• Kurtis Tatkenhorst

July 21- Pumpsie Green makes his Boston Red Sox Debut

1959- On this day in Sports History, Elijah “Pumpsie” Green became the first African-American to play in a game for the Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox was the only franchise that had yet to integrate their Major League Team until Green entered the game for them on this day in 1959.

It was twelve years earlier in 1947 when Jackie Robinson became the first African-American baseball player to play in the Major Leagues for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Later that year, Larry Doby of the Cleveland Indians became the second. By 1955, over 75 percent of the 16 teams in the MLB would have had a African-American play in their uniform. Finally, in 1959, Green would take the field in a Red Sox uniform as the last team in the MLB would finally be integrated.

The Boston Red Sox under owner Tom Yawkey had a very poor history when it came to race. Yawkey and other Red Sox personnel made it clear that they had no interest in having an African-American play for them. They had opportunities to sign Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays but chose not to. It took an investigation into the Red Sox hiring practices by a governmental agency called the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) to find out that the Red Sox did not employ a single African-American in their organization. They did not have a player, groundskeeper, accountant, or janitor that was an African-American employed in their organization.


After a lot of pressuring from the public and media, the Red Sox called up Pumpsie Green. On July 21,1959, Green entered the game against the Chicago White Sox in the 8th inning as a pinch runner and played shortstop. Pumpsie Green officially became the first African-American to play for the Red Sox and the last team in the MLB has officially been integrated. A few days later, Earl Wilson was called up to the Red Sox to join Green as the second African-American on the team. Pumpsie Green played just four seasons for the Boston Red Sox. He was traded to the New York Mets where he lasted one more season before he retired.

AP Photo/Charles Krupa

In 2018, the street outside Fenway Park that was called “Yawkey Way” after their previous owner was renamed. Today, the Red Sox organization continues to try to do what they can to eliminate the racist history that was once a part of their organization. While this day in 1959 can be celebrated in that Pumpsie Green became the first African American to play for the Red Sox, it can also serve as a disappointing reminder that the Red Sox were the last team to integrate and it came twelve years after Jackie Robinson made his debut.


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Sources:

Bryant, Howard. “'No Honor in Red Sox Anniversary” ESPN, 21 July 2009,

Golen, Jimmy. “'Pumpsie' Green, First African American Player for Red Sox, Dies at 85.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 18 July 2019,

Hunter, Kevin. “Who Was the Last Team to Integrate?” Through The Fence Baseball, 26 Apr. 2018

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