On March 18 or 19, 1942 two African-Americans appeared at the Chicago White Sox training camp in Pasadena, California requesting an opportunity to win a spot on the team’s roster. The White Sox had a 77 – 77 record in 1941, finishing in 3rd place, 31 games behind the pennant winning New York Yankees. At that time, Major League baseball’s “invisible color line” existed; there were no African-American or dark-skinned Latino players on any Major League club. However, Jackie Robinson and Nate Moreland approached White Sox Manager Jimmy Dykes on that day asking for a tryout.
Robinson and Moreland were from the same neighborhood in Pasadena, they played baseball together on their high school team. They both attended Pasadena Junior College and played on the same semi-pro baseball team. Robinson had returned from playing semi-professional football in Hawaii in December of 1941. Moreland, a left-handed pitcher, had played with the Baltimore Elite Giants (1940) and in the Mexican League.
Dykes gave them a workout that day, but nothing came of it. Although the manager expressed he saw their potential, especially Robinson’s, he indicated his hands were tied. The Major League team owners and Baseball Commissioner Landis were the ones to make the decision to allow them to play. Shortly after the tryout, Jackie Robinson received his draft notice and went into the military. Five years later, April 15, 1947; he broke through the color line and became the first African-American to play Major League baseball in the 20th Century. Moreland continued in baseball pitching for the Elite Giants (1946), the Mexican League, and the lower minor leagues in the southwest (California, Arizona) until retiring after the 1957 season.
There were questions as to whether this tryout occurred, a cloud of mystery around it. Jackie Robinson did not mention it, nor is it in his early biographies. There were no mentions of it in mainstream media outlets or the black newspapers such as the Pittsburgh Courier or Chicago Defender. The only newspaper to have a story about it was the Daily Worker, the newspaper of the American Communist Party.
However, in recent years the tryout has been confirmed. It is in Jackie Robinson: A Biography by Arnold Rampersad, the latest Jackie Robinson biography. Also, relatives of Nate Moreland indicate his mentioning of it. There was a rumor Robinson and Moreland were sent to approach the White Sox for the tryout by The Daily Worker; the only newspaper to have a reporter to cover it and one that aggressively criticized Major League baseball’s racial discrimination. However, there is no proof of its involvement other than covering the tryout. Jimmy Dykes’ actions were another example of a Major League manager during that time helping to maintain baseball’s color line ahead of trying to make the needed improvements to his team.
To read more about the Negro League baseball era Last Train To Cooperstown