We all know to celebrate the anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s major league debut, but there were 15 other teams that existed during baseball’s segregated days which later came to see the light.
Eventually anyway. The Red Sox were the last, fielding their first black player on this day in 1959. His name was Pumpsie Green. Still is, actually, as he’s still alive and — if Wikipedia is to be believed — living in El Cerrito, California.
Green was a pinch runner on July 21, 1959 but eventually played five seasons in the majors, hitting .246 with 13 homers and 74 RBI. He and a teammate once abandoned the Red Sox during a trip to New York and weren’t seen for three days, when they were spotted trying to board a plane for Israel without passports. That’s also from the Wikipedia page, so you know, I’m going to assume it’s true. And kinda neat in a Lost Weekend sort of way.
Why did it take so long for the Red Sox to get Green — or any other black player — on the field? To use the words of Red Sox President Larry Lucchino, who spoke to NPR on the matter back in 2002, it had everything to do with the Red Sox’ “undeniable legacy of racial intolerance.” That intolerance led them to cut short a tryout of Jackie Robinson in 1945 and to pass on Willie Mays a few years later. So many missed opportunities for Boston.
But just because they were slow to join the modern world doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t recognize Pumpsie Green. I’m not saying every Red Sox player should wear number 12 for the day or anything, but three cheers for Pumpsie are in order, right?
Last night Robinson Cano hit a solo homer in the ninth inning of the Mariners’ loss to the Texas Rangers. It was his 22nd on the season. Though it was insignificant to the outcome of that game, it was significant to Cano: it was his 300th career homer.
While we’ve become accustomed to not caring much about home run milestones south of, say, 500, 300 homers for Cano is a big deal, as he’s only the third second baseman to cross that threshold in baseball history. The other two: Jeff Kent, at 377, and Rogers Hornsby at 301.
Cano, who turns 35 next month, has a career line of .305/.354/.495 and 1,179 RBI, 512 doubles and 33 triples to go with those bombs. He’s in his 13th big league season and still has six more years left on his deal with the Mariners. He’s averaged 24 homers a year since coming to the Mariners. While he’ll obviously trail off at some point — and while great second baseman’s have this weird habit of just suddenly falling off a cliff — it’s highly likely that he’ll finish his career as the all-time home run leader among second baseman. If he remains healthy he should also get over 3,000 hits in his career.
Cooperstown, here he comes.
Mark Sheldon of MLB.com reports that the Reds have signed catcher Tucker Barnhart to a four-year contract extension. The terms: $16 million total, with a $7.5 million club option for the 2022 season that has a $500,000 buyout. He also received a $1.75 million signing bonus.
The deal buys out all three of his arbitration years — he was going to be eligible for the first time this offseason — and the first year of his potential free agency. The club option buys a second. Barnhart made $575,000 this season.
Barnhart, 26, is finishing his second season as the Reds primary catcher. This year he’s hitting .272/.349/.399 with six homers and 42 RBI in 113 games. For his career he has a line of .257/.328/.366 in 330 major league games. His real value is defensive, however. He leads the National League in caught stealing percentage and number of base stealers caught (31-for-70, 44%) and leads all players at any position in the league in defensive WAR according to Baseball-Reference.com.