Pumpsie Green and the Boston Red Sox's Racism

Harold FriendChief Writer IApril 16, 2009

CHICAGO - APRIL 09:  Coco Crisp #2 of the Kansas City Roayls celebrates with teammates in the dugout after he scored on a 2-run home run in the top of the ninth inning against the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field on April 9, 2009 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

On Apr. 7, 1959, the Red Sox optioned Elijah "Pumpsie" Green to their Minneapolis Triple-A farm club, explaining that they felt the first Negro to wear a Red Sox uniform needed more seasoning.

Green had done well at the start of spring training, but he tailed off, both at bat and in the field, as spring training drew to a close.

Charges the Red Sox Were Anti-Negro

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People immediately charged that the Red Sox were following an anti-Negro policy.

The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination announced that it was going to hold a public hearing on the case to determine if any bias were involved in the Red Sox' baseball decision.

The Red Sox Denied All Allegations

Red Sox general manager Bucky Harris sent the Commission a letter, in which the Red Sox forcefully claimed that players were used by the Red Sox "regardless of race, color, or creed." Harris also rejected any charges of bias.

"The charge that the decision to option Pumpsie Green to Minneapolis was prompted by bias has no foundation in fact."

The Red Sox Turned Down Jackie Robinson, Sam Jethroe, and Willie Mays

At the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination's hearing, Herbert E. Tucker of the NAACP claimed that the Red Sox did have an anti-Negro policy for more that twelve years and were the only team without a Negro.

Tucker said the Red Sox had rejected Jackie Robinson, Sam Jethroe, and Willie Mays, all of whom became stars. Neither Bucky Harris nor Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey attended the hearing.

Richard O'Connell, Red Sox vice president and business manager of the Red Sox was present at the hearing. He said he wished that his team had a Negro player.

"If we did, I wouldn't be sitting he this morning. We have seven Negroes in our organization now. All we want to do is win a pennant."

Pumpsie Green's Major League Debut

On July 21, the Red Sox recalled Pumpsie Green and in the eighth inning in a game against the White Sox at Comiskey Park, Red Sox pinch hitter Vic Wertz singled. Pumpsie Green ran for Wertz to become the first black player in Red Sox history.

Pumpsie Green batted only .233 in 1959. He spent four seasons in Boston before being traded to the New York Mets after the 1962 season.

Green played for the expansion team only one season, batting a career high .278, with a respectable .409 on base average, and then retired.

Present Red Sox Ownership Acknowledges Past Discrimination

The present Red Sox ownership has acknowledged that the club's history has included "...an undeniable legacy of racial intolerance, The fact that it took until 1959 for Pumpsie Green to integrate the Sox infield speaks volumes."

Howard Bryant, who has written Shut Out: A Story of Race and Baseball in Boston, said:

"The Red Sox were one of the most racist teams in baseball. You've got a 50-year legacy of difficulties between the Red Sox and the African-American population."

The Red Sox rejected Robinson, Jethroe, and Mays, but selected Pumpsie Green. Only two conclusions are possible. Either discrimination existed or the Red Sox were the most incompetent organization in sports history.

Many Nationalities on Today's Red Sox

Principal owner John Henry has made a sincere effort to remedy the situation since he took over, and things have changed. The Red Sox really do try to put the best team possible on the field, taking economic factors into account.

They have Japanese, Hispanic, Jewish, Caucasian, and Navajo players, but amazingly, they traded Coco Crisp, their only black player, to Kansas City in November, 2008. The past cannot be erased. It will not be repeated.


Red Sox Option Green. (1959, April 8). New York Times (1857-Current File),45. Retrieved April 16, 2009, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2005) database. (Document ID: 89178105).

RED SOX DENY BIAS :Say Negro Was Optioned to Let Him Play Regularly. (1959, April 14). New York Times (1857-Current file),p. 40. Retrieved April 16, 2009, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2005) database. (Document ID: 80769012).

Special to The New York Times.. (1959, April 15). YAWKEY, HARRIS CALLED :Red Sox Officials Are Asked to Discrimination Inquiry. New York Times (1857-Current file),38. Retrieved April 16, 2009, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2005) database. (Document ID: 89181784).

BIAS CHARGE IS DENIED :Red Sox Official Says Club Would Like to Have Negro. (1959, April 22). New York Times (1857-Current file),38. Retrieved April 16, 2009, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2005) database. (Document ID: 89185042).



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