Thursday, April 18, 2013

April 18, 1950: Sam Jethroe becomes the first African American to play for the Braves

On April 18, 1950, 33 year old outfielder Sam Jethroe became the first African American to play for the Braves organization. Jethroe led a remarkable career in the Negro Leagues before he was signed by Branch Rickey in 1948. After excelling at the minor league level Sam was dealt to the Boston Braves where he got his shot to play and he would make the most of it. In his first game he collected two hits with one of them being a homer. He would go onto bat .273 with 18 home runs and a National League leading 35 stolen bases. Jethroe's performance in the 1950 season would earn him rookie of the year honors and to this day he is the oldest player to win the award. He would put up almost identical numbers in his second year but couldn't repeat the success in the '52 season. Jethroe hit just .232 on the year with 13 homers, one of those homers would be the last grand slam in Boston Braves history as the team shifted to Milwaukee in 1953. Sam was just the sixth African American to get a shot to play in Major League Baseball. While his name is not as well known as Jackie Robinson, he faced many of the same battles that Jackie did, and even though he had just three productive years at the big league level Sam Jethroe was instrumental with helping the wheels of progress move forward.

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