THE FIRST BLACK PLAYER IN THE MAJOR LEAGUES WASN’T JACKIE ROBINSON
Jackie Robinson gets most of the credit for breaking the color line in the major leagues. He’s in all the history books and a blockbuster movie about his life chronicled the baseball legend’s integration into major league baseball. There’s just one problem: Jackie Robinson wasn’t the first black player in the major leagues.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Moses Fleetwood Walker played in the majors 63 years before Jackie Robinson.
Mark Palmer says he’s heard stories about his great-grand uncle, but other kids never believed him when he spoke of Walker.
“Jackie Robinson was the first,” they would tell him. “Everyone knows that.”
Saddest of all is that people forgot what Walker contributed to the majors.
“Segregation in baseball actually started when he started,” Palmer says. “That’s sort of a period of history that baseball wanted to forget.”
Walker only played for one season before he was dropped due to an injury. Keep in mind that back in those days, players didn’t wear gloves. But even though he wasn’t in the league long, he suffered many of the same humiliations that you’d expect:
Moses Walker batted .263 in 42 games during his one major league season, a year that wore on him emotionally and physically. He slept on park benches when he was denied entrance to some hotels in the South. Toward the end of the season, the team received a letter threatening Walker’s life. It said a mob of 75 men was waiting for him if he played a game in Richmond, Va.
Walker played for a few years in the minor leagues before leaving baseball altogether, say researchers.
Technically though, the first black to ever play in the majors was a former slave named William Edward White. He filled in for only one game.