Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Today's African American fact from baseball's "Golder Era" - Ossie Virgil

On June 17, 1958 Ozzie Osvaldo Jose Virgil became the first African American/ Hispanic to play for the Detroit Tigers.  Despite having over 400,000 African Americans living in Detroit at that time, the Tigers were the next to last team to integrate their roster since Jackie Robinson broke through Major League Baseball’s “invisible color line” in 1947.   
Virgil came to the Tigers through a trade earlier in the year with the San Francisco Giants who had originally signed him in 1953.  He was one of the many players from the Dominican Republic (Monte Cristi) that   the owner of former Negro League baseball’s New York Cubans, Alejandro “Alex” Pompez, discovered for the Giants.

A versatile addition to the team, Virgil could play in the infield or outfield, and also was a catcher.  On his debut for the Tigers against the Washington Senators at Briggs Stadium, he played third base and contributed to the team’s 9 – 2 win with five hits, including one double, and scoring one run.

Despite his hot start, Virgil was used mainly as a utility player the second half of the season.  He played in only 49 games and batted .244.  He remained with the Tigers until 1961 when he was traded to the Kansas City Athletics.

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