There were three former Major League baseball players I need to mention who died in 2019.
One is Hall of Fame (1986) outfielder Frank Robinson, the first African American baseball superstar who did not get his start in the Negro Leagues. Robinson died on February 7 last year in Los Angeles, California.
Another is Elijah “Pumpsie” Green, the first African American to play for the Boston Red Sox. He died on July 12 in San Leandro, California.
Finally, there is Jim Archer. He has no place in baseball history as the previous two. However, as one of the starting pitchers in the first Major League game I attended, Archer has a place in my personal history with baseball. He died on September 9 in Tarpon Springs, Florida.
If you read my two March 2019 blog posts, you would know what I think about Frank Robinson; born August 31, 1935 in Beaumont, Texas. I took his death from bone cancer personally. When the first time I saw him on television circling the bases after hitting a home run in the second Major League Baseball All-Star Game in 1959, he became my favorite professional baseball player.
Frank Robinson’s autobiography is called “My Life is Baseball” (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group 1975). That title reflects a true picture of his accomplishments in the game. National League Rookie of the Year in 1956, he hit 38 home runs. Robinson is the only one to receive the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award in both leagues; in the National League with the Cincinnati Redlegs in 1961 (they went by the Redlegs, not Reds back then) and in the American League in 1966 with the Baltimore Orioles. Hitting 586 career home runs, he played on five pennant winning teams and two World Series Champions; 1966 and 1970 Baltimore Orioles.
Robinson became the first African American Major League manager in 1974 with the Cleveland Indians; first of the four teams in his 16 year career as a manager (1,065 wins and 1,176 losses). He had the reputation as having a “hardnosed”, “old school” approach, although he did mellow in the in the way he handled players as he got older. During his career, he also served as a batting coach, an outfield coach, a consultant for club owners, and held positions in the Office of Major League Baseball.
I will miss my favorite baseball player. However, I still have his 1959, 1960, 1964 Topps baseball cards (lost the 1965) and also the Post Cereal Frank Robinson cards for 1961 – 63.
On July 21, 1959 when he entered the game against the Chicago White Sox in Comiskey Park as a pinch runner, Elijah “Pumpsie” Green became the first African American to play for the Boston Red Sox. Twelve years after Jackie Robinson broke into Major League baseball, the Red Sox were the last Major League team pre-expansion (existing before 1969) to have an African American or dark-skinned Latino player on the Major League roster.
Born on October 27, 1933 in Boley, Oklahoma, Green’s family moved to Richmond, California when he turned eight years old where he became a three sport star (baseball, football, and basketball) in high school. At 6’ and 175 pounds, he became a switch hitting shortstop that played baseball in junior college. While playing in the California League (Class C minor leagues) Green signed with the Red Sox in 1955.
He made his Major League debut after four years in the team’s minor league system. In his four years, (1959 – 1962) with the Red Sox, the team used Green as a utility infielder and outfielder. In 1961, he played 69 games at shortstop and 41 at second base. After the 1962 season, the Red Sox traded Green to the New York Mets. After his one season with New York, Green played two more years in the minor leagues and then retired. In 344 Major League games, Green batted .246 with 13 home runs and 74 RBIs.
On August 20, 1961 I attended my first Major League baseball game at Municipal Stadium in Kansas City. I saw the Kansas City A’s play the Chicago White Sox. Seven-time All Star left-hander Billy Pierce started for the White Sox. The starting pitcher for the A’s that game, Jim Archer.
Born May 25, 1932 in Max Meadows, Virginia, Archer signed with the New York Yankees in 1951. In 1961, he came to the Kansas City A’s as a rookie southpaw in a trade with the Baltimore Orioles. By that August, he had become one of the A’s front line pitchers.
On the field for the White Sox that day were two former Negro League players; outfielders Orestes Minnie” Minoso and Al Smith. Also, the White Sox had Hall of Famers Luis Aparico at shortstop and Nelson Fox at second base.
Scoring three runs in the sixth, the White Sox won 5 – 3. It would be the ninth of Archer’s fifteen losses for the season. He won nine games and had a 3.20 ERA. The A’s were 61 – 100, finishing in ninth place. Problems developed in Archer’s left shoulder in 1962. He pitched only 27 innings and the A’s sent him to the minor leagues. He never again appeared in a Major League game.
Historical notices from week of January 5: Birthday for Jim Pendleton former Negro League and Major League player born January 7, 1924 and Earl Battey former All-Star catcher for the Minnesota Twins (1960 – 1967); born January 5, 1935.
For my daily historical notices go to Kevin L. Mitchell@Lasttraintocoop