Monday, October 27, 2014

Pumpsie Green Turns Eighty-One Years Old

Pumpsie Green
Elijah Jerry 'Pumpsie' Green turns 81 today. Many younger Red Sox fans may not recognize his name—but he has an important legacy with the team. Green was the first African-American player in franchise history—coming aboard at the relatively late date of 1959. The Red Sox were the last team to integrate, and—more than a decade earlier—they passed up opportunities to sign both Jackie Robinson and Wille Mays. While Green was a fine player, he never had the talent level of a Robinson or a Mays. So, to an extent, his performance in Boston—as part of the woeful group of teams in that era—was never going to be outstanding. In fact, in the four seasons he spent with the Red Sox, Green hit .254 with a .353 OBP. When manning his primary position (2B) he fielded at just about the league average—nothing great, but not bad either. Somewhat ironically, Pumpsie’s favorite player was Lorenzo “Piper” Davis—who, in 1950, became the first black prospect signed by the Boston Red Sox. Davis never made it to the big club. In 1955, Green was the California League’s Most Valuable Player, and the Red Sox gave him a signing bonus. In 1957, playing for AA Oklahoma City, Green was not allowed to travel to Louisiana to play the Shreveport Sports. Said Pumpsie, "I didn’t go, because they didn’t allow blacks to play in Louisiana. So I had a three- or four-day vacation." After Manager Mike Higgins had been fired in July of 1959, Green debuted with the Red Sox in Chicago. One guy that was there for him was Ted Williams—who asked him to become his warm-up partner before games. Pumpsie Green summed up his philosophy this way, "I’m no martyr, no flag carrier. I’m just trying to make the ballclub, that’s all. I’m not trying to prove anything but that." He did prove more—and it's had a lasting impact on the franchise. Happy birthday, Pumpsie!