Friday, November 10, 2006

E. Jerry Green

When I was very young, I learned who Pumpsie Green was: The first black man to play for the Boston Red Sox.

Recently, I was thinking about Pumpsie. Not Pumpsie the symbol, Pumpsie the human being. I felt kind of ashamed that I didn't even know if he was still alive.

He is. He's 73 years old. (On the day he turned 71, the Red Sox won the World Series.)

I wanted to know more about him. I did a little research today, and one of the few pieces I found about him was one written by him.

Click here for "his story," from the book Growing Up Baseball, via baseballlibrary.com.

It's not very long, but it gives you a nice summary of his life. I was happy to read about how Tom Yawkey was nice to him, and told Pumpsie to go straight to him if anyone gave him any problems. Of course, this was an older Tom Yawkey, one who at that point surely realized the mistakes he'd made in the past thanks to his bigotry.

Pumpsie also said something that I've said before--that there's racism in Boston, but it's everywhere else, too.

One specific event I'd been wondering about was his first game at Fenway Park. He gives his account of it in the article. A packed house to see a team that was a few games out of last. He says a lot of black fans wanted to get in to see him play, but didn't have the money, so the Red Sox allowed them in for free.

I checked the dates on retrosheet.org. As with any story a ballplayer tells, almost all the dates and facts are incorrect. His first Fenway game wasn't July 24th of 1959, it was August 4th. The crowd was 21,000 for that night's doubleheader. Compared to the 7,000 that showed up two days later, that probably seemed like a packed house. The next Monday, the Yankees came to town, drawing 32,000 fans. In that game, the Sox led 4-0 going into the ninth, when an error by Pumpsie led to a four-run Yankee rally. They then scored three in the tenth for the win.

How come this game, and Green's first game, aren't part of team lore? I wonder how people reacted to the first time he came up to bat, or to that key error in his first big game. (He did point out in the article how Boston fans, as we know, give you the yeah when you're up, the nay when you're down. I'm sure they cheered for him like they did anyone else, but I still wonder if overall his performance wasn't the only thing that was judged, by a lot of the fans.)

It seems like all we know about Elijah Jerry Green is that he was the first black player in team history, and he wasn't that great of a player.

On April 11th, 1997, he threw out the first ball at Fenway. I have no recollection of this.

Maybe it's time for the new ownership, who have done a great job when it comes to reaching out to the non-white communities of New England, to do something special for Pumpsie. It doesn't matter that he wasn't a superstar. If Jackie Robinson had suddenly become a bad player and retired shortly after breaking the color barrier, would he be less-known and respected today?

Retire Pumpsie's number, I say. Hell, I don't even know his number. Again, I am ashamed. But, then again, why isn't this part of team lore? Why is this man just a name?

He's still around. Let's honor him for breaking a color barrier that arguably was a tougher one to fight through than the national one. Granted, he was just the one they chose to put out there first, and, like he says, he'd have been happy just making the Oakland Oaks. But he still had to be the first. He had to deal with whatever came along, in the city of Boston, as the first black man to play in white Fenway. And from what I've read, he did a fine job.

Another article, from early October of 2004 is here. In it, we learn more about his family, and that he "pulls for the Red Sox." He'd get a nice treat later that month. This is a brand new happiness coming out of that season, for me anyway. That Pumpsie was rooting along with us, and got to see the Sox win it all--on his birthday.

I hope one day I can tell my not-yet-existing kids about the first woman to play for the Red Sox. If it hasn't happened by then, I'll at least tell them story of Pumpsie Green. The whole story.

Hmmm...Pumpsie Smith. I like it. (Pumpsie Gedman Smith, of course.)

Comments:
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
How come this game, and Green's first game, aren't part of team lore?
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

This is just a guess, but maybe it's because we were literally the last team in baseball to integrate, and highlighting that fact by bringing Pumpsie back into the consciousness isn't something they want to do. I don't know.

No way you retire his number, though. He's in the Sox Hall of Fame, which is perfect for his achievements. The number-retiring thing is a different sort of "honor," as far as the Red Sox have made it.

I could be wrong, but I think Pumpsie wore #12.
 
Check that. Pumpsie's not in the RS HoF. That's pretty bad, if you ask me.
 
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
 
I'm well aware of the Red Sox' "official" requirements for number-retiring. But Jackie Robinson didn't even play for the team, and his is retired. Is Pumpsie's situation not "special" enough for such an honor?

It seems like you can't win when talking about this. It's either "Oh you're ignoring the truth when you honor him" or "Mentioning him at all brings back bad memories." I think you need to face it in every way, by saying "Yes, it was a problem, but regardless of anything else, this man is very important." He represents the end of a horrible chapter, but the beginning of a good one, regardless of how late it started relative to the rest of the league.

How come the second-to-last team doesn't take any heat for that? All teams didn't allow blacks, for so many years. I don't think one team should be seen as better than any other for finally being normal.

It's like, "Oh man, terrible job by my neighbor for ceasing to murder people ONLY last year. I stopped MY murderous regime in '92! Jeez!"
 
And when I say "you can't win," I hope that didn't sound like what racist might say. There's just no "winning" when it comes to racism. But I just meant the team should be allowed to honor him without everyone saying, "Yeah, but yawkey was still a racist." It's like, yeah, we know, but we can't reverse time. All we can do is show in every way that we acknowlege what happened, that we are proud to have moved forward, and great job by the first guy that had to deal with the horrible racists, so we honor him for it.

Also, I was born in 1975. I have no idea what it was like then. Since every other team had integrated, the Fenway crowd was quite used black players on the field by 1959, but still, Pumpsie broke that very important barrier.
 
I didn't mean to make it seem like my guess as to why he isn't honored more was MY thinking- I was just guessing as to why it isn't more well represented in the Red Sox "culture." I think he's a reminder of an uncomfortable fact for Red Sox fans, which is naturally unfair to him, but it's the truth. I'm just betting that's why he's not brought up more, especially given Bostonians sensitivity regarding poor race relations in their city. For the record, I think it'd be nice to see him honored and at park events more as well.

About the number retiring thing- there are a ton of ways to honor a guy. Name a street after him, name a section of the park after him, statue, RS HoF induction, etc. Why does it have to be number retirement? That is strictly an on-field performance acknowledgement. I have the same argument with people that want to retire Pesky and Conigliaro and whoever else's number. It's just the wrong forum.

He should be honored, but not be number retirement. Robinson was an MLB mandated thing, which everyone but the Yankees ended up doing.
 
Yeah, I'd really like to see him honored at least in some significant and permanent way. I'm just sayin', though, if the Red Sox' deal is that to get one's number retired is, like, a REALLY special thing, then why wouldn't being the first black player in the suer-duper special category?

It also goes beyond on-field performance anyway. Joe Cronin got his retired because of his general sevice to the club, I think--was the manager for a long time, while he played. He only played 6 (full) seasons for the Sox, hit about .300 in that time, got more than 20 homers once. But he's in. Let's just say, I think it would fit into this franchise's way of doing things, to retire his number. But, mainly I'd just like to see him honored.

Have the Yanks not done it yet because they're waiting for Rivera to retire first, at which point they'll retire both? Or what?
 
Re: the Yanks- they were told Rivera could grandfather 42 in, which is fair. Mo was able to do it on the Angels as well. That said, I think they're the only team without the "42" prominently displayed somewhere. That's always gotten under my skin.

Re: number retiring- that's an honor specifically geared towards a certain thing. Pumpsie Green wasn't a very good player, but he deserves to be honored. I just don't get why everyone always wants to shoehorn their guy into this specific honor. Cronin was stretching the credulity of it, I'll admit, but continuing that stretch isn't in the spirit of the distinction.
 
Every city in the United States has poor race relations. Period. Just because a city is more diverse doesn't make it less racist. Or less segregated. In some places, it's more insidious. Some places, more in-your-face. But it's racism, nonetheless.

I hate that Boston is always used as a scape goat for the rest of the nation's same fucking problem. Yes, the Red Sox were the last franchise to introduce black players and that's shameful. But look what the Celtics did re: breaking barriers!

Hopefully, having a black governor will change things a little in Boston.

Sorry, this is a sensitive subject for me.
 
Witchy, I don't disagree, especially considering we live in a country that includes cities like Birmingham, Jackson, Houston, etc.

I do think Boston tends to stick out a bit, though, when compared against it's Northeastern major city counterparts. Maybe that's not fair- I never lived much in Boston.

I don't have the time to really read up on this as I sit here, but while Boston's race reputation is certainly overblown, I don't know that I'd dismiss it's tension there being a bit worse than it's NE counterparts out of hand. I just don't know.

It's an interesting topic though.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>.
Yes, the Red Sox were the last franchise to introduce black players and that's shameful. But look what the Celtics did re: breaking barriers!
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

This is a great point considering nearly everyone uses the Sox as an example when trying to prove this point, but ignores the Celtics.
 
I think, very dear and good Witchy, that Boston will always take the rap along with Birmingham because in both cities when schools were integrated, the former by law, the latter via busing, the footage of these horrible-looking, slovenly, hate-filled moms screaming these horrific epithets at the little children walking by them is just one of those moments that will always stick in people's minds.
It's sort of like the priests/pedophile thing; because the good folks of Boston were the first to blow the whistle, people think its mostly Boston priests who were the guilty ones. As if the problem arose from Boston drinking water!
Bummer.
 
I think, very dear and good Witchy, that Boston will always take the rap along with Birmingham because in both cities when schools were integrated, the former by law, the latter via busing, the footage of these horrible-looking, slovenly, hate-filled moms screaming these horrific epithets at the little children walking by them is just one of those moments that will always stick in people's minds.
It's sort of like the priests/pedophile thing; because the good folks of Boston were the first to blow the whistle, people think its mostly Boston priests who were the guilty ones. As if the problem arose from Boston drinking water!
Bummer.
 
Jerry Green's LAST MLB Club, played in The Polo Grounds in NYC, the '63 Mets, BTW:

All neighborhoods, in all cities, go through changes. Just look at Brooklyn in the last 40 Years;

BTW, JeresMom, the problem in the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, rested with BISHOPS, covering up the scandal, often for advancement purposes.
 
MichaelLeggett--
But not only the Bishops of Boston. Cardinal Egan of NYC transferred pedophile priests all over the place when he was the Archbishop of Bridgeport,CT.
They should all be in prison. Then there's Bishop Hastert, but I need a rest from politicians for the moment.
ps. I don't know why my comments keep popping up twice. Please fix,Jere.
 
Green did wear #12.

See here:
http://www.redsoxdiehard.com/players/unifnums.html
 
Hi Jere's Mom!

Busing will always be one of the most prominent tragedies of the city of Boston. Those images are still quite repulsive when I see the footage today. I remember that references to these events by some of the participants in the Democratic National Convention - suggesting that Boston hadn't changed their ways of thinking or attitudes since. It's the city's own fault for not doing more to overcome the past. Or highlighting some of the positive chapters in Boston's history - like the work of the abolitionists, for example.

I wonder, when people think of Chicago, do they think of the Chicago Race Fires of 1919?

When visiting the city of brotherly love, do folks think of the Philadelphia Race Riot of 1964? Or the recent Nothern Philadelphian quasi-famous cheese steak king who proudly displayed a sign denouncing non-English speaking customers - like, last year?

How about the Detroit Riot of 1967? I know that if and when I visit the motor city, this is not the first thing that will come to my mind.

Ah, well. Some day, we will find a way to reconcile our past.
 
Honestly, and one could definitely debate the fairness of it, but my impression on Boston's race reputation is less with what has happened in it's past, and more to do with how it's been perceived more recently and even right now. Those cities you mentioned don't have lingering race tension on the level Boston did/ does. The perception probably is that Boston's issues where that's concerned were a lot more long-lasting.

Among Northern cities, of course.
 
If it's a merely a perception thing, then shame on Boston for not doing anything to change this.

I did live in Philadelphia and I can tell you that race relations there aren't great, much to my disappointment. There's a lot of "white bonding." And segregation a' plenty. I can't speak for NYC. I haven't spent enough time there.

Like I said, I don't think that any city can be absolved of it. My point is that it's everywhere. And no one should be complacent about it.
 
I guess the difference is that when you hear about other cities' racist pasts, it's talked about in the past tense, whereas it's a lot more common for people to say, just from what I've heard, that Boston IS a racist city. Which is unfair, as it makes it seem like every other city has no problems with race whatsoever, but Boston still does--when, really, every city and town has them.
 
>>as it makes it seem like every other city has no problems with race whatsoever, but Boston still does--when, really, every city and town has them.<<

That is exactly where I was taking my point. The danger is that people in other cities begin to separate themselves from the problem. It makes it easier to ignore or tune out because racism is something that happens in other places. This is misleading and dangerous.
 
I think the perception is that it's much worse/ more prevalent in Boston.

Now, that's obviously debatable simply because it's non-quantifiable, but I don't know anyone that concerns themself with the issue enough to comment either way means to suggest it's a problem relegated to one area. It's pretty much ingrained in our culture on some level. However, I think people refer to Boston as being particularly bad, maybe a number of years of progress behind other major Northern cities.

I have no idea. My experience with Boston is limited, and so remarking definitively either way, for me, would be pointless. I have read a lot about it, however, and the idea that it's somewhat worse in Boston doesn't strike me as impossible. Your mileage may vary. I don't think this is an issue of anyone brushing the realities of it elsewhere, whatever the scales may be, under the proverbial rug.
 
>>However, I think people refer to Boston as being particularly bad, maybe a number of years of progress behind other major Northern cities.<<

Last Tuesday, Deval Patrick was the first African American governor to be elected in Massachusetts. By a pretty overwhelming number of votes. Record numbers at the polls. He is the 2nd elected African American governer in the country. I have no barometer for judging whether or not a particular city "feels" more racist because I am white. I can only point to facts. And the fact is, the citizens of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts chose a black man to lead them in a new direction. There were several white male gubernatory candidantes and none of them boasted the leads in the polls that Deval had all the way up to until November 7th. If that isn't progress, I'm not sure what is. This may not be big news in other cities, but for Boston, where the racial tensions have always been put under a microscope, this is really huge.

One the other side of this, the Charles Stuart murder case is still considered to be fairly recent history (1989). So, there is a long way to go.
 
Cardinal Egan's Past, Mary, includes his position in the Chancery of The Archdiocese of Chicago, where he attempted suits against those complaining about Sexually-Abberant Priests:

He was Msgr Egan at the time.
 
In the governor's race, what was the voting like in Boston specifically? Just curious. Actually, can you find out how white people in Boston voted?

Also, I find it really sad that the idea of judging someone on their skin color ever came to be, and moreso that people passed it on to future generations. It's really ridiculous.
 
In 1974, Ray Flynn was the South Boston state rep and vocally opposed to desegregating Boston public schools.
In 1988, Ray Flynn was the mayor of Boston and ordered the desegregation of the housing projects.

People change and the world changes, but a lot of the crap that's happened in Boston is too damn recent and done by or to people still around.

You know the photo of Ted Landsmark being attacked with a flagpole by a white guy on City Hall Plaza in 1976? 30 years later, Ted Landsmark's the president of the Boston Architectural Commission. The photographer is now a videographer for channel 7. The white guy was a minor and never amounted to much after he got out of jail for the assult.

There's also a lot of people (black and white) who start out poor in Boston, end up rich and stay somewhere else because there's no where in Boston where they fit in anymore. For example, take New Edition (especially Bobby Brown) and New Kids on the Block (especially Mark Wahlberg). They started out as thugs, got famous and earned money, and left because that was the only way to stay out of neighborhood crap.
 
From the Globe:
http://www.boston.com/news/special/politics/2006_elections/general_results/governor.html

Boston
Healey: 32,726
Mihos: 6,008
Patrick: 112,814
Ross: 3,098

Cnn.com has exit polls with race data, but doesn't break it down more narrowly than state, with some smaller categories at the end:
http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2006/pages/results/states/MA/G/00/epolls.0.html
 
You could possibly come up with a guestimate based on the following:

(from Wikidedia) According to the 2000 census, the racial makeup of the city of Boston was 54.47% White, 25.33% Black or African American, 0.40% Native American, 7.52% Asian American, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 7.83% from other races, and 4.39% from two or more races. 14.44% of the population was Hispanic or Latino of any race. Just recently, Boston became minority-majority, meaning that white people currently make up less than 50% of the population. But, Massacusetts on the whole is still a white majority.

Twitch, I guess my larger point was that racism is everywhere, not just in the city of Boston. I would consider the Rodney King riots to be pretty fresh in people's minds, too.

Boston's current mayor has publicly endorsed the City-Wide Diversity Dialogues, which have really helped people scratch the surface and actually talk about race. It's very positive and about time.
 
I agree on the racism is everywhere point, and didn't mean to argue against it in my post.
 
Oh, Twitch - thanks for providing the link! Very informative.

So, Patrick got the majority of all races and genders. The gap is predictically more narrow with white men (42/45) than with non-white men (13/78). White women were 35/57, while non white women were 21/78. Overall, men were 38/51 and women were 32/61.

One stat I find especially interesting is the less than 50K income vs greater than 50K income. There were only 2 percentage points separating the 2 brackets. Taxes and spending were not on people's minds as much as things like Iraq and corruption and a general fed up-ness with negative ad campaigning.

I love this kind of data.
 

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