Monday, August 18, 2014

Today's African American fact from baseball's "Golden Era" - Bob Thurman

On August 18, 1956, the Cincinnati Reds hit eight home runs in a 13 – 4 victory over the Milwaukee Braves.  The Reds eight home runs in one game, played at Cincinnati’s Crosley Field, tied the Major League record at that time.  Three of the Reds’ home runs were hit by former Negro League outfielder Bob Thurman.
After leaving military service in 1946, Thurman was signed by the Homestead Grays as a left handed pitcher.  However, he proved to be a better power hitter and became the team’s regular centerfielder.  In 1948, Thurman hit over .300 to help the Grays win the last Negro League World Series Championship defeating the Birmingham Giants.  He started the 1949 season with the Kansas City Monarchs, but was sold to the New York Yankees on July 29.  Thurman was the first African American player signed by the Yankees.

After six years in the Yankees and then Chicago Cubs minor league system, he was signed by the Cincinnati Reds in 1955 who believed him to be in his early 30s.  But after the Major League teams began looking to sign African Americans, many Negro League players lowered their stated age to be a more attractive prospect.  Thurman told the Yankees he was 26 when they signed him in 1949.  He was actually 38 when the Reds signed him.  He played mainly as a pinch hitter and reserved outfielder.   He hit .285 with eight homes and twenty-two RBIs for that year and hit 16 home runs in 1957.  The Reds released Thurman on April 21, 1959, he as 42 years old.     

After hitting a double in the third inning that August day in 1956, Thurman hit home runs in the fifth, seventh, and eighth innings.  He had four RBIs. 

What African American Hall of Famer hit multiple home runs for the Reds also that day?

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