Black Sox, Everett set for state

The Saline Courier - - FRONT PAGE - By Jimmy Golen As­so­ci­ated Press

BOSTON — For­mer Boston Red Sox in­fielder Eli­jah “Pump­sie” Green, the first black player on the last ma­jor league team to field one, has died. He was 85.

The Red Sox said Green, who lived in Cal­i­for­nia most of his life, died Wed­nes­day at in a hospital in San Le­an­dro, near Oak­land; no cause of death was im­me­di­ately avail­able. The team ob­served a mo­ment of si­lence be­fore its game against the Toronto Blue Jays.

“Pump­sie Green oc­cu­pies a spe­cial place in our his­tory,” Red Sox owner John Henry said. “He was, by his own ad­mis­sion, a re­luc­tant pi­o­neer, but we will al­ways re­mem­ber him for his grace and per­se­ver­ance in be­com­ing our first African-amer­i­can player. He paved the way for the

many great Sox play­ers of color who fol­lowed. For that, we all owe Pump­sie a debt of gratitude.”

A light-hit­ting sec­ond base­man and short­stop, Green brought base­ball’s seg­re­ga­tion era to an end of sorts when he en­tered a game against the Chicago White Sox as a pinchrun­ner for Vic Wertz on July 21, 1959 — more than a dozen years af­ter Jackie Robin­son broke base­ball’s color bar­rier with the Brook­lyn Dodgers.

Green joined the team on a road trip and had played nine games be­fore taking the field at Fen­way Park for the first time. Green said this year in an in­ter­view with NESN, the Red Sox TV net­work, that he re­mem­bered re­ceiv­ing a stand­ing ova­tion when he came to the plate, bat­ting

lead­off.

“It was heart-warm­ing and nerve-wrack­ing,” he told re­porters in 1997, when he re­turned to

Boston to take part in cer­e­monies mark­ing the 50th an­niver­sary of Robin­son’s debut. “But I got lucky:

I hit a triple off the left­cen­ter fence.”

Born in Bo­ley, Ok­la­homa, he moved with his fam­ily to Cal­i­for­nia at a young age and met his wife Marie Pres­ley at Con­tra Costa Ju­nior Col­lege. He made his pro­fes­sional base­ball debut at 19 years old for the Oak­land Oaks of the Pa­cific Coast League and was the Cal­i­for­nia League’s Most Valuable Player in 1955.

The Red Sox pur­chased his con­tract and he at­tended his first spring train­ing with the club in ‘56. He was added to the club’s 40-man ros­ter in Septem­ber of 1958.

Green didn’t have the

talent of Hall of Famers like Robin­son and Larry Doby, who was the first black player in the Amer­i­can League. The Red Sox in­fielder reached the ma­jors as a role player, just once play­ing more than 88 games, and never hit­ting more than six homers or bat­ting bet­ter than .278.

Green played parts of four sea­sons with the Red Sox be­fore finishing his ca­reer with one year on the New York Mets. In all, he bat­ted .246 with 13 homers and 74 RBIS.

But his first ap­pear­ance in a Boston uni­form ended base­ball’s ugli­est chap­ter, and the fact that it took the Red Sox so long left a stain on the fran­chise - and a void in the tro­phy case - it is still try­ing to erase.

The Red Sox had a chance to sign Robin­son in 1945, be­fore the Dodgers, and Hall of Famer Wil­lie Mays a few years later; they chose not to, de­ci­sions

that help ex­plain the 86-year World Se­ries cham­pi­onship drought that didn’t end un­til 2004. Last year, ac­knowl­edg­ing the poor racial record of long­time owner Thomas A. Yawkey, the team ex­punged his name from the street out­side the ballpark.

A few days af­ter Green was called up, the Red Sox added Earl Wil­son, a black pitcher. Green said there was an in­for­mal quota sys­tem that re­quired teams to have an even num­ber of black play­ers so they would have someone to room with on the road.

They were among the few blacks in the club­house, the front of­fice or the crowd, Green said in ‘97.

“Most of the time it was just me,” he said. “It was al­most an od­dity when you saw a black per­son walk­ing around the stands.”

But unlike Robin­son, Green said, he re­ceived no death threats. “It was mostly in­sults,” he said then.

“But you can get those at any ballpark at any time,” he said. “I learned to tune things out.”

Red Sox cen­ter fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. knew what an im­pact he had on African-amer­i­cans now play­ing in Boston.

“As we all know, this is the last or­ga­ni­za­tion to in­te­grate,” he said af­ter the Red Sox beat Toronto 5-4 on Wed­nes­day night. “You’ve got to start some­where. I’m sure we’re thank­ful for him across the board.”

Green re­turned to north­ern Cal­i­for­nia af­ter his base­ball ca­reer ended and earned a de­gree in physical ed­u­ca­tion from San Fran­cisco State. He worked as a coun­selor and coach at Berke­ley High School be­fore re­tir­ing in the 1990s.

The Red Sox honored

him again on Jackie Robin­son Day in 2009 and ‘12, but he was un­able to at­tend the cer­e­mony in 2018 when his debut was rec­og­nized as a his­toric mo­ment by the Red Sox Hall of Fame.

Upon his re­turn to Fen­way in ‘97, he no­ticed that things had im­proved but still saw work to be done.

“Base­ball still has its prob­lems, and so does so­ci­ety,” Green said. “I don’t be­lieve things are that much bet­ter in base­ball or so­ci­ety. Hope­fully, it will be shortly.”

Green is sur­vived by his wife of 62 years, Marie; one of three brothers, Cor­nell Green, was a star safety for the Dal­las Cow­boys. He had one daugh­ter, Heidi; his son, Jerry, died last year. He had two grand­daugh­ters and four great grand­sons.

A fu­neral will be held on Aug. 2 in Oak­land.

HAROLD FILAN/AP

In this April 1959 file photo, Boston Red Sox’s Eli­jah “Pump­sie” Green poses for a photo, lo­ca­tion not known. Green, the first black player on the Red Sox, has died. He was 85. A Red Sox spokesman con­firmed his death Wed­nes­day night, July 17, 2019.

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