Today, 61 years ago, Pumpsie Green debuted for the Boston Red Sox, making the bean towners the last team to hire an Afro-American player.
Since Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, it took the Red Sox 12 years to integrate as well. Ironically, the Red Sox were the club that gave Jackie Robinson, Marvin Williams, and Sam Jethroe in April 1945. Even though Robinson knew that the tryout was a sham, he accepted the invitation because it was a big step for the greater cause. None of the players would be signed and Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey allegedly said after the tryout: “Get those n***ers out of here.
Except for the 1946 season, when Boston fell to the Cardinals in the World Series, the club fell short every other season. One can only wonder if the owner would have let go of his racism and had hired Afro-Americans earlier than 1959. In all those years, the Red Sox claimed they couldn’t find a black player that could help them.
Anyhow, Elijah “Pumpsie” Green debuted against the Chicago White Sox, pinch ran for pinch hitter Vic Wirtz and then played shortstop for the remainder of the game without getting an at-bat. Green’s MLB career was rather short-lived as he played only four years with the Red Sox and one with the New York Mets. In all seasons but one with the Red Sox, Green didn’t play 100 games. Only in 1960, he played 133.
Despite a good Spring Training, Green was sent to the AAA Minneapolis Millers. He put up some nice numbers at AAA but it took the Red Sox until July to call him up. It is said that his debut was the result of tremendous pressure by the Boston chapter of the N.A.A.C.P. (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People). The organization accused the Red Sox of racial discrimination and expressed outrage at the team’s failure to promote Green. The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, a state agency, began an inquiry. It ended when Red Sox officials promised to “make every effort” to field black players.