Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Negro League baseball history fact for today

At the peak of his career, many fans considered Marshall Riddle one of the best second basemen in the Negro American League (NAL).  Born on April 22, 1918 in Warren, Arkansas, Riddle played most of his years in Negro League baseball with the St. Louis Stars (1937, 1939 – 1941).  Known mostly for his fielding ability, he had no long ball power as a batter; strictly a singles hitter.   He could also play shortstop.  Riddle played in the 1939 and 1940 East-West All-Star Games. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Jackie Robinson Day

On April 15, 1947; Jackie Robinson became the first African American since before the turn of the century to play Major League baseball.  Wearing Number 42 for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Robinson played first base and batted second in the team’s home opener at Ebbet’s Field against the Boston Braves. 
Robinson’s breaking through of baseball’s “invisible color line” was not just one of the most significant historical events in sports.  Occurring seven years before Rosa Parks and the Montgomery bus boycott, many see it now in retrospect as the first step in the civil rights movement.

To celebrate the day of Robinson’s debut, Major League Baseball has designated today, “Jackie Robinson Day”.  All players today will wear number “42” on their uniforms.

On that historic day, Robinson grounded out to third base in the first inning, flied out to left field in the third, and hit into a double play in the fifth against Braves tough starting pitcher Johnny Sain, a twenty game winner.  In the seventh inning, he reached on an error by the first baseman and came around to score his first Major League run on Pete Reiser’s double.

For the year, Robinson hit .297, with 12 home runs and 36 stolen bases.  He was winner of the National League’s first Rookie of the Year award.

When did you first hear of Jackie Robinson?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Today's African American fact from baseball's goldren era (1947 - 1960)

On April 14, 1955; Elston Howard became the first African American to play for the New York Yankees.  Howard entered the game for Yankee leftfielder Irv Noren in Fenway Park against Boston Red Sox in the bottom of the sixth inning with his team trailing 6 – 2.   Their second game of the season, New York had opened with a victory at Yankee Stadium the previous day.  They defeated the   Washington Senators 19 – 1, but Howard did not play.  This game was the home opener for Boston, who had no African Americans on their team.    
In the top of the eighth inning, Mickey Mantle walked.  Yogi Berra hit into a fielder’s choice, forcing Mantle out at second base and then Bill Skowron singled.  In his first Major League At Bat against Red Sox pitcher Willard Nixon, Elston Howard followed with a single, his first Major League hit.   Berra scored from second base, Howard’s first Major League RBI, making the score 6 – 3.  Yankee second baseman Jerry Coleman followed Howard with another single driving in Skowron and making the score 6 – 4.  However, when the Yankee’s next batter, pitch hitter Eddie Robinson, hit a line drive to Boston pitcher Ellis Kinder; Howard could not get back to second base before the ball was thrown to complete a Red Sox double play and end the inning.  The Yankees lost the game 8 – 4.

Seeing action in 97 games his rookie season, Howard hit .290 with 10 home runs and 43 RBIs. Manager Casey Stengel used Howard’s versatility and played him in left field, right field, and catcher.

The Yankees went on to win the American League pennant, but lost to Jackie Robinson and the Brooklyn Dodgers in the World Series, four games to three.  Howard hit a two run home run off the Dodger’s Don Newcombe in the Yankee’s Game One 6 – 5 win.  Playing in all seven World Series games, he went five for twenty seven.

What is your favorite memory of Elston Howard?