When Jackie opened the door, these men walked through

When Jackie opened the door, these men walked through


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It took 2,559 days after Jackie Robinson’s debut for the Brooklyn Dodgers for Major League Baseball to have its 42nd Black player appear in a game. Those seven years and two days saw 11 of the league’s 16 franchises integrate. The Boston Red Sox were the last to do so with Pumpsie Green in July 1959, more than five years after the color barrier was broken 42 times.

During the first 85 months of MLB’s first 42 Black players taking the field, several Baseball Hall of Famers made their league debuts, paving the way for many stars after them. Some on the list also appeared in only a few MLB games. A special shoutout goes to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri, which was an exceptional resource in helping compile this list. Here are the first 42 Black players to participate in an MLB game.

Note: The 41st, 42nd and 43rd Black major leaguers all made their debuts on the same day, almost at the exact same time.

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1. Jackie Robinson — April 15, 1947 — Brooklyn Dodgers

1. Jackie Robinson — April 15, 1947 — Brooklyn Dodgers

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Robinson’s impact on sports, not just baseball, is unquantifiable. By breaking Major League Baseball’s color barrier, he opened the door for Black players to be showcased in America’s pastime. Talent was never the concern as he led the International League with a .349 batting average and 40 stolen bases in 1946 for the Dodgers farm team, the Montreal Royals.

The 1949 NL MVP was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962 before passing away 10 years later. Every April 15 is celebrated by baseball as Jackie Robinson Day, commemorating his triumph into the big leagues. No MLB player will wear Robinson’s No. 42 again and none have since Mariano Rivera’s retirement in 2013.

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2. Larry Doby — July 5, 1947 — Cleveland Indians

2. Larry Doby — July 5, 1947 — Cleveland Indians

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Doby broke the American League’s color barrier 81 days after Robinson’s accomplishment. And in his first full year in MLB, the Indians made the World Series and Doby became the first Black player to hit a home run in baseball’s signature event. He ended his career as a seven-time All-Star center fielder with eight 20-home run seasons.

Former Indians and White Sox owner Bill Veeck, who gave Doby his chance in Cleveland, also hired him to be the White Sox manager in 1978. Dobby was inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998. Doby faced many of the same challenges Robinson did because of his presence in a separate league such as staying in different hotels and restaurants than the rest of his team. Yet, he overcame that to have seven 100-RBI seasons.

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3. Hank Thompson — July 17, 1947 — St. Louis Browns

3. Hank Thompson — July 17, 1947 — St. Louis Browns

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He’s the only player to break the color barrier for two different franchises. Thompson made his debut 12 days after Doby with the St. Louis Browns, who became the Baltimore Orioles several years later. At 21, Thompson was also the youngest player to integrate a Major League Baseball team. After a brief stay with the Browns, Thompson headed to the National League.

On July 8, 1949, he became the first Black player to take the field for the New York Giants. That day, he faced Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Don Newcombe, the first time a Black pitcher faced a Black batter in an MLB game. In joining Manhattan’s baseball franchise, Thompson also was part of the trio that was the first all-Black outfield alongside Monte Irvin and Willie Mays. That same trio were also the first Black players to load the bases. Thompson finished his career with 129 home runs.

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4. Willard Brown — July 19, 1947 ​​— St. Louis Browns

4. Willard Brown — July 19, 1947 ​​— St. Louis Browns

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Brown only played 21 games in the majors but was one of the Negro Leagues best power hitters. Nicknamed “Home Run” Brown by future Baseball Hall of Famer Josh Gibson as part of the Kansas City Monarchs, he led the Negro Leagues in RBIs during his first three seasons as a professional. The Monarchs won five pennants with Brown as an integral part of the roster from 1937-42.

Known as an outfielder with great speed, he was 32 in his brief stint with the St. Louis Browns and never got a real chance to shine, but he became the first Black player to hit a home run in the American League, doing so off future Baseball Hall of Famer Hal Newhouser. He returned to Kansas City after his MLB release and continued to play baseball through 1958. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.

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5. Dan Bankhead — Aug. 26, 1947 — Brooklyn Dodgers

5. Dan Bankhead — Aug. 26, 1947 — Brooklyn Dodgers

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Bankhead was the second Black player signed by Branch Rickey to make the majors, and the first Black pitcher to break the color barrier. After a turbulent first stay in the big leagues during the 1947 season, Bankhead refined his craft back in the minor leagues during the 1948 and 1949 seasons, compiling a 24-6 record. He returned to Brooklyn for the 1950 season.

His best MLB season was in 1950, appearing in 41 games for the Dodgers. He had 12 starts and a 9-4 record. Bankhead only played in seven games in the 1951 season with his only decision being a loss. He continued to play baseball through the 1966 season in the Mexican League.

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6. Roy Campanella — April 20, 1948 — Brooklyn Dodgers

6. Roy Campanella — April 20, 1948 — Brooklyn Dodgers

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As the Dodgers’ starting catcher for the better part of 10 seasons, Campanella became one of the early huge Black stars in the majors. He started playing professional baseball at 15 and spent eight years in the Negro Leagues before joining Brooklyn’s farm system. By halfway through the 1948 season, Campanella was the everyday Dodgers catcher.

The 1949 season saw Campanella hit 22 home runs as he was selected to the first of eight straight All-Star games. Campanella is also a three-time National League MVP, winning the award in 1951, 1953 and 1955. His final two MLB seasons were the Dodgers’ final pair in Brooklyn with his final baseball game coming in the last game at Ebbets Field. Campanella’s career ended prematurely due to injuries sustained in a car accident in Jan. 1958. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969.

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7. Satchel Paige — July 9, 1948 — Cleveland Indians

7. Satchel Paige — July 9, 1948 — Cleveland Indians

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Paige, a superstar for decades in the Negro Leagues, made his MLB debut at age 42, taking the mound in a tight American League pennant race. He finished the regular season with a 6-1 record and was part of Cleveland’s World Series-winning team. Paige became the first Black pitcher to play in a World Series game in the Indians’ defeat of the Braves.

Paige pitched again for the Indians in 1949 before three seasons with the St. Louis Browns from 1951-53. After a dozen years away from Major League Baseball, he made his final professional appearance with the Kansas City Athletics in 1965, pitching three scoreless innings. Paige was the first elected player to the Baseball Hall of Fame from Committee on Negro Baseball Leagues in 1971.

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8. Don Newcombe — May 20, 1949 — Brooklyn Dodgers

8. Don Newcombe — May 20, 1949 — Brooklyn Dodgers

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After Bankhead and Paige, Newcombe was the third Black pitcher to appear in a major league game. He earned the nickname “Big Newk” because of his 6-foot-4, 220-pound frame. Newcombe made the All-Star game in his 1949 rookie season, the first Black pitcher to appear in the event.

Newcombe won the NL’s Rookie of the Year award in 1949 and in 1956, he won the inaugural Cy Young Award as well as the NL’s MVP award. That trio of honors for one player wasn’t done by anyone else until Justin Verlander in 2017. Newcombe participated in the “Shot Heard Round The World” game in 1951 and wouldn’t pitch again in the majors until 1954 because of military service. His last MLB game would be in 1960. A dangerous hitter, he clubbed 15 home runs lifetime and later played first base in Japan.

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9. Monte Irvin — July 8, 1949 — New York Giants

9. Monte Irvin — July 8, 1949 — New York Giants

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Irvin is regarded as one of the most talented early MLB Black players, coming onto the scene as the starting left fielder for the Giants by the 1951 season. As part of the NL pennant winners that season, Irvin had a .312 batting average with 24 home runs and a league-best 121 RBI. Irvin increased his average to .458 during the six-game World Series against the Yankees.

He spent seven seasons with the Giants and played for the Cubs for his final major league season in 1956. After hanging up his cleats, Irving was a scout for the New York Mets and served for 17 years as a public relations specialist in the MLB commissioner’s office under Bowie Kuhn. Irvin was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973.

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10. Luke Easter — Aug. 11, 1949 — Cleveland Indians

10. Luke Easter — Aug. 11, 1949 — Cleveland Indians

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Easter had to wait until the summer of 1949 to debut in MLB because of a knee injury in spring training. Once on the field, he impressed Cleveland’s management so much that the organization traded All-Star Mickey Vernon to the Senators to give him an everyday spot in 1950

At 34 in his first full major-league season, he finished 13th in MVP voting and continued to be productive the next two years. Injuries caught up with Easter in 1953 and his MLB career wrapped up in May 1954. He continued in baseball as a minor leaguer until age 48 in 1963. Easter is notable for being the first player to hit a home run to center field at the Polo Grounds, a 475-foot homer.

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11. Sam Jethroe — April 18, 1950 — Boston Braves

11. Sam Jethroe — April 18, 1950 — Boston Braves

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The first Black MLB player in Boston was Jethroe, who won NL Rookie of the Year in 1950. Nicknamed “The Jet” because he was considered one of the fastest players in the league, his 35 stolen bases as a 32-year-old rookie were the most in the MLB since 1913. In 1952, he went through a slump that some believed was due to being older than his listed age.

Jethroe was optioned to Triple A for the 1953 season and was traded to Pittsburgh in 1954, playing only two games for the Pirates in what proved to be his final pair in MLB. He spent the next five years with Toronto of the International League, being among the league’s best players, but never got another chance in Major League Baseball.

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12. Luis Márquez — April 18, 1951 — Boston Braves

12. Luis Márquez — April 18, 1951 — Boston Braves

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In addition to being among the first dozen Black players in Major League Baseball, Marquez was only the third Puerto Rican to play in the league. His tenure in MLB was short-lived, spending parts of two seasons with the Braves, Cubs and Pirates in 1951 and 1954. Most of his American baseball career was spent in the minor leagues.

Marquez spent 14 seasons in the minor leagues, playing for Portland, Toledo and Dallas-Fort Worth. He never hit a Major League Baseball home run but was a two-time Negro League All-Star in 1947 and 1948. He also played for 20 seasons in Puerto Rico’s winter league.

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13. Ray Noble — April 18, 1951 — New York Giants

13. Ray Noble — April 18, 1951 — New York Giants

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Noble played professional baseball for 16 years in the United States and his native Cuba from 1945-61. His Major League Baseball career was sporadic, playing behind talented catcher Wes Westrum, who was given starting priority throughout the early 1950s despite hand injuries. Noble started 26 games in 1951 compared to Westrum’s 119.

He played sparingly in the Giants pennant-winning series and World Series run in 1951 and spent most of the 1952 season in the Pacific Coast League before finishing his MLB career in 1953.

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14. Artie Wilson — April 18, 1951 — New York Giants

14. Artie Wilson — April 18, 1951 — New York Giants

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Wilson’s MLB career lasted five weeks, ending May 23, 1951, after only 19 games and 24 plate appearances for the Giants. When Wilson was sent back to the minor leagues, a certain “Say Hey Kid” was his replacement. Wilson’s spot was given to one of the best baseball players in history and he never played in the MLB again.

Wilson was a four-time Negro Leagues All-Star in 1944 and three straight years from 1946-48. After his MLB career ended, he spent several years in the minor leagues before retiring in 1962. He was inducted into the PCL Hall of Fame in 2003.

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15. Harry Simpson — April 21, 1951 — Cleveland Indians

15. Harry Simpson — April 21, 1951 — Cleveland Indians

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Many think Simpson was nicknamed “Suitcase” because of how many times he was traded during his MLB career and that he played for five different teams. They’d be wrong. His nickname came from a newspaper cartoon because of his large feet. Simpson did play in the major leagues for a decade, including a 1956 appearance in the All-Star game as part of the Kansas City Athletics.

Simpson played in 888 career games with a .266 batting average. He finished his MLB career with 73 home runs and 381 RBI. He also had a .984 fielding percentage. Simpson also played in the 1957 World Series, only mustering one hit in 12 plate attempts.

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16. Willie Mays — May 25, 1951 — New York Giants

16. Willie Mays — May 25, 1951 — New York Giants

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Arguably the best outfielder in baseball history was also a trailblazer for Black baseball players entering the biggest league in the world. Aside from spending 1953 in the military, Mays played in the major leagues from 1951-73, with all but two years coming with the Giants. His final two seasons were back in New York with the Mets after a long run in San Francisco.

Mays’ career accomplishments are well documented: 660 home runs (sixth all-time), 7.095 putouts as an outfielder (most all-time) and 24 All-Star selections (second all-time). Mays is still alive and will turn 91 on May 6.

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17. Sam Hairston — July 21, 1951 — Chicago White Sox

17. Sam Hairston — July 21, 1951 — Chicago White Sox

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Hairston’s MLB career lasted 36 days. He has a career .400 batting average (2-for-5) and drove in one run in his short Major League Baseball run in the Windy City. Before that, Hairston had a long career in the Negro Leagues with the Birmingham Black Barons and the Clowns, both in Cincinnati and Indianapolis.

Hairston’s legacy is as the patriarch of the largest extended professional baseball family. Both of his sons, Jerry and John, and two grandchildren, Jerry and Scott, made it to the majors. Another son and three other grandkids played in the minor leagues.

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18. Bob Boyd — Sept. 8, 1951 — Chicago White Sox

18. Bob Boyd — Sept. 8, 1951 — Chicago White Sox

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The first Black player to sign with the White Sox didn’t truly make an impact with the organization. He served as a utility backup player and pinch hitter before being traded to the Cardinals. Boyd didn’t play in St. Louis and gained his first professional momentum as a member of the team leaving the Gateway City, the Baltimore Orioles.

Boyd’s 1957 season was his best in the majors as one of only eight American League hitters to have a .300 batting average or higher, alongside such legends as Ted Williams and Mickey Mantle. His final season in the majors was 1961. Boyd’s son, Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd, pitched for three MLB teams.

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19. Sam Jones — Sept. 22, 1951 — Cleveland Indians

19. Sam Jones — Sept. 22, 1951 — Cleveland Indians

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Sharing a name with the Boston Celtics legend born eight years later, Jones was nicknamed “Toothpick” because of his 6-foot-4, 200-pound stature. The right-handed pitcher played for 12 seasons in the MLB with six different teams. Jones nearly led the National League in strikeouts and walks four years in a row, earning that distinction in 1955, 1956 and 1958.

Jones was part of the first Black battery in American League history in 1952 alongside fellow Cleveland Indian Quincy Trouppe. In May 1955, Jones became the first Black pitcher to throw a no-hitter in a major league game. He blanked the Pittsburgh Pirates as a member of the Chicago Cubs. Jones allowed seven walks, but struck out six.

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20. Héctor Rodríguez — April 15, 1952 — Chicago White Sox

20. Héctor Rodríguez — April 15, 1952 — Chicago White Sox

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Rodriguez only lasted five months and a day in the major leagues because of interesting timing. He should’ve replaced fan favorite Chico Carrasquel at shortstop but the White Sox had another elite player in the works by the name of Luis Aparicio. Playing out of position in the MLB as a third baseman, he had an average season.

Five years exactly after Robinson’s debut was Rodriguez’s first of 124 big-league games. He finished his MLB year with one home run and 40 RBIs. He was sent back down to the minor leagues to start the 1953 season and was eventually traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs of the International League.

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21. Buster Clarkson — April 30, 1952 — Boston Braves

21. Buster Clarkson — April 30, 1952 — Boston Braves

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Clarkson’s major league career lasted two months while his professional career spanned multiple decades, spending most of his time in the Negro Leagues. Clarkson made his MLB debut at age 37. He played in 14 games for the Braves, with five hits in 25 at-bats and one RBI.

After his MLB stay, Clarkson played for the Crabbers in the Caribbean Series alongside Mays and Roberto Clemente. He was part of the first team representing Puerto Rico to win the Caribbean Series in 1955.

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22. Quincy Trouppe — April 30, 1952 — Cleveland Indians

22. Quincy Trouppe — April 30, 1952 — Cleveland Indians

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Along with being part of the first Black battery in American League history, Trouppe’s 10-day Major League Baseball career was uneventful. He’s a Negro League legend and won a championship as a player/coach of the Cleveland Buckeyes. He also won a pennant with the Buckeyes in 1947.

At 39, Trouppe is one of the oldest rookies in MLB history, and his only major-league hit came in his final game on May 10. Trouppe is an eight-time Negro League All-Star and retired after his stay with the Indians to be a scout.

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23. Joe Black — May 1, 1952 — Brooklyn Dodgers

23. Joe Black — May 1, 1952 — Brooklyn Dodgers

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Upon entry to the big leagues, Black was inserted into Brooklyn’s bullpen and served as the team’s relief ace, finishing the year with a 15-4 record and 15 saves. Black won the NL’s Rookie of the Year and became the first Black pitcher to win a World Series game. After his World Series triumph, Black couldn’t regain his rookie season form.

Black only won 15 games the rest of his MLB career and also played for the Cincinnati Reds and Washington Senators. After his playing career ended in 1957, Black was a scout for the Senators. The Minnesota Twins recognize Black as the player that broke their color barrier.

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24. Dave Pope — July 1, 1952 — Cleveland Indians

24. Dave Pope — July 1, 1952 — Cleveland Indians

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Pope only spent one year in the Negro Leagues in 1946 and battled his way through independent and minor leagues before signing a contract with the Indians in 1950. Pope’s MLB career lasted five seasons in three different stints with Cleveland and one more with Baltimore.

Pope’s legacy could be his part in Game 1 of the 1954 World Series. Giants’ hitter Dusty Rhodes hit the ball to the notoriously shallow right field of the Polo Grounds. Pope ran to catch the ball and leaped for the grab but came up a little short. It landed in the first row of seats for the game-winning home run two innings after Mays’ infamous running catch.

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25. Sandy Amorós — Aug. 22, 1952 — Brooklyn Dodgers

25. Sandy Amorós — Aug. 22, 1952 — Brooklyn Dodgers

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Given his nickname in resemblance to boxing champion Sandy Saddler, who’s real first name was Joseph, Edmundo “Sandy” Amoros was much smaller than the average big leaguer at 5-foot-7, 170 pounds. Yet, his presence with the Dodgers was needed throughout their successful teams in the 1950s, despite being overshadowed by bigger stars like Duke Snider, Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella.

The highlight of Amoros’ career was in Game 7 of the 1955 World Series. Entering the game as a defensive replacement, his sprawling catch in left field and avoiding the fence at Yankee Stadium helped turn a double play that led to the Dodgers’ first championship.

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26. Billy Bruton — April 14, 1953 — Milwaukee Braves

26. Billy Bruton — April 14, 1953 — Milwaukee Braves

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Bruton was the first Black Major League Baseball player to never play professionally in the Negro Leagues. He received tryouts but parlayed his time with independent minor league teams into a contract with the Braves. His dozen years in the MLB started just as the Braves moved from Boston to Milwaukee.

In his first major league game, Bruton hit a walk-off home run, also the Braves’ first win in Milwaukee. He also had a walk-off single in the 1958 World Series. During his first three seasons in the MLB, he was the National League’s stolen base leader. After four years with the Tigers, his MLB career ended in 1964.

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27. Jim Gilliam — April 14, 1953 — Brooklyn Dodgers

27. Jim Gilliam — April 14, 1953 — Brooklyn Dodgers

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Talk about pressure. Gilliam’s major league debut came as he replaced Robinson as Brooklyn’s starting second baseman, who switched to play in the outfield and third base. He proved worthy to take over, with a team-best 125 runs for Brooklyn, which won the National League pennant his rookie year.

Gilliam started as a player-coach in 1964 for Los Angeles, one of the early Black coaches in the MLB, and continued with the franchise until his death in 1978. Gilliam’s accolades include his No. 19 being retired by the Dodgers two days after his death. He was a three-time Negro Leagues All-Star with the Baltimore Elite Giants and a two-time MLB All-Star. He also won four World Series with the Dodgers, the only MLB team he played for.

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28. Connie Johnson — April 17, 1953 — Chicago White Sox

28. Connie Johnson — April 17, 1953 — Chicago White Sox

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Johnson, a starting pitcher, had a long-standing Negro Leagues career before his MLB debut 13 years into professional play. His pro debut came with the Toledo-Indianapolis Crawfords before a 10-year stay with the Kansas City Monarchs, split by military service in World War II. Johnson appeared in 14 games during his rookie year and spent all of 1954 in Triple-A Charleston.

Johnson appeared in 21 more games over the next two years before being traded to Baltimore in the middle of 1956. His final MLB record was 40-39 with a 3.44 earned-run average in 123 appearances and 100 starts. Johnson was also a two-time Negro Leagues All-Star in 1940 and 1950.

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29. Jim Pendleton — April 17, 1953 — Milwaukee Braves

29. Jim Pendleton — April 17, 1953 — Milwaukee Braves

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After trying to make his way up in the Dodgers’ organization as a shortstop, Pendleton was traded to the Braves because Brooklyn had Pee Wee Reese as the unquestionable starter. A few months into his rookie season, Pendleton hit three home runs in a game, becoming the second rookie in MLB history to pull off the feat, joining his teammate Eddie Mathews, who did it the previous season.

His MLB career lasted until 1962 in a season-long run with the inaugural Houston Colt .45, playing in 117 games at 38 years old. Pendleton played in 444 big-league games during his eight MLB seasons.

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30. Rubén Gómez — April 17, 1953 — New York Giants

30. Rubén Gómez — April 17, 1953 — New York Giants

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Gomez was the second Puerto Rican to pitch in the majors and was the first to start a World Series game. He was also the first pitcher to win an MLB game west of Kansas City. Gomez was given the nickname of “El Divino Loco,” which translates to “The Divine Madman” because of his ability to get out of jams.

His original MLB run lasted eight seasons with two comeback attempts in 1962 and in 1967 with the Phillies at age 39, but only pitched 11.1 innings in his final MLB stop. Gomez was elected to the Caribbean Baseball Hall of Fame in 1999.

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31. Dave Hoskins — April 18, 1953 — Cleveland Indians

31. Dave Hoskins — April 18, 1953 — Cleveland Indians

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Hoskins’ 1949 Negro Leagues All-Star season with the Louisville Buckeyes launched him into the MLB sphere, although his debut came three years later. He was the first Black player to play in the Texas league, which barred Black players longer than Major League Baseball did, suiting up for the Dallas Eagles.

After winning 22 games for the Eagles in 1952, his call-up came and Hoskins was a member of the Indians’ rotation for the next two seasons. He was part of the Indians’ 1954 American League pennant team. That would be his final year in the majors as Cleveland became loaded with pitchers and Hoskins was the odd man out.

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32. Carlos Bernier — April 22, 1953 — Pittsburgh Pirates

32. Carlos Bernier — April 22, 1953 — Pittsburgh Pirates

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Bernier’s Major League Baseball career only lasted five months but his professional career lasted 17 years. He played in around 2,200 minor league games with more than 1,700 coming at the Triple A or Open Classification levels. Bernier appeared in 105 games for the Pirates, finishing with 66 hits in 310 at-bats.

Bernier is still tied for one major-league record as he recorded three triples in a game in May 1953. He was the first to do it in the National League since 1929. The most recent player to pull off this feat was Denard Span in June 2010.

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33. Al Smith — July 10, 1953 — Cleveland Indians

33. Al Smith — July 10, 1953 — Cleveland Indians

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Smith might be best known for being on the unfortunate end of baseball photojournalism history six years after his MLB debut. During Game 2 of the 1959 World Series, Smith chased a ball to the Comiskey Field wall that landed as a home run. Trying to catch the home-run ball was a fan who accidentally tipped his beer that landed on Smith, covering his face.

Smith was a productive MLB player for more than a decade, finishing his career with 168 home runs and 697 RBIs. He played in All-Star games in two years and led the American League in four statistics categories, including runs scored and times on base, in 1955.

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34. Bob Trice — Sept. 13, 1953 — Philadelphia Athletics

34. Bob Trice — Sept. 13, 1953 — Philadelphia Athletics

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Breaking the color barrier for the Athletics six years after Robinson’s debut was Trice, who made his first MLB appearance after winning 21 games for the Ottawa A’s in Triple A. He appeared in three games during his short first MLB year.

He played in 27 career MLB games, with all but one coming as a pitcher. He finished with a 9-9 record with 21 starts and nine complete games. As a hitter, he went 15-for-52 in the MLB including a home run and six RBIs.

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35. Ernie Banks — Sept. 17, 1953 — Chicago Cubs

35. Ernie Banks — Sept. 17, 1953 — Chicago Cubs

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“Mr. Cub” is one of the most revered baseball players to ever suit up for a Windy City team and broke the color barrier for the Northsiders. Banks spent his entire 19-season MLB career with the Cubs. The 14-time All-Star won two National League MVPs and had his No. 14 retired by the team in 1982.

Banks was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977, gaining 83.8% percent of votes on his first time on the ballot. Banks never played in the minor leagues, with two stints with the Kansas City Monarchs coming before his rise to fame in the MLB.

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36. Gene Baker — Sept. 20, 1953 — Chicago Cubs

36. Gene Baker — Sept. 20, 1953 — Chicago Cubs

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The Cubs’ second Black player and Banks’ first long-term middle-infield partner made his debut just a few days later. He spent five years in Chicago, including an appearance in the 1955 All-Star game, before four seasons with Pittsburgh, which included a World Series ring in 1960.

After Baker’s playing career ended, he became the first Black manager in professional baseball, managing the Batavia Pirates in Pittsburgh’s farm system in 1961. Major League Baseball didn’t have its first Black manager until Frank Robinson’s hiring by the Orioles for the 1975 season.

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37. Hank Aaron — April 13, 1954 — Milwaukee Braves

37. Hank Aaron — April 13, 1954 — Milwaukee Braves

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Baseball’s longtime home-run king began his legendary MLB career after brief stints with the Negro League’s Indianapolis Clowns and the minor leagues. Aaron was a 25-time All-Star, won the World Series in 1957 and had his No. 44 retired by both Milwaukee and Atlanta. Aaron was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982, his first time on the ballot, with 97.8% of votes.

By his final MLB season, Aaron was the last remaining player who participated in the Negro Leagues. His chase of Babe Ruth’s home-run was surrounded by racist threats. Yet, Aaron had the most home runs in MLB history for 33 years, until Barry Bonds broke his record in 2007. Aaron died at age 86 last year after a long post-playing career in baseball.

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38. Vic Power — April 13, 1954 — Philadelphia Athletics

38. Vic Power — April 13, 1954 — Philadelphia Athletics

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Power’s defensive ability carried him to six All-Star games and seven straight Gold Glove Awards throughout his career. He spent time with six different franchises, with his longest stay coming with the A’s for five seasons.

Power shares the record of making two unassisted double plays in one game, most recently done by Richie Sexson in 2002. He’s also one of 11 players to steal home plate twice in one game. Power finished his career with a .284 batting average, 126 home runs and 658 RBIs.

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39. Tom Alston — April 13, 1954 — St. Louis Cardinals

39. Tom Alston — April 13, 1954 — St. Louis Cardinals

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Alston broke the color barrier for the Cardinals at the beginning of the 1954 season and spent his entire four-year MLB career in the Gateway City. He played in 66 games during his rookie season, only mustering four home runs and 34 RBIs. He played in only 25 more games in his major league career.

Alston spent most of his time affiliated with the Cardinals at Triple-A Omaha, where his numbers were more impressive. He had a .306 batting average and 21 home runs for the Omaha Cardinals in 1956.

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40. Curt Roberts — April 13, 1954 — Pittsburgh Pirates

40. Curt Roberts — April 13, 1954 — Pittsburgh Pirates

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Image: AP

Before Pittsburgh’s 1954 season began, the local community pressured the team to integrate its roster. To speed up breaking the team’s color barrier, Pittsburgh’s Black community protested against the team and boycotted home games. Oddly enough, the Pirates general manager at the time was Branch Rickey, who brought Jackie Robinson to Brooklyn seven years earlier.

After two years in the minor leagues, Roberts made his MLB debut and played for three years with the Pirates. He only had one MLB home run but was Pittsburgh’s every day starter at second base, playing in 134 games. Roberts played more sporadically over the next two seasons before finishing his career in the minors.

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41 & 42. Nino Escalera & Chuck Harmon — April 17, 1954 — Cincinnati Reds

41 & 42. Nino Escalera & Chuck Harmon — April 17, 1954 — Cincinnati Reds

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Image: AP

Escalera only played in the majors for five months but was the first Black player for the Reds. In the seventh inning against the Braves, Escalera pinch hit for Andy Seminick and singled. In the on-deck circle was Chuck Harmon, the second Black player to suit up for the Reds. He pinch hit for Corky Valentine.

Harmon’s major league career lasted four years, spending time with the Cardinals and Phillies as well. He finished his MLB career with seven home runs and 59 RBIs. Escalera never hit an MLB home run but did have three RBIs.

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Bonus — José Santiago — April 17, 1954 — Cleveland Indians

Bonus — José Santiago — April 17, 1954 — Cleveland Indians

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Image: AP

Santiago debuted the same day as Harmon and Escalera but in a game with a later start time, making him technically the 43rd Black player in MLB history, missing the countdown by hours. Santiago debuted in professional baseball in 1947 with the Negro Leagues’ New York Cubans, but couldn’t make a major league roster for seven more years.

He was inducted into the Caribbean Baseball Hall of Fame in 2003 and completed his MLB career with a 3-2 record with 29 strikeouts. Santiago had 13 years as a professional baseball player, with 11 coming in the minor leagues.



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About the Author

Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.