It’s Black History month. “We”, the Pirates, have a very prominent black player on our team. So I thought it would be appropriate to do something that is African-American baseball themed.
Normally my article starts with a question…. normally when the article starts I don’t know the answer but…normally it’s sabermetrics related and normally I answer the question. Today, the question is an easy one and it’s: Who was the first black Pittsburgh Pirate?
I had no idea. I was embarrassed I had no idea.
When you have a sports team that use the term “we” with portions of their marketing, there are certain things about that team that you should know. It’s kind of like knowing the facts about your hometown or the place you live. For example I know that Andrew Carnegie preferred my home town of Cresson, PA and New York City to Pittsburgh where his name is stamped all over the town.
I know why the Pittsburgh Pirates are called the Pirates, I know the history of the team, I know about Forbes Field, Bill Mazeroski and Honus Wagner. I know most things about this team I obsess over but I had no idea who the first black Pittsburgh Pirate was.
So off to Google and Wikipedia and I find out:
|Jackie Robinson||Brooklyn Dodgers, NL||April 15, 1947|
|Larry Doby||Cleveland Indians, AL||July 5, 1947|
|Hank Thompson||St. Louis Browns, AL||July 17, 1947|
|Monte Irvin||New York Giants, NL||July 8, 1949|
|Hank Thompson||New York Giants, NL||July 8, 1949|
|Sam Jethroe||Boston Braves, NL||April 18, 1950|
|Minnie Miñoso||Chicago White Sox, AL||May 1, 1951|
|Bob Trice||Philadelphia Athletics, AL||September 13, 1953|
|Ernie Banks||Chicago Cubs, NL||September 17, 1953|
|Curt Roberts||Pittsburgh Pirates, NL||April 13, 1954|
|Tom Alston||St. Louis Cardinals, NL||April 13, 1954|
|Nino Escalera||Cincinnati Reds, NL||April 17, 1954|
|Chuck Harmon||Cincinnati Reds, NL||April 17, 1954|
|Carlos Paula||Washington Senators, AL||September 6, 1954|
|Elston Howard||New York Yankees, AL||April 14, 1955|
|John Kennedy||Philadelphia Phillies, NL||April 22, 1957|
|Ozzie Virgil, Sr.||Detroit Tigers, AL||June 6, 1958|
|Pumpsie Green||Boston Red Sox, AL||July 21, 1959|
So Curt Roberts is the answer, more on him later.
If you look at the integration of baseball, it’s obvious to me that Jackie Robinson gets more credit than he deserves. Yes, he was the first black baseball player but two months later we had two more… and I never hear their names mentioned. Plus, Robinson played in the very integrated and progressive New York City, whereas Hank Thompson played below the Mason Dixon line in Missouri. I’ve only heard the N-word slung in vain once in my whole life and it wasn’t a large northern city, it was in Charleston, SC where one of my black friends was vilified by some local hillbillies.
Also, Jackie Robinson was a tremendous baseball player. His rookie year he had 74 walks and only 36 K’s. He won the rookie of the year but also finished FIFTH in the MVP voting. He would win the MVP two years later. How hard would it have been to cheer for this amazing player?
Back to Roberts… what are the things Pirates’ fans should know about him?