Sunday, April 15, 2018

Jackie Robinson Was NOT The First Black to Play in MLB April 15, 2018

I've noticed on many a post on various social media outlets that we celebrate Jackie Robinson Day because Jackie Robinson was the first black player in MLB.  Now, before I get jumped on for my statement, its true. Jackie Robinson was NOT the first black player in MLB. And nothing of what I will say is disparaging what Jackie went through and what Jackie did in 1947 and the years after. I'll go into what Jackie Robinson WAS the first to do in the next paragraph or two.

Now, the honor and distinction of who was the first black player in MLB depends on whom you talk to. Many Baseball experts and historians give that honor to Moses "Fleetwood" Walker. Walker was a catcher who played for the Toledo Blue Stockings of the American Association during the 1884 season. Walker played for a total of 42 games that season. Another name that comes up is William Edward White who was known as Bill White. White played for the Providence Grays of the National League for just one single game, getting a hit and scoring a run. Other names that come up are Bud Fowler, Frank Grant and Sol White. But generally, Moses Walker is deemed to be the first black player in MLB before the enactment of the so called "Gentlemen's Agreement." Before I go into Jackie Robinson, I wanted to shed some light on what the "Gentleman's Agreement" entailed.

To put it simply, the "Gentlemen's Agreement" barred black and colored players from playing in organized baseball that was affiliated with the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues. This included teams on the Major, Minor and even the independent level. This opened the door for the rise of the Negro Leagues and the integration of many an international league throughout Latin America. This is where Jackie Robinson comes in.

Jackie was the first black player to break the color line created by the "Gentleman's Agreement." By his taking the field on April 15, 1947 and being subjected to the vitriol and hatred by many a fan and fellow ballplayer, Jackie broke down the ignorant color line that kept black players from playing in the Majors since the 1880s. To say he was the first ever is inaccurate. But the first since the segregation of the Majors? That is correct. There is a difference. Just wanted to clarify what the difference was.

Thank you Jackie Robinson for your courage, poise, bravery and strength during those trying days when you helped to bring about change within an unjust and ignorant system. Thank you to Moses "Fleetwood" Walker, William Edward White, Frank Grant, Bud Fowler, Sol White and any other black pioneers lost to time.

For Further Reading: