Friday, November 1, 2013

Howard and Gilliam: Two World Series pros

During their time in Negro League baseball, neither Elston Howard nor Jim (Junior) Gilliam played in a Negro League World Series.  The last one was in 1948, Howard’s initial year with the Kansas City Monarchs who were edged out of the Negro American League pennant by the Birmingham Black Barons.  When Gilliam played with the Baltimore Elite Giants, the team could never overcome the Homestead Grays, Newark Eagles, and New York Cubans to win the Negro National League pennant.  But after going into the Major Leagues, Howard and Gilliam each won four World Series Championships; more than any other former Negro League player.    
Although a star high school athlete in St. Louis, Elston Howard was ignored by the hometown St. Louis Cardinals and St. Louis Browns upon graduating.  The Monarchs signed him as an outfielder.   After the 1950 season, Howard’s contract was purchased by the New York Yankees; the most dominant Major League franchise at that time who had won 13 World Series Championships.  In 1955, Howard became the first African American to wear the New York Yankee renowned pinstriped uniform.  He began as an outfielder, but was groomed to eventually replace the Yankee’s future Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra.  Howard played in ten World Series (47 games) during his career with the Yankees (1955 – 1967) and the team won four World Series Championships (1956, 1958, 1961, and 1962).  He was the first African American to be named American League Most Valuable Player (1963).   In August of 1967, he was traded to the Boston Red Sox and played in his eleventh World Series that October. 

Born in Nashville, Tennessee; Jim Gilliam began playing with the Baltimore Elite Giants in 1946 as a seventeen year old second baseman.   He appeared in three Negro League East West All Star games and was signed in 1951 by the Brooklyn Dodgers.  Gilliam was named National League Rookie of the Year in 1953.  He hit .292 in the 1955 World Series win against the New York Yankees; the Dodgers only World Series Championship while in Brooklyn.  After the team moved to Los Angeles in 1958, Gilliam played on three Dodger World Series Champions (1959, 1963, and 1965).  He played in seven World Series (39 games) with the Dodgers.  The "Dodger blue" was the only uniform Gilliam wore in his 14 year (1953 - 1966) Major League career.

What are your World Series memories of Elston Howard and Jim Gilliam?

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