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?