Pumpsie Green, First Black Player for Boston Red Sox, Dies at 85


Elijah Jerry Green Jr. — nicknamed Pumpsie by his mother, Gladys, as a child though he was never sure why — was born on Oct. 27, 1933, in Boley, Okla. At the outset of World War II, his family moved to Richmond, Calif., in the Bay Area, and his father and mother found jobs in defense work.

He played shortstop at Contra Costa College in San Pablo, Calif. and joined the Red Sox’ farm chain in 1956.

Green was a man apart at spring training with the Red Sox in Scottsdale, Ariz., in 1959. The team’s hotel barred black guests, so the Red Sox found lodging for him at a hotel in nearby Phoenix, and he was driven to and from workouts by a team employee.

After his four years with the Red Sox, Green played in 17 games for the Mets in 1963. Appearing in 344 games, he had a career batting average of .246.

He later coached and taught in the Berkeley, Calif., high school system.

Green lived in El Cerrito, Calif. His survivors include his wife, Marie; a daughter, Keisha Green; three brothers: Cornell, a former Pro Bowl defensive back with the Dallas Cowboys; Credell, and Eddie Joe; two granddaughters; and four great-grandchildren.

Green returned to Fenway Park in April 2009 for a part of baseball’s annual ceremonies to commemorate Jackie Robinson’s breaking of the color barrier. Fifty years after he made his Red Sox debut, he heard the cheers once more, this time when he threw out the ceremonial first pitch, to David Ortiz.

Reflecting on the America of the 1950s, Green expressed no lingering bitterness toward the Red Sox for their long reluctance to have a black player.

“When I was with the Red Sox, what was fair?” he told The New York Times in 1988. “I didn’t have to leave California and go to Boston to be discriminated against.”

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