By Father Gabe Costa
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Almost two months ago, the movie “42” debuted and is still a box office success. By virtually all accounts, the portrayals of both Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) and Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) were spectacular. By the very nature of the subject, a gamut of raw emotions and passions flowed throughout the flick — a film which may eventually be considered a classic.
As we know, other clubs followed Brooklyn’s lead, albeit at a painfully slow rate. And it wasn’t until 1959, a full dozen years after Robinson came into the majors, that all clubs were finally “integrated,” at least in theory.
Elijah “Pumpsie” Green was born in Boley, Oklahoma, in the fall of 1933. In 1959, at the age of 25, he would take the field as a member of the Boston Red Sox. This had two immediate consequences: The Red Sox would finally field an African-American player and, at last, every one of the sixteen major league teams had exorcised the demon known as segregation.
Green would play four years with the Sox and one year with the fledgling New York Mets. He could boast of being a teammate of Ted Williams, Duke Snider and Gil Hodges, and of being managed by the one and only Casey Stengel. His best year was 1961, when he posted a batting average of .261, hit six home runs and had an on-base-plus-slugging (OPS) of .801.
For his career, the switch-hitting Green was a middle infielder. He posted a range factor (RF/9) of 4.74 per nine innings. As a batter, he had nearly 1,000 plate appearances, hit 13 home runs scored 119 runs and had 74 runs batted in. His lifetime average was .246 and his OPS was .721. He also stole 12 bases in 22 attempts.
In his own way, Green was a pioneer. There’s no doubt that he faced many of the evils which confronted Robinson. And when all is said and done, Green can say something that very few men can say: “I was a major league baseball player for five years!”
Here’s to you, Mr. Green! Great job!
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