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Robinson's many peers follow his lead

Robinson's many peers follow his lead

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Jackie Robinson was the pathfinder to integration in Major League Baseball, yet the entrance ramp after his arrival was not all that congested. The population of black players on big-league clubs was relatively tiny five years after Robinson's debut, and it would be more than 12 years after that historic occasion that every team in the Majors had a black player in uniform.

These pioneers played various positions and came in all sizes and shapes but only one color, the shade that had kept them out of the game for decades. It was truly a color barrier, not one of nationality, so that even such technically Hispanic players as Minnie Minoso (Cuba), Carlos Paula (Puerto Rico) and Ozzie Virgil (Dominican Republic) were finally allowed into the game despite the darkness of their skin.

Robinson began the lengthy procession playing first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947. It would be nearly three months later before another team ventured into the territory of integration, with the Cleveland Indians making outfielder Larry Doby the first black player in the American League on July 5, 1947.

Outfielder-third baseman Hank Thompson holds the distinction of helping to integrate two franchises. He made his Major League debut with the St. Louis Browns July 17, 1947. Nearly two years later, July 8, 1949, Thompson and Monte Irvin became the first black players to appear in a game for the New York Giants, for whom they would play major roles on World Series teams in 1951 and 1954.

Irvin's career would eventually take him to the Hall of Fame, as was also the case of Ernie Banks, the first black player for the Chicago Cubs. Sam Jethroe, at 32 with the Boston Braves in 1950 the oldest Rookie of the Year Award winner; Elston Howard, a future MVP with the New York Yankees; and Minoso, the first black player for the Chicago White Sox in 1951; have been under consideration for the Hall by the Veterans Committee for some time, but most of the pioneers were essentially journeymen.

Howard was passed over by his hometown St. Louis Cardinals, who instead in 1954 brought up outfielder Tom Alston, who was out of the game within three years. Bob Trice of the Philadelphia Athletics, Curt Roberts of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Chuck Harmon and Nino Escalera of the Cincinnati Reds and Paula (Washington Senators) all played for fewer than five seasons.

Virgil, the Detroit Tigers' first black player in 1958, played for nine years in the Majors but was primarily a backup catcher. The briefest career of a black pioneer was that of Philadelphia Phillies shortstop John Kennedy, who played in five games in 1957.

The Boston Red Sox were the last team to integrate with the July 21, 1959, appearance of second baseman Pumpsie Green, more than a dozen years after Robinson's entry.

Below is a list of the first black players in Major League Baseball by team and chronological order.

• Brooklyn Dodgers    April 15, 1947     Jackie Robinson
• Cleveland Indians     July 5, 1947     Larry Doby
• St. Louis Browns     July 17, 1947     Hank Thompson
• New York Giants     July 8, 1949     Monte Irvin, Hank Thompson
• Boston Braves     April 18, 1950     Sam Jethroe
• Chicago White Sox     May 1, 1951     Minnie Minoso
• Philly Athletics     September 13, 1953     Bob Trice
• Chicago Cubs     September 17, 1953     Ernie Banks
• Pittsburgh Pirates     April 13, 1954     Curt Roberts
• St. Louis Cardinals     April 13, 1954     Tom Alston
• Cincinnati Reds     April 17, 1954     Chuck Harmon, Nino Escalera
• Washington Senators     September 6, 1954     Carlos Paula
• New York Yankees     April 14, 1955     Elston Howard
• Philadelphia Phillies     April 22, 1957     John Kennedy
• Detroit Tigers     June 6, 1958     Ozzie Virgil
• Boston Red Sox     July 21, 1959     Pumpsie Green

Jack O'Connell is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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