Although born in Talladega, Alabama on June 17, 1921, David Pope grew up in the Homestead Grays barnstorming region of Western Pennsylvania near Pittsburgh. Signed by the Grays in 1945, the left handed hitting outfielder shared the dressing room with Negro League immortals Buck Leonard, “Cool Papa” Bell, and Josh Gibson. Pope was used mainly as a utility outfielder and pinch hitter on the Grays in 1948 when the team won the last Negro League World Series.
It was Pope’s potential as a hitter that caught the eye of Major League scouts. The Cleveland Indians signed him in 1950 and he made his Major League debut on July 1, 1952. He hit .294 in 12 games, but he was sent back to the minors a victim of his own fielding errors and the unwritten quota system African American players faced in the early years of Major League baseball integration.
He returned to the Cleveland after mid-season in 1954 to help the Indians win the American League pennant. He hit .294 in 60 games with 30 hits, four home runs and had three pinch hitting appearances in the 1954 World Series which the Indians lost to the New York Giants four games to none.
1955 would be Pope’s best year in the Major Leagues, but it would not be with Cleveland. After getting off to a good start he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles. He finished the year hitting .264 in 120 games with seven home runs and 52 RBIs.
He was traded back to Cleveland the next year. He played in 37 games and wound up back in their minor league system as the team promoted younger white prospects such as Roger Maris and Rocky Colavito. Pope never made it back to the Major Leagues.
Along with Dave Pope, who were the four other members of the 1948 Homestead Grays that went on to play in the Major Leagues?