Every year baseball remembers Jackie Robinson and his herculean task of breaking baseball’s color barrier. Nothing can sufficiently repay Robinson for the abuse he endured. While he was the focal point of baseball’s integration he was not alone, other trail blazers followed him to integrate every team. Collectively they changed baseball and America forever. They shouldered the weight of integration with some help along the way.
Branch Rickey believed Jackie Robinson could handle the abuse the first African American player would face. Robinson endured abuse from fans and opposing players. Even the Dodger locker room was not a safe haven. When he arrived in Brooklyn several players began a petition stating their desire to be traded rather than play with Robinson. The petition sought to force Branch Rickey to end his attempt to integrate baseball. Several players signed the petition, but it was critical that the de facto team captain sign to show a united front against Robinson. There was little doubt he would sign, having grown up in Louisville, Kentucky, surely a southern man would refuse to play alongside Robinson.
Harold Henry “Pee Wee” Reese was a southern man, but he held no animosity towards anyone based upon their skin color. When approached by his teammates Reese refused to sign, killing the petition. The other Dodgers may not have liked Robinson, but the locker room was now free from the abuse raining down on the field.
Pee Wee Reese was a Hall of Fame Shortstop for the Brooklyn Dodgers and friend to Jackie Robinson. (National Baseball Library and Archives, Cooperstown, NY)
Reese was called up to Brooklyn in 1940 and remained with the Dodgers for his entire career, retiring after the Dodgers first season in Los Angeles in 1958. He served in the Navy during World War II, missing three seasons from 1943 to 1945. Upon returning from the Navy, Reese began his career in earnest. His greatest season was 1949. In 155 Games, Reese led the National League with 132 Runs scored, collected 172 Hits including 27 Doubles, 3 Triples, and 16 Home Runs. He had 73 RBI and stole 26 Bases. Reese walked 116 times with just 59 Strikeouts. He hit .279, with an .396 OBP, .410 SLG, .806 OPS, and an 113 OPS+. Reese was named team captain before the following season.
Reese played 2,166 Games. He scored 1,338 Runs, collected 2,170 Hits including 330 Doubles, 80 Triples, and 126 Home Runs with 885 RBI. He stole 232 Bases, drew 1,210 Walks with 890 Strikeouts. He hit .269, with an .366 OBP, .377 SLG, .743 OPS, and an 99 OPS+. Shortstops were supposed to focus their attention on defense, but Reese was an elite offensive Shortstop.
Reese played more than 2,000 games at Shortstop. He led National League Shortstops in Putouts in four seasons. Over 60 years after his retirement, Reese still has the 12th most Putous and 13th most Double Plays for Shortstops. He was a solid defender even using modern metrics having led all National League players in dWAR in 1942, 1947, 1948, and 1949. His 25.6 career dWAR is the 17th highest of all time, regardless of position.
Pee Wee Reese was selected to 10 All Star Games and finished in the top 10 for MVP voting eight times. He led the Dodgers to seven World Series, all against the Yankees. Reese has the most World Series appearances with one team for a non-Yankee. Despite their success the Dodgers won only one World Series. Brooklyn lost in 1941, 1947, 1949, 1952, 1953, and 1956. Reese and Elston Howard have the most World Series defeats, six. Brooklyn won their lone World Series in 1955. Failure was not Reese’s fault. In 44 World Series Games, he scored 20 Runs, collected 46 Hits including 4 Doubles, 2 Triples, and 2 Home Runs with 16 RBI. He Stole 5 Bases, drew 18 Walks with 17 Strikeouts. He hit .272, with an .346 OBP, .349 SLG, and an .695 OPS.
In 1984, the Veteran’s Committee selected Reese for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. The committee referenced his play and support of Jackie Robinson in their reasoning for his selection. No moment better underscores the support Reese gave Robinson than at Crosley Field in Cincinnati in 1947. Amid a deluge of abuse Reese put his arm around Robinson. The show of support told the crowd and opposing players that Reese supported his teammate and would defend his friend against the abuse. Some claim the event occurred in Boston against the Braves at Braves Field in 1948. Regardless where and when it occurred Reese helped ease the chaos surrounding baseball’s integration.
Pee Wee Reese showing his support for Jackie Robinson was critical in helping Robinson and other African American players successfully integrate baseball. (Ron Cervenka)
Reese standing with his arm around Robinson is immortalized in bronze and granite outside MCU Park, home of the Brooklyn Cyclones. Reese could not deflect all the abuse directed at Robinson, but he could support him in public and private. A white player standing with Jackie Robinson was critical. The support coming from a southern man was monumental. Reese did not care what color Robinson was, they were teammates. Reese was asked if he was worried about losing his job prior to Robinson joining the Dodgers, “If he’s man enough to take my job, I’m not gonna like it, but, dammit, black or white, he deserves it.” Instead of replacing him, Robinson and Reese formed a dynamic Double Play combination. Reese joked with Robinson to ease some of the tension, he cared about Robinson the man beyond baseball. Their friendship lasted a lifetime, as Reese was a pallbearer at Jackie Robinson’s funeral.
People are rarely successful on their own, they receive support along the way. Jackie Robinson faced unfathomable abuse as he integrated baseball. No one could shield him from the onslaught. However, people like Pee Wee Reese helped lighten the burden. On this Jackie Robinson Day let us remember Robinson’s great courage and sacrifice to improve baseball and America. Let us also not forget those who helped him achieve success, including his teammate and friend Pee Wee Reese. Small gestures can change history.
On May 25, 1961 President John F. Kennedy addressed a Joint Session of Congress with a Special Message To The Congress On Urgent National Needs. As every President does, Kennedy spoke of the pressing needs facing the nation and his plan to solve them. When the speech reached the ninth section, President Kennedy told Congress, “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.” The Space Race began before Kennedy took office, but he pushed the race with the Soviets to the next level. The Soviets reached space first, but the moon was America’s opportunity to win.
On July 20, 1969, 2,979 days after President Kennedy spoke to Congress, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed the Apollo Lunar Module Eagle in Tranquility Base as Michael Collins circled in lunar orbit in the Columbia Command Module. America achieved Kennedy’s goal of landing a man on the moon and return him safely to earth by the end of the decade.
Wally Moon adjusted his swing to take advantage of the strange configuration at the Coliseum. (Los Angeles Times)
Back on earth, the Dodgers and the Giants have one of the most intense rivalries in baseball, regardless of the standings. In 1958, Dodger owner Walter O’Malley moved the team from Brooklyn to Los Angeles. Construction on Dodger Stadium would not begin until September 1959 forcing the Dodgers to play in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The Coliseum is home, most prominently, to the University of Southern California football team. Turning the Coliseum into a baseball field meant the fence in Leftfield was only 251 feet from home plate. A 41 foot tall screen was constructed, making Home Runs more difficult. Batters needed to loft the ball high above the screen for a Home Run, and no player is more remembered for this than Wally Moon and his Moonshots.
Wally Moon broke into the Majors in 1954 with the St. Louis Cardinals, winning the Rookie of the Year Award over Ernie Banks and Hank Aaron. He was an All Star in 1957 before a disappointing 1958 season made him expendable. Moon and Phil Paine were traded to the Dodgers for Gino Cimoli. Moon played 12 seasons in the Majors, five in St. Louis and seven in Los Angeles. In 1,457 career Games, Moon hit .289, with a .371 OBP, .445 SLG, and .817 OPS. He scored 737 Runs, collected 1,399 Hits, 212 Doubles, 60 Triples, slugged 142 Home Runs, drove in 661 RBI, stole 89 bases, drew 644 walks, and struck out 591 times. He was a three time All Star, 1957 and twice in 1959, and won a Gold Glove in Leftfield in 1960. Moon won two World Series with the Dodgers, 1959 and 1965. His pinch hit ground out in Game 6 of the 1965 Fall Classic was his final game. Moon sat on the bench in Game 7, watching Sandy Koufax pitch a Complete Game shutout to secure the World Series victory. Wally Moon enjoyed a successful career, however he appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot just once, in 1971, receiving just two votes (0.6%) and falling off the ballot.
Arriving in Los Angeles, Wally Moon was greeted by two things. The short, yet high porch in Leftfield and the rivalry with the Giants. Moon, hitting from the left side, understood he did not possess the power to launch baseballs out of the Coliseum to Rightfield, as the wall was 440 feet away. His career high in Home Runs was just 24. Moon adjusted his swing with Stan Musial’s help to hit balls to the opposite field.
The Coliseum created one of the strangest field configurations in baseball. (www.cbssports.com)
The Dodgers and Giants were locked in a pennant race as summer began to wane in 1959. San Francisco held a slim two game lead entering play at the Coliseum on August 31. Jack Sanford and Sandy Koufax were locked in a pitchers duel, allowing two runs each in the first eight innings. Koufax struck out the side on just 10 pitches in the top of the ninth. Sanford began the ninth by inducing a Maury Wills ground out. Koufax and Jim Gilliam hit back to back singles to Left. Giants manager Bill Rigney called in Al Worthington from the bullpen to end the threat. Worthington threw a first pitch strike to Wally Moon. His next pitch missed. On the third pitch, Moon lofted a deep fly ball to Left, clearing the screen. The Moonshot gave the Dodgers a 5 to 2 walk off victory. Los Angeles trailed the Giants by one game.
The Dodgers won the 1959 National League Pennant, two games ahead of the Milwaukee Braves and four ahead of the third place Giants. Los Angeles defeated the Chicago White Sox in six games, winning the only World Series ever played at the Coliseum. Wally Moon’s Moonshot against the Giants came 634 days before President Kennedy presented his vision of sending a man to the moon and returning him safely to earth.
The Moonshot took men to the moon and safely returned them back to earth. (NASA)
A walk off Home Run between bitter rivals foreshadowed the next stage of the Space Race. Wally Moon used the short porch in Leftfield at the Coliseum to his advantage. President Kennedy and NASA did the unimaginable, sending a man to the moon and back defeating the non-baseball playing Soviet Union. The United States won the Space Race with a few steps by Neil Armstrong, while Wally Moon helped to win the Pennant with one swing of his bat. Both were incredible Moonshots.
Happy 50th anniversary of the Moon Landing.
Major League Baseball is roughly two years away from welcoming its 20,000th player. The overwhelming majority of players are not Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, or Mike Trout. They are players like Virgil Jester. While they do not have the accolades of those in Cooperstown, players like Jester helped build baseball into the game it is today.
Fooling your opponent is part of baseball. Deceiving a batter with a curveball. Catching the defense sleeping by stealing second base. These are fundamental parts of baseball. On April Fool’s Day it seems fitting to highlight one of the players who despite not having a long, distinguished career deserves recognition for his contribution to the game. The only Jester in Major League history, Virgil Jester.
Virgil Jester was a star high school and college pitcher in Denver when he signed with the Boston Braves in 1947. He worked his way through the Minor Leagues before debuting with the Braves on June 18, 1952. Jester entered the game against the Cincinnati Reds in the top of the 7th inning with the score tied at 5. He struck out his first batter, Cal Abrams. The next batter, Andy Seminick, was not as kind, smacking a solo home run to give the Reds a 6-5 lead. In the 8th inning, Jester walked Bobby Adams before allowing a RBI double to Willard Marshall, extending the Reds lead to 7-5. The Braves scored a run in the bottom of the 8th, making it 7-6, but would get no closer. Jester pitched 2 innings, allowing 2 hits, 2 runs, walking 2, struck out 3, with a 9.00 ERA, and took the loss.
Virgil Jester was the winning pitcher in the Boston Braves’ final victory before moving to Milwaukee. (www.baseball-reference.com)
The Braves final season in Boston was Virgil Jester’s best. In 1952, he went 3-5 with a 3.33 ERA and 1.411 WHIP. He appeared in 19 games, starting 8, throwing 4 complete games, and 1 shutout. Jester pitched 73 innings allowing 80 hits, 31 runs, 27 earned runs, 5 home runs, walking 23 , striking out 25, and hitting 1 batter. Jester’s season was capped with a complete game victory over the Brooklyn Dodgers on September 27th, the final Braves victory in Boston.
In 1953, the Braves moved to Milwaukee and Virgil Jester concluded his brief Major League career. He appeared in just two games. He pitched 2 innings, allowing 4 hits, 5 runs, a home run, 4 walks, no strikeouts, with a 22.50 ERA and 4.000 WHIP. Jester finished his career with a 3-5 record, 3.84 ERA, 1.480 WHIP, appearing in 21 games, 8 starts, 4 complete games, 1 shut out, pitching 75 innings, allowing 84 hits, 32 earned runs, 6 home runs, 27 walks, 25 strikeouts, and 1 hit batter.
Pitching got Virgil Jester to the Majors, however he was also a good hitting pitcher. In 22 plate appearances, he collected 4 hits, including a triple, scored 3 runs, 2 RBI, drew 1 walk, struck out 4 times, and posted a .211 BA, .250 OBP, .316 SLG, and .566 OPS.
Virgil Jester’s career did not lead to enshrinement in Cooperstown. However he joined the elite group of players who have played baseball at the highest level. Fewer than 20,000 people have played in the Major Leagues. Virgil Jester played alongside the giants of the game. Only a select few have that opportunity, and Virgil Jester was among those who rose to the top. Even a fool can understand that.
Baseball lifers are bridges that connect different eras and players to each other. The majorifoty of players, coaches, and managers spend just a few years in the Majors before their time is over. Not everyone walks away from the game willingly, often due to injury or poor performance. Then there are those that spend their lives living, breathing, and working in baseball. These baseball lifers come to the game young and leave when they are old. One such baseball lifer is Connie Mack and we may never see a lifer of his significance ever again..
Cornelius McGillicuddy, shortened to Connie Mack in childhood, spent 65 years in baseball as a player and manager. He played for 11 seasons from 1886 to 1896 with three different teams: the Washington Nationals, the Buffalo Bisons of the Players League, and the Pittsburgh Pirates. A career .244 BA, Mack was primarily a catcher during the days when catchers truly took a beating. He logged 5,186 innings behind the plate and an additional 985 in the field. Mack led the Majors in a statistical category only three times during his playing career: two he would have rather not (1890- 20 HBP and 1887- 76 Passed Balls) and one he should be proud of accomplishing (1892- 47% CS (base stealers were 136 for 257)). While not a remarkable playing career, Mack parlayed his career on the field into one in managing.
Connie Mack saw it all in his life in baseball. (www.baseballhall.org)
Late in the 1894 season, Connie Mack was named the player-manager for the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates went 149 and 134 under Mack, with a winning record each season, but fell short of ownership expectations. He was fired following the 1896 season. Retired as a player and recently fired from his Major League managing job, Connie Mack went to the minor leagues to manage and occasionally catch for the Milwaukee Brewers over the next four seasons.
In 1901, Connie Mack embarked upon his legendary career as the manager of the Philadelphia Athletics. He began managing the A’s in 1901 at the age of 38 and finally retired in 1950 at the age of 87. During Mack’s 50 years managing in Philadelphia, the A’s record was 3,582 and 3,814, a .484 Winning Percentage. The A’s won nine American League Pennants (1902, 1905, 1910, 1911, 1913, 1914, 1929, 1930, and 1931) and five World Series titles (1910, 1911, 1913, 1929, and 1930). Mack’s Winning Percentage can be misleading, as many agree he managed for 18 years too long. In his first 32 seasons in Philadelphia, the A’s went 2,517 and 2,253 with a .527 Winning Percentage. In the final 18 seasons of his career, the A’s went 1,065 and 1,561 with a .406 Winning Percentage. As he got older, Mack was unable to keep pace with the tactical and financial changes in baseball. The financial changes also meant that the A’s were no longer viable in Philadelphia, and by 1955 the team moved to Kansas City. Mack did not know when to walk away from the game. Like a player hanging on for too long, managers also have to know when their skills have declined and when it is time to call it a career.
Connie Mack wanted to win baseball games and build better men. (United States Library of Congress)
Connie Mack saw the development of baseball through the good times and the bad. From the early rough and tumble years in the late 1800’s to the Black Sox Scandal to the rise of Babe Ruth and the Yankees to integration. Mack saw it all from the dugout. He demanded from his players that they play to the best of their abilities, but he was not overbearing. Mack let his players be who they were, but he wanted them to be smart and make intelligent decisions when they were on the field. Unlike the other hardened men of the time, Mack went beyond the results on the diamond; he wanted his players to be better people. After the 1916 season, Mack created a Code of Conduct for his players.
- I will always play the game to the best of my ability.
- I will always play to win, but if I lose, I will not look for an excuse to detract from my opponent’s victory.
- I will never take an unfair advantage in order to win.
- I will always abide by the rules of the game—on the diamond as well as in my daily life.
- I will always conduct myself as a true sportsman—on and off the playing field.
- I will always strive for the good of the entire team rather than for my own glory.
- I will never gloat in victory or pity myself in defeat.
- I will do my utmost to keep myself clean—physically, mentally, and morally.
- I will always judge a teammate or an opponent as an individual and never on the basis of race or religion.
Mack’s rules came at a time when the Major Leagues excluded African-Americans. While not necessarily pushing for the reintegration of baseball, the Code of Conduct helped change baseball from a game played by rough men to a game that families could enjoy.
Connie Mack’s career has left an indelible mark on baseball. He was ahead of his time with his attitude about race, religion, and playing customs in baseball. He disliked small ball and would rather play for the big inning instead of sacrificing for a single run. The rise of playing for the big inning became more common when home runs became more plentiful. Mack however decided his team had a better chance to win when putting multiple runs in an inning rather than a single run here or there. In the first 35 years of his managerial career, few could argue otherwise.
Connie Mack is forever immortalized in Cooperstown. (www.phillymag.com)
In 1937, Connie Mack was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame even though he was actively managing. He would conclude his managerial career with the most wins (3,731), losses (3,948), games managed (7,755) for any manager in baseball history, and tied for second for most Pennants (9 with Joe McCarthy). He won 968 more games than John McGraw, who is second on the list for most career wins. Mack managed 2,658 more games than second place Tony LaRussa. If he had retired after the 1932 season, Mack’s .527 Winning Percentage would be higher than that of fellow Hall of Fame managers Tommy Lasorda, Red Schoendienst, Dick Williams, and Casey Stengel among others. If Connie Mack had only know when to walk away.
Understanding Connie Mack’s impact on the game of baseball goes beyond the numbers. He was with baseball during the good times and the bad. His story connects modern baseball to its historical roots. In 1886, 34-year-old Cap Anson was playing his 16th season of professional baseball and 31-year-old Charles “Old Hoss” Radbourn was still pitching, just two seasons removed from winning 59 games for the Providence Grays. In 1950, Duke Snider was a fourth year outfielder for the Brooklyn Dodgers and Whitey Ford won the American League Rookie of the Year award with the Yankees. Connie Mack was the commonality between those events that took place over nearly a lifetime apart. This week marks the 60th anniversary of his death. Connie Mack saw just about everything there was to see in baseball. By connecting us to the past, let us not forget the baseball lifers in the game today who are important in helping maintain our perspective where the game has come from and where the game is going.
Jackie Robinson Day is a day to celebrate both the man and the obstacles he overcame to have a lasting impact both on baseball and American society. April 15, 1947 was the day Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball by playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Robinson and the Dodgers hosted the Boston Braves at Ebbets Field. The game itself is not what is important about that day; rather it is the change to American society on that day on a baseball diamond in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn.
Over the next 10 seasons, all spent with the Brooklyn Dodgers, Jackie Robinson displayed what it meant to be a man. Robinson deserves a place in the National baseball Hall of fame simply for his contributions to the game. The Hall of Fame worthy numbers he amassed during his career only push him further up the list of greatest baseball players of all time. Robinson’s importance has nothing to do with his statistical accomplishments; greatness does not always show up in the box score. Greatness is facing your challenges head on and overcoming them with grace.
Robinson faced the worst that society had to offer; the derogatory remarks, the threats of physical violence, the constant verbal and psychological abuse came from fans in the stands and opposing players and coaches. The task of playing professional baseball is difficult enough, without the constant barrage of hostility from those who could not see past their own racism. Yet, through it all, Robinson remained professional and committed to the game he loved. Robinson showed baseball the error of its ways, that barring African-Americans from playing in the Major Leagues had been a colossal mistake. Robinson was not the best player in the Negro Leagues during his brief time there; rather he was a prime example of the talent that was excluded from Major League rosters because of people who thought a person’s skin color mattered more than their ability.
Jackie Robinson, like so many African-Americans, served his country admirably during World War II. They fought, and died, to defend the freedoms of people in Europe and Asia, while at home they were treated as second-class citizens. Robinson defended his country but was forced to defend himself against trumped up charges in a court-martial based on the bigoted ideas of other soldiers. He was ultimately cleared of all charges, but this experience in the Army served as an introduction for what Robinson would later face in the Major Leagues.
The abuse, verbal and psychological, that Robinson, along with the other early African-American players, sought to strip them of their humanity. The United States is better off because of Jackie Robinson. His contributions continue to reverberate nearly seven decades after he first stepped on to a Major League field. He showed that the color of a person’s skin was not relate to their worth as a person. The Civil Rights Movement built upon Robinson’s legacy and pushed for equal rights for all. The drive for equality continues today. The end of the segregation in baseball and the signing of bills into law does not mean the fight for equality is over. Rather it means attention is being paid to the problem. Change happens a little at a time, and it requires those who are suffering to behave with the same steadfastness and grace that Jackie Robinson did. Changing people’s misconceptions is difficult, and these beliefs are reinforced when they are ridiculed. Jackie Robinson did not lash out at those who challenged him. He maintained his dignity, and proved that the color of his skin did not make him better or worse than anyone else. Robinson probably had his private moments of doubt, like we all do, but he was strong enough and willed himself to greatness. Greatness that does not appear in a box score. The type of greatness that continues to have an impact almost 70 years later.
Larry Doby broke the color barrier in the American League. He played his first game in the Major Leagues on July 5, 1947 for the Cleveland Indians. Doby has unfortunately not received nearly enough attention for his accomplishments. He faced just as much abuse and hatred as Jackie Robinson, and yet he is often not mentioned with Robinson in helping to permanently integrate Major League Baseball.
Doby, unlike Robinson, was a veteran of professional baseball before playing in Major League Baseball. He played 5 seasons with the Newark Eagles of the Negro National League (1942-1947). He missed all of the 1945 season while serving in the Navy during World War II. Like nearly every player from the Negro Leagues, Doby’s statistics are incomplete. The numbers were do have are impressive. In his time with the Eagles, we know he had 351 PA, 329 AB, 100 hits, 62 runs, 12 doubles, 9 triples, 8 home runs, 60 RBI, 8 stolen bases, 19 walks, .304 BA, .342 OBP, .468 SLG, .810 OPS. Excellent numbers, even if they are only a glimpse into the type of player Doby was in his late teens and early twenties.
Less than two years after becoming the principal owner of the Cleveland Indians, Bill Veeck followed through with his proposal from 1942 to integrate baseball. Veeck signed Doby after paying $15,000 to Newark Eagles Business Manager and co-owner Effa Manley. Unlike Branch Rickey, Veeck felt the Negro League should be compensated for their players. The Indians signed Doby on July 3, 1947 and two day later on July 5, 1947 be played in his first Major League game.
Fittingly, the Indians were in Chicago to play the White Sox. Nearly 60 years after Cap Anson all but pushed all African-American players, including Moses Fleetwood Walker, out of baseball, Larry Doby integrated the American League against Anson’s old team. Doby appeared as a pinch hitter in the 7th inning for pitcher Bryan Stephens, striking out against Earl Harrist.
Larry Doby played 13 seasons in Major League Baseball, 10 seasons with the Cleveland Indians, before playing with the Chicago White Sox, and the Detroit Tigers. He was a 7-time all-star (1949-1955). He played in 1,533 games, 6,299 PA, 5,348 AB, 1,515 hits, 960 runs scored, 243 doubles, 52 triples, 253 homeruns, 970 RBI, 47 stolen bases, 871 walks, 1011 strikeouts, .283 BA, .386 OBP, .490 SLG, .876 OPS. Defensively, Doby was primarily and outfielder, but he did play eight games in around the infield. He played 1,448 games in the field, 12,395 innings, 3,797 chances, 3,640 putouts, 93 assists, 64 errors, .983 fielding percentage. Doby’s individual success also helped the Indians to find success. Cleveland reached two World Series, 1948 and 1954. The Indians won the 1948 World Series against the Boston Braves 4 games to 2. Doby played all 6 games, had 22 AB, 7 hits, 1 run, 1 double, 1 home run, 2 RBI, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts, had .318 BA, .375 OBP, .500 SLG, .875 OPS, and 11 total bases. The Indians returned to the World Series in 1954, but were swept by the New York Giants 4 games to 0. Doby did not have the same success as in 1948. He played in all 4 games, had 16 AB, 2 hits, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts, had a .125 BA, .222 OBP, .125 SLG, .347 OPS, and 2 total bases. Doby would play another five years, last playing in the Majors in 1959.
After his playing career ended, Doby bounced around through various baseball jobs before returning to the diamond as a member of the Chunichi Dragons. His return to playing baseball lasted only one season, 1962. He played 72 games, 268 PA, 240 AB, 54 hits, 27 runs, 9 doubles, 1 triple, 10 home runs, 35 RBI, 25 walks, 73 strikeouts, .225 BA, .302 OBP, .396 SLG, .698 OPS. He played alongside former Newark Eagle and Brooklyn/ Los Angeles Dodger great Don Newcombe. Doby and Newcombe were the only non-Japanese players on the roster.
Retiring for good from playing, Doby returned to the United States and began coaching baseball. In 1978, Larry Doby was named the Manager of the White Sox on June 29th after owner Bill Veeck, the same as in Cleveland, fired Doby’s old teammate Bob Lemon; the team was off to a 34-40 start. Larry Doby was the second African-American Manager in Major League history; Frank Robinson was the first, having been named the player-manager of the Indians in 1975. The White Sox went 37-50 under Doby to finished 71-90 and 5th in American League West. The White Sox replaced Doby with player-manager Don Kessinger in 1979.
Larry Doby’s contributions to baseball on the diamond as a player, coach, manager, and man were critical to the successful integration of baseball and the decline of racism and intolerance in baseball and in the United States. His contributions to the game and society far exceed what ant statistics can tell. The Veteran’s Committee elected Doby to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in 1998. While his career as a player and manager may not place him among the greatest that have ever played the game, Doby’s contributions to the game put him in rarefied air. Jackie Robinson was the first to integrate baseball in 1947, but Doby was not far behind. He faced the same abuse from other players and fans as Robinson did, and like Robinson his ability to not lash out at the abusers was as critical as his play, if not more so, to be successful. Larry Doby and the other players who followed quickly behind Jackie Robinson often do not receive the same admiration, but they are as deserving. If not for their success, the turning of the tide against segregation and racism could have been delayed. Ignorance would have continued to drag baseball and society down for decades to come. Baseball played a critical role in ending the legalized discrimination against African-Americans in the United States. Men such as Larry Doby, Hank Thompson, Monte Irvin, and Roy Campanella helped secure the path that Jackie Robinson blazed.
What would you do if you were if your peers respected you for the expertise in which you do your job, but as a person, they were repulsed by you? How would you react if your job was unfairly taken away from you, despite you not doing anything wrong? How would you react if the hatred that was directed at you was the result of the ignorance and intolerance of other people?
Before there was Jackie Robinson and the color barrier there were two brothers, Moses Fleetwood Walker and Welday Walker, who broke the color barrier in professional baseball. Moses was the first of the brothers to debut for Toledo. Their careers’ at the highest level of professional baseball was brief, but their impact continues to be felt over 130 later.
The Walker brothers played for the 1884 Toledo Blue Stockings. Moses Fleetwood Walker enjoyed the most success of the brothers. He debuted on May 1, 1884. In 42 career games, he had 152 AB, 40 hits, 2 doubles, 3 triples, 8 walks, .263 BA, .325 OBP, .316 SLG, .641OPS. Defensively he played 41 games at catcher (352 innings) and 1 game in the outfield (7 innings), 359 innings, 328 chances, 220 putouts, 70 assists, 37 errors, and a .887 fielding percentage. Welday Walker debuted July 15, 1884. In five career games, he had 18 AB, 4 hits, 1 double, 1 run, .222 BA, .222 OBP, .278 SLG, .500 OPS. Defensively he played 38 innings in the outfield, with 6 chances, 4 putouts, 2 errors, and a .667 fielding percentage. The rookie seasons for the Walker brothers were solid foundations to build a successful career. Unfortunately, their careers would not continue, but not due to their inability to play the game.
The attitudes of two men sum up the racism the Walker brothers and other potential African-American faced on and off the field. Tony Mullane pitched for the Blue Stockings in 1884. Mullane respected Moses as a player, but not as a man.
“(Walker) was the best catcher I ever worked with, but I disliked a Negro and whenever I had to pitch to him I used to pitch anything I wanted without looking at his signals.”
Mullane pitched in 555 career games, winning 284 games. His 284 wins are the third most of any pitcher not in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Mullane could not overcome his racism to treat Moses as an equal, regardless of how detrimental it was to his personal success and the success of the team to not work with his catcher.
Racism prevented the Walker brothers from the careers they should have enjoyed. After injuries sent Moses to the Minors for a few seasons, the door was shut to African-Americans players in Major League Baseball.
The second man, Cap Anson, was more powerful than Mullane. In 1887, Chicago White Stockings manager Cap Anson refused to allow his team to play against the Newark Little Giants so long as Moses or George Stovey, an African-American pitcher. Anson eventually did allow the White Stockings to play, but only after being threatened with the loss of half the ticket revenue for the exhibition game. The International League ban was eventually rescinded. The International League voted to exclude African-American players from future contracts. This decision was driven, in part, by the incident in Newark. However, in 1889 the American Association and the National League put up the color barrier, though it was never an official rule. The top level of professional baseball would not see another African-American until Jackie Robinson played on April 15, 1947.
The baseball chapter of Moses Fleetwood and Welday Walker lives was far too short. In the face of their inability to continue their playing careers, the Walker brothers turned their attention to the condition of African-Americans. Welday filed a civil rights lawsuit after being denied entry into a skating rink. While the lawsuit was successful, it did not require the skating rink to integrate. The Walker brothers become involved in politics and the Back to Africa Movement. They believed African-Americans would be better off if they left the United States and the racism that prevented so many from living fulfilling lives.
What would you do if you were if your peers respected you for the expertise in which you do your job, but as a person, they were repulsed by you? How would you react if your job was unfairly taken away from you, despite you not doing anything wrong? How would you react if the hatred that was directed at you was the result of the ignorance and intolerance of other people?
Moses Fleetwood Walker and Welday Walker, like so many African-Americans for far too long in the United States were discriminated against, looked down upon, and viewed as less than human solely based upon the pigment of their skin. Their playing careers were cut short due to the inhumanity of others, and yet they continued to fight against impossible odds to improve the lives of others in similar situations. Regardless what someone thinks about the Back to Africa Movement, it, along with the ban on African-American players in Major League Baseball, should stir the collective regret of America for how we as a people have treated our fellow citizens.
The shame of the past should not impede our collective progress, but it should work as a guide to shape how we address race in our society. Racism existed in America in 1884, in 1947, and still exists in 2015. It has decreased, but there is still work to be done. The Walker brothers did not see a hopeful future for African-Americans in the United States. 130 years later, we still have our issues, but if anything, the Walker brothers taught us to be proactive in improving our own lives. Someday racism will die out, and people will be judged and respected for their abilities and character, and not the color of their skin.
Jackie Robinson was not the best or most accomplished player in the Negro Leagues when he signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers. He was however, the man Branch Rickey felt could withstand the abuse the first African-American player would face when he stepped on a major League diamond. The players’ temperament and self-control were nearly as important as talent for Rickey. African-American players faced abuse wherever they traveled to play their games. The individual and collective hell they went through to play the game they love has fortunately become less of a reality in the decades since Jackie Robinson played for the Kansas City Monarchs. Racism, intolerance, and ignorance are not confined to the past however, but they are no longer held by the overwhelming majority.
The 1945 season was Jackie Robinson’s only season in the Negro Leagues. He played 47 games for the Kansas City Monarchs. During his lone season with the Monarchs. Robinson had 58 AB, 24 hits, 4 doubles, 1 triple, 1 home run, scored 12 runs, stole 2 bases, had 5 walk, .414 BA, .460 OBP, .569 SLG, and 1.029 OPS. Good but not great numbers for the small sample size we have available. Robinson’s statistics are incomplete; this problem exists throughout the records of the Negro Leagues. Robinson played shortstop for the Monarchs, but the statistics for his defensive play are murky and his offensive statistics are incomplete. This lack of extensive record keeping unfortunately prevents later generations from properly appreciating the greatness of the men who played in the Negro Leagues. During a time when those involved with the Negro Leagues were simply trying to make a living and survive, it is not surprising that the statistical record keeping was not a top priority. It is a sad, but understandable reality.
The Kansas City Monarchs finished fourth in the Negro American League standings in 1945. The Monarchs finished behind the Cleveland Buckeyes, the Birmingham Black Barons, the Chicago American Giants, and ahead of the Cincinnati Clowns and the Memphis Red Sox. The Cleveland Buckeyes went on to win the Negro World Series against the Washington Homestead Grays. The 1945 Monarchs featured two future Major League pitchers in Satchel Paige and Hilton Smith. The rigors of the baseball season, though shorter than the Major League season, helped to prepare Robinson for life with the Dodgers. Long bus rides, having to deal with racism on the road at hotels, restaurants, gas stations, and a million other places along the way were part of being a player in the Negro Leagues. This was his first taste of professional baseball, both the good and the bad.
Jackie Robinson was just one of numerous players in the Negro Leagues who had the talent to play in the Major Leagues. Some did eventually follow Robinson to the Majors, but far too many never had the chance to show their abilities to the entire baseball world. The celebration and admiration bestowed upon Jackie Robinson since 1947 are unquestionably deserved. Robinson’s success was the beginning of the end for the Negro Leagues. Less than 20 years after Robinson joined the Dodgers in Brooklyn the Negro Leagues were gone. The Negro Leagues were the home of beautiful baseball, colorful characters, and plenty of fun. The existence of the Negro Leagues was, and will remain, a national disgrace, as it put racism, ignorance, and intolerance on full display. African-American players used the Negro Leagues as their only means to play the game they loved, due to the barrier Major League Baseball had erected to prevent them from playing in its league. Jackie Robinson broke through the barrier and survived the gauntlet to integrate the Major Leagues and to close the Negro Leagues. The injustice of segregation began to crack and would soon crumble. Jackie Robinson helped to lead the charge in baseball that would see the best players in the world play in only one league, the Major Leagues.
Don Zimmer will have his #66 retired by the Tampa Bay Rays in a pregame ceremonial before their home opener on April 6th. The Rays may not be the team most associated with Zimmer, but it was the organization that he spent the most time with, 11 seasons, during his 66 year career in baseball. Zimmer was a player, coach, or manager for nearly half of the teams in Major League Baseball. During his career he was a member of the Brooklyn/ Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, New York Mets, Washington Senators, San Diego Padres, Boston Red Sox, Texas Rangers, Montreal Expos, San Francisco Giants, Colorado Rockies, New York Yankees, and Tampa Bay Devil Rays/ Rays. Zimmer also spent a season (1966) playing for the Toei Flyers in Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan.
Zimmer was never an elite player. He hit a career .235, with 91 home runs, 352 RBI. He played more than 100 games only five times during his 12 year career, and was named an All Star in 1961. As a manager Zimmer collected 885 wins in 13 seasons at the helm with four different teams. He won 50.8% of the games he managed. He won his lone Division title with the 1989 Cubs, but lost to the Giants four games to one in the National League Championship Series.
None of the statistics which are associated with Don Zimmer should put him in elite company. However, his longevity and passion for the game do. Few, if anything written about Zimmer reflects negatively on the man. Yes, the local media and fans may have grown tired of his struggles on the field and as manager, but never of his desire to see his team win. Even the incident with Pedro Martinez in 2003 during the American League Championship Series should be seen as Zimmer sticking up for his team, even if his body was not up to the task his brain had in mind. He was sticking up for the Yankees, his guys. His apology afterwards can make a grown man cry, because you can sense the embarrassment he felt as he apologizes to everyone, before he leaves the press conference in tears.
Hopefully, over time this moment will no longer be what most people think of when they think of Don Zimmer. His broad smile and love of the game were on display everyday he put on a uniform. He never had to work a day in his life. Zimmer was the type of person who have propelled baseball through the generations. They allow for a real connection to exist between the past and present. Zimmer’s contribution to the game goes beyond the stat sheet, thus the honor the Rays are giving him in retiring his jersey number is a tribute not only to Zimmer, but also to the other baseball lifers. It is these individuals who, despite not making the world stop and take notice of their accomplishments, are immeasurably important to the game.
Several of the other teams which Zimmer played or worked for during his career could retire his number. The Red Sox, Cubs, and Yankees could have all justified retiring his number, but ultimately it is good that at least one team did retire his number. Regardless how important he was to any single organization, Don Zimmer was more important to the game of baseball. Zimmer spent his life around the game he loved; along the way the game loved him back. Now thanks to the Tampa Bay Rays, he will be loved far into the future even once the people he worked with in baseball are gone. Baseball has shown the epitome of a baseball life the love that the game as a whole can give a man after he spent a life time loving the game.
The Left Arm of God, a nickname like this is not given out to just any sort of pitcher. To earn this nickname you must be both extraordinary and dominating, both of which Sandy Koufax was during his career. Koufax played for the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers from 1955-1966. He did not emerge as a superstar until after the Dodgers moved to southern California following the 1957 season.
Koufax pitched 12 seasons for the Dodgers. He collected 165 wins against 87 loses, with a career 2.76 ERA. He pitched 137 Complete Games, 40 Shutouts, 2324 1/3 Innings, while Walking 817 batters against 2,396 Strikeouts. His has a career 1.106 WHIP with 9.3 Strikeouts Per 9 Innings. These are Hall of Fame numbers over a 12 year career. However, beginning in 1961, until his early retirement in 1966 Koufax dominated opposing batters in ways like never before. During this six year span Koufax averaged 22 Wins, 8 Loses, six Shutouts, 272 Innings Pitched, 69 Walks, 286 Strikeouts, with a 0.970 WHIP, 9.4 Strikeouts per 9 Innings. Remember, this is what he averaged.
The career achievements for Sandy Koufax include being a seven time All Star (twice in 1961), four World Series Championships, two World Series Most Valuable Player Awards (1963 and 1965), three pitching Triple Crowns (1963, 1965, and 1966), three Cy Young Awards (1963, 1965, and 1966), National League Most Valuable Player (1963), pitched four No Hitters, pitched a Perfect Game, and 1972 Baseball Hall of Fame (youngest ever).
Statistically, Koufax dominated opposing pitchers in the National League throughout his career. He led the National League in Wins (1963, 1965, and 1966), ERA (1962 through 1966), Complete Games (1965 and 1966, 27 in each season), Shutouts (1963, 1964, and 1966), Innings Pitched (1965 with 335 2/3 and 1966 with 323), Strikeouts (1961, 1963, 1965, 1966), WHIP (1962 through 1965), Strikeouts per 9 Innings (1960 through 1962 and 1964 through 1966), Strikeout to Walk ratio (1961, 1963, and 1965).
Koufax also made significant news off the pitchers mound, which continues to resonate. He decided he would not pitch in Game 1 of the 1965 World Series because it fell on Yom Kippur. While he did not receive as much negative attention as Hank Greenberg did for his decision to not play on Yom Kippur in 1934, there remained much contention over the decision after Don Drysdale lost Game 1. Following the 1965, Koufax, along with Drysdale, held out for a larger contract from General Manager Buzzie Bavasi. This was highly unusual for Major League players to stand up to management regarding their contracts. The hold out should be seen as an important step, along with Curt Floods’ refusal to accept a trade in 1969 to the Philadelphia Phillies, towards the establishment of Free Agency.
Following his retirement after the 1966 season Koufax worked as a baseball announcer for NBC from 1967 through 1972. He would return to the Dodgers in 1979 as a minor league pitching coach, and held this position until 1990. Koufax remains a much beloved figure in baseball, not just among the Dodger faithful.
Koufax dominated from the pitchers mound like all Major League pitchers wish they could, but only a select few have ever been able to. However, his greatness lies in the stretch over which he dominated, as most pitchers would be lucky to dominate in this fashion for a few starts or maybe a season. What also makes the greatness of Koufax most impressive is he did much of this while dealing with arm trouble that could have permanently handicapped him, and ultimately forced his early retirement at age 30. Sandy Koufax is one of the elite players in Major League history. His accomplishments on and off the diamond have earned him the spot as the Greatest Jewish Baseball Player of All Time