Shortly before my ninth birthday, my Grandpa Abe from Winthrop took me to Fenway Park. It was exactly 60 years ago this week, when Pumpsie Green, Boston’s first African-American player, had his first at bat at Fenway Park against the Kansas City Athletics. I watched him hit a triple off the Green Monster.
I distinctly remembered the crowd going wild with a standing ovation, and watched as Pumpsie tipped his hat in appreciation of the applause – something that the iconic Ted Williams declined to do.
I asked my grandpa to take me behind the dugout for an autograph from Pumpsie after the game, but a politician blocked the way with his entourage. That was Massachusetts Senator John F. Kennedy. Since I was from Philadelphia, I didn’t know who Kennedy was.
Anyway, I was a Phillies fan.
But during my summers in Winthrop I was a Red Sox fan, and I never forgot how proud Red Sox fans were of Pumpsie Green, and how radio announcer Curt Gowdy would always point out the ovations that Pumpsie Green would receive every time he stepped up to the plate at Fenway.
And this was before the glitter of the civil rights movement.
As a nine-year-old who played Little League ball three times a week, Pumpsie Green became a hero for life. I put his baseball card under my pillow.
Pumpsie died last week at age 85. Maybe he now tips his cap from above?