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Jackie Robinson 50th Anniversary Commemorative: Breaking

A look at how the racial barrier was erected, then eventually torn down, in professional baseball:

March 31, 1997

"Jackie Robinson opened the door of baseball to all men. He was the first to get the opportunity, but if he had not done such a great job, the path would have been so much more difficult."

--Former New York Giant Monte Irvin, after Robinson's death in 1972.


Many African Americans followed Robinson to the major leagues, not immediately and not without controversy. Some important dates after April 15, 1947:

July 5, 1947--Larry Doby becomes the first black player in the American League when he plays for the Cleveland Indians.

Aug. 26, 1947--Dan Bankhead of the Dodgers becomes the first black pitcher in the modern major leagues. He pitches against Pittsburgh.

July 1, 1948--Catcher Roy Campanella breaks in with the Dodgers. Pitcher Hugh Casey refuses to throw the pitches called for by Campanella.

July 7, 1948--Satchel Paige, at least 42, is signed by the Indians' Bill Veeck. Paige is the oldest rookie in major league history.

July 14, 1948--The Sporting News criticizes Veeck for signing Paige. "To sign a hurler at Paige's age is to demean the standards of baseball. Were Paige white, he would not have drawn a second thought from Veeck." Veeck responds: "If Satch were white, he would have been in the majors 25 years ago."

Oct. 10, 1948--Paige becomes the first African American to pitch in the World Series, giving up no hits in two-thirds of an inning for Cleveland against Boston.

July 12, 1949--Jackie Robinson, Don Newcombe and Campanella of the Dodgers and Doby of the Indians become the first blacks to appear in the All-Star game.

Nov. 21, 1949--The Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees pass on the services of Willie Mays. Bill McCorry, the team's traveling secretary, tells the Yankees: "I got no use for any of them. I wouldn't arrange a berth on a train for any of them."

Aug. 6, 1952--Paige, 46, now with the St. Louis Browns, becomes the oldest player to pitch a complete game when he defeats the Tigers, 1-0, in 12 innings. After the game, Paige says: "Man, I'm a hundred years old and I can still strike these guys out."

Dec. 2, 1953--Vic Power, the most talented black player in the Yankee farm system, is traded to the Athletics. Power says: "They were waiting to see if I could turn white, but I couldn't do it."

April 15, 1955--The Yankees finally cross the color line as catcher Elston Howard makes his debut.

June 6, 1958--Ozzie Virgil breaks in with the Tigers, leaving the Red Sox the only team with no black players.

July 21, 1959--The Red Sox get their first black player, shortstop Pumpsie Green, 12 years after Robinson's first appearance.

Oct. 17, 1960--The Negro American League, the last of the major black circuits, disbands.

Feb. 20, 1961--Emmett Ashford becomes the first black umpire in the majors.

April 8, 1975--Frank Robinson of the Cleveland Indians becomes the majors' first black manager.



For the first time in history, an African American will be pictured on a gold commemorative coin issued by the U.S. Mint. In July, the mint will issue 100,000 gold coins and 200,000 silver coins bearing Jackie Robinson's likeness. Proceeds from the sale of coins will go toward the Jackie Robinson Foundation.

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