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O Baseball Pioneers!

February 11, 2012

Hugh Atkins

Since February is Black History Month, I thought it would be a good time to mention some of Major League Baseball’s African-American pioneers.

Most people think Jackie Robinson was the first African-American to play in the major leagues when he took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947. But that distinction actually belongs to Moses “Fleetwood” Walker, who played for the Toledo club in the American Association way back in 1884.

The following list includes some notable accomplishments, the first African-American to achieve them, and the year in which they occurred:

1947 –

First African-American to: play in the National League: Jackie Robinson, Brooklyn Dodgers; play in the American League: Larry Doby, Cleveland Indians; pitch in a major league game: Don Bankhead, Brooklyn; hit a home run in his first major league at-bat: Don Bankhead, Brooklyn; lead the league in stolen bases: Jackie Robinson, Brooklyn; appear in the World Series: Jackie Robinson, Brooklyn; win the Rookie of the Year Award: Jackie Robinson, Brooklyn.
1948 – First African-American to: pitch in the American League: Satchel Paige, Cleveland; pitch in the World Series: Satchel Paige, Cleveland; hit a home run in the World Series: Larry Doby, Cleveland.
1949 – First African-American(s) to: pitch to an African-American batter: Don Newcombe, Brooklyn; bat against an African-American pitcher: Hank Thompson, New York Giants; play for the National League All-Star team: Jackie Robinson, Brooklyn, Roy Campanella, Brooklyn, and Don Newcombe, Brooklyn; to play for the American League All-Star team: Larry Doby, Cleveland; win a batting title: Jackie Robinson, Brooklyn; win a Most Valuable Player Award: Jackie Robinson, Brooklyn.
1951 – First African-American to: lead the league in strikeouts by a pitcher: Don Newcombe, Brooklyn; lead the league in runs batted in: Monte Irvin, New York Giants.
1952 – First African-American to: lead the league in home runs: Larry Doby, Cleveland; win a World Series game: Joe Black, Brooklyn.
1953 – First African-American to: hit 40 home runs in a season: Roy Campanella, Brooklyn; win two Most Valuable Player Awards: Roy Campanella, Brooklyn.
1954 – First African-American to: lead the American League in runs batted in: Larry Doby, Cleveland.
1955 – First African-American to: pitch a no-hitter: “Toothpick” Sam Jones, Chicago Cubs; win 20 games in a season: Don Newcombe, Brooklyn; lead the National League in home runs: Willie Mays, San Francisco Giants; hit 50 home runs in a season, Willie Mays, San   Francisco; win three Most Valuable Player Awards: Roy Campanella, Brooklyn (first player in major league history).
1956 – First African-American to: lead the league in wins: Don Newcombe, Brooklyn; win the Cy Young Award: Don Newcombe, Brooklyn.
1957 – First African-American(s) to: hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in a season: Willie Mays, New York Giants; win a Gold Glove Award: Willie Mays, New York Giants and Minnie Miñoso, Chicago White Sox.
1962 – First African-American to: pitch a no-hitter in the American League: Earl Wilson, Boston Red Sox; be voted into baseball’s Hall of Fame: Jackie Robinson, Brooklyn; become a major league coach: Buck O’Neil, Chicago Cubs.
1964 – First African-American to: be named team captain: Willie Mays, San Francisco; first to lead the American League in strikeouts by a pitcher: Al Downing, New York Yankees.
1966 –

© T.C.G.

First African-American to: hit 40 home runs in a season in the American League, Frank Robinson, Baltimore Orioles; lead the American League in batting average: Frank Robinson, Baltimore; win the Triple Crown: Frank Robinson, Baltimore; win the Rookie of the Year Award in the American League: Tommie Agee, Chicago; umpire in the major leagues: Emmett Ashford.

1971 – First African-American to: win the Cy Young Award in the American League: Vida Blue, Oakland Athletics.
1972-1975 – First African-American to: umpire in the National League: Art Williams.First African-American to: manage a major league team: Frank Robinson, Cleveland.
1976 – Last African-American Negro League player to appear in a major league game: Henry Aaron, Milwaukee Brewers.
1977 – First African-American to: become general manager of a major league team: Bill Lucas, Atlanta Braves.
1990 – First African-American to: hit 50 home runs in a season in the American League: Cecil Fielder, Detroit Tigers.
2001 – First African-American to: hit 60 home runs in a season: Barry Bonds, San Francisco; hit 70 home runs in a season: Barry Bonds, San Francisco; win four Most Valuable Player Awards: Barry Bonds, San Francisco (first player in major league history).
2002 – First African-American to: win five Most Valuable Player Awards: Barry Bonds, San Francisco (first player in major league history).
2003 – First African-American to: win six Most Valuable Player Awards: Barry Bonds, San Francisco (first player in major league history); win three consecutive Most Valuable Player Awards, Barry Bonds, San Francisco (first player in major league history).
2004 –

First African-American to: win seven Most Valuable Player Awards: Barry Bonds, San Francisco (first player in major league history); win four consecutive Most Valuable Player Awards, Barry Bonds, San Francisco (first player in major league history).

As a note of clarification, while Henry Aaron was the last African-American member of the Negro Leagues to appear in a major league game, Minnie Miñoso was the last Negro League player to appear in a major league game when he pinch hit on October 5, 1980 as a member of the Chicago White Sox at the age of 54; Miñoso was from La Habana, Cuba.

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