching both ways and the $$ flow all around, much of which is rarely if ever publicized. Considering this, any owner would be an integral member of the community - whatever the semantics of the term community leader.

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                • #9
                  that yawkey, higgins, and apparently collins were racists is inexcusable, despicable, and a matter of history. it is a shame that my hometown's team was the last to integrate. yet to say " the town of boston really" is what is known as a generalization. i for one do not believe that this matter was only a problem there and not in new york, philly, st. louis, or any other city. i highly doubt that baltimore is any more of a paragon of racial tolerance. as for no negro league teams, i really don't know why there weren't any: that may be due to the fact that boston has a small black population. i have no idea.

                  there are bad racial problems in boston, which are tied in with class, and which in turn are also handdowns from lesser, but still potent prejudices inflicted on irish and italian groups for their religion and for being immigrants. i know this as well as any poster on this board, probably more so with the busing problems of the 70's that i experienced as a young kid. there is a lot of subtle racism and segregation there to this day. no one in their right mind would deny that. my fiancee is black and native american, and while we got rude stares in boston, some of the other places we've been have been [I]a lot worse. i would highly caution anyone about the old adage about sticks and glass houses.

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                  • #10
                    No, I agree; it was Eddie Collins, Joe Cronin, and Pinky Higgins all working together. Yawkey himself I think had little to do with it. But Higgins was the worst. If he hadn't gotten fired, who knows how long the Sox would have stayed segregated?

                    The "get those ******* off the field," remark was probably made by either Cronin or Collins, although some people think Yawkey himself said it.

                    There's a book all about this, "Shut Out" by Howard Bryant. I'd highly recommend it to anyone who's really interested in the history of integration in the majors, focused around the Sox specifically.

                    Page 52 of that book; "As a final act in the spring of 1959, he [Higgins] had sent Pumpsie Green back to the minors in a spiteful, last-second gesture. The Red Sox struggled early in the season with poor infield play, and Larry Claflin, a columnist for the Boston Record American, asked Higgins if he would bolster the infield by recalling Green, who, in the minors, was hitting over .300 and playing solid defense. Higgins responded by calling Claflin a '****** lover' and spit tobacco juice on him."
                    "Hall of Famer Whitey Ford now on the field... pleading with the crowd for, for some kind of sanity!"

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                    • #11
                      Boston does seem to have a peculiar history of race and sports, at least in baseball and basketball. While the Sox were the last to integrate, the Celtics were the first team to draft an African-American player (Chuck Cooper). The Celtics also had the first black coach, but then I also remember the oddly white teams of the mid-80s (Bird, McHale, Ainge, Walton). Not sure what to make of it all.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by oscargamblesfro
                        there are bad racial problems in boston, which are tied in with class, and which in turn are also handdowns from lesser, but still potent prejudices inflicted on irish and italian groups for their religion and for being immigrants. i know this as well as any poster on this board, probably more so with the busing problems of the 70's that i experienced as a young kid. there is a lot of subtle racism and segregation there to this day. no one in their right mind would deny that. my fiancee is black and native american, and while we got rude stares in boston, some of the other places we've been have been [I]a lot worse. i would highly caution anyone about the old adage about sticks and glass houses.
                        I shouldn't have implied otherwise - the problems are prevalent throughout the United States.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by bkmckenna
                          I shouldn't have implied otherwise - the problems are prevalent throughout the United States.

                          it's cool...

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Barnstormer
                            Boston does seem to have a peculiar history of race and sports, at least in baseball and basketball. While the Sox were the last to integrate, the Celtics were the first team to draft an African-American player (Chuck Cooper). The Celtics also had the first black coach, but then I also remember the oddly white teams of the mid-80s (Bird, McHale, Ainge, Walton). Not sure what to make of it all.
                            I think the 1980s Celtics were just random chance. Bird, McHale, and Ainge were all all-star caliber players. It's not as if they played in front of more deserving African-American players. Plus, Dennis Johnson and Robert Parrish were also key members of those 1980s championship teams.
                            Last edited by Honus Wagner Rules; 10-13-2005, 02:38 PM.
                            Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls - it's more democratic.-Crash Davis

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Can imagine Williams, Robinson, and Mays all on the same team?
                              Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls - it's more democratic.-Crash Davis

                              Comment

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