The baseball community, and also the Richmond community, are paying tribute to Pumpsie Green, who died Wednesday at Kaiser San Leandro at the age of 85.
Elijah Jerry Green was the first African-American player to play for the Boston Red Sox. He was born in 1933 in Boley, OK, before moving to Richmond with his family. He attended El Cerrito High and Contra Costa College, where he met his wife, Marie Presley, according to a statement by the Red Sox.
“Pumpsie Green occupies a special place in our history,” Red Sox principal owner John Henry said in the statement. “He was, by his own admission, a reluctant pioneer, but we will always remember him for his grace and perseverance in becoming our first African-American player. He paved the way for the many great Sox players of color who followed. For that, we all owe Pumpsie a debt of gratitude.”
At age 19, Green signed with the Oakland Oaks in the Pacific Coast League (before Major League Baseball had expanded to the West Coast). After earning MVP honors in the California League at shortstop, his contract was purchased by the Red Sox. In 1958, he made the team’s roster. His major league debut came the following season. The Red Sox said he “broke Boston’s color barrier” when he pinch-ran for Vic Wertz at first base in the eighth inning of a game against the White Sox at Comiskey Park on July 21, 1951. He stayed in the game at shortstop.
His first at bat at Fenway Park was an RBI triple. He played in 327 games as switch-hitting middle infielder with the Red Sox until 1962, then played a season with the New York Mets in 1963.
After his career ended in 1965, he earned a degree in physical education from San Francisco State University, worked for the Berkeley Unified School District and coached baseball for 25 years before retiring in 1997, according to the Red Sox.
He is survived by his wife of 62 years, Marie, his daughter, Heidi, three brothers, two granddaughters, four great grandsons and several nieces and nephews. His son, Jerry, passed away in February last year. A funeral is planned for Aug. 2 at Beebe Memorial Cathedral in Oakland.