Elijah ‘Pumpsie’ Green, 1st Black Player for the Red Sox, Dies at 85
Elijah “Pumpsie” Green, the first black player for the Boston Red Sox, has died. The switch-hitting infielder was 85.
The team confirmed to the New York Post that Green passed away on Wednesday, July 17 at a hospital in San Leandro, near Oakland, California. No cause of death has been revealed yet.
The Boston Red Sox observed a moment of silence for Green before their game against the Toronto Blue Jays. “Pumpsie Green occupies a special place in our history,” team owner John Henry said in a statement.
“[Green] 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.”
The Red Sox fielded Green for the first time on July 21, 1959, becoming the last team in Major League Baseball to field a black player 12 years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Nine games later, Green finally took the field at Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox. In an interview with the team last year, Green recalled feeling apprehensive even though he got a standing ovation and eventually hit a triple in his first at-bat.
Still To Come: Green’s entry into the Red Sox came at a time the team had a reputation for refusing to call up black players
“I’ll never forget because there was more pressure on me that night than I don’t know what,” he said. “I couldn’t relax, I was nervous …I didn’t want to disappoint.”
Green went on to play more than 300 games over four seasons with the Red Sox before he was traded to the New York Mets in 1962 where he retired after one year.
Despite spending most of his career with the Boston Red Sox, Green never got to feel at ease.
“I never did get comfortable,” he said. “The time I was there, I was never comfortable because to me, it was almost like opening night every game. That’s the way it was to me.”
Green’s entry into the Red Sox came at a time the team had a reputation for refusing to call up black players even though Robinson had shattered the color barrier in baseball more than a decade earlier.
Green was brought on board only after a Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination inquiry found evidence of racial bias within the management at the time, per PEOPLE.
Last year, in recognition of longtime owner Thomas A. Yawkey’s infamous contributions to that inhumane legacy, the team removed his name from a street outside the ballpark, The Post reported. Green was also inducted into the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame the same year.
After retirement, the switch-hitter returned to northern California where he obtained a degree in physical education and coached a high school baseball team.
Green is survived by his wife of 62 years, Marie, daughter Heidi, two granddaughters, four great-grandsons, and a host of other relatives.
Rest in Peace Pumpsie!