Seven of the first 31 players chosen during the 2012 Major League Baseball draft that was held at the beginning of last week in New York were African-American, the first selected; Byron Buxton picked number two by the Minnesota Twins. Here are four historical facts about the first Major League draft which occurred in June 1965 that saw five African-American baseball players chosen.
The first African-American picked in the initial draft was Larry Hisle; chosen at number 38 by the Philadelphia Phillies. Hisle’s rookie season with the Phillies was 1969, he finished fourth in the National League Rookie of the Year voting; but was demoted back to the minor leagues in 1971. After being traded to the Minnesota Twins in 1973, Hisle had five stellar seasons before signing as a free agent with the Milwaukee Brewers in 1978. After hitting a career high 34 home runs, Hisle suffered a career ending shoulder injury the next year.
The other notable African-Americans chosen that first amateur draft were Amos Otis (drafted at number 93) by the Boston Red Sox and Hal McRae ( drafted at number 117) by the Cincinnati Reds. After a stint with the New York Mets, Otis became the starting center fielder for the Kansas City Royals in 1970. McRae was a reserve for Sparky Anderson’s first two pennant winning Reds teams (1970, 1972). He was then traded to Kansas City after the 1972 season and became their regular left fielder/designated hitter. Otis and McRae were integral parts of my favorite Kansas City Royals Western Division Championship teams (1976 – 77, 1980).
There was a link to Negro League baseball in that first draft. The 301 selection by the Chicago Cubs was Johnny Hairston, son of Negro League player Samuel Hairston. After Jackie Robinson broke through pro baseball’s color barrier in 1947, Negro League baseball became the main supply of African-American talent to the Major Leagues. Because of the overall success of the Negro League players, Major League teams continued to seek talented African-American players after the Negro Leagues dissolved in the late 1950s. Sam Hairston’s Major League career consisted on just four games (five At Bats) for the Chicago White Sox in 1951, while his son Johnny’s consisted of three games (four At Bats) for the Chicago Cubs in 1969.
But there were more off springs from the Hairston family tree in other Major League drafts. Sam’s other son Jerry was selected 54 by the Chicago White Sox in 1970. And Jerry Hairston has had two sons drafted: Jerry Hairston, Jr. (345 pick of the Baltimore Orioles in 1997) now playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Scott Hairston (98 pick by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001) now playing for the New York Mets.
Who was your favorite African-American ballplayer who made it to the Major Leagues in the 1960s?