Jackie Robinson tryout
There are barriers such as the four-minute mile that Roger Bannister shattered or the sound barrier surpassed by the incomparable Chuck Yeager. Likewise, baseball has barriers and the most noted one was not statistical but racial. Blacks in the modern era were excluded from playing major league baseball and Boston was an unfortunate party to the exclusion.
The Red Sox were the last franchise to integrate with the arrival of Pumpsie Green for an unremarkable five-year MLB career. But Boston had opportunity wrapped up in a public relations sham. Jackie Robinson could have broken that barrier in Boston.
Media pressure finally had the Red Sox acquiesce and stage a tryout for Robinson and two Negro League stars – Sam Jethroe and Marvin Williams. The players went through their motions and platitudes were distributed by the attending Red Sox scouts and management, but no contracts were offered. The players knew this. Fully aware of the ingrained attitude of certain Red Sox decision-makers, but that is covered here – a very worthy library addition.
How history could have been altered if the Red Sox at least offered a minor league contract to Robinson and the others. Robinson’s history is well-known, but Jethro also had a Boston history that extended beyond a faux tryout.
Jethroe became a 33-year-old rookie outfielder for the Boston Braves and tacked on the American League Rookie of the Year Award to his baseball biography page. I was fortunate enough to see Jethroe play in the first major league game I ever attended at Braves Field.
For Williams, the outcome was far different as Williams never surfaced in the majors. Williams did enjoy an extensive and nomadic career in the minors, Negro Leagues, winter ball, and various other destinations before finishing his career in 1961.