In celebration of the first week of Black History Month, I thought I’d start on one of baseball’s little known facts. As we all know, Jackie Robinson was the first African-American to play in the modern era with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.
But does anyone know the first African-American pitcher to play in the majors?
Most believe it was Satchel Paige of the Cleveland Indians. A good guess as the legendary Negro League player made his major league debut on July 9, 1948. Later that year, Paige did become the first African-American to pitch in the World Series.
The honor of being the first African-American to pitch in the majors goes to Dan Bankhead of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Bankhead made his major league debut on Aug. 26, 1947, less than two months after Larry Doby became the second African-American to play and the first in the American League with the Indians, and four months after Robinson. Bankhead even homered in his first major league at bat.
Bankhead played for five years and compiled an overall record of 9-6 with a 6.52 earned run average and had 111 strikeouts. He was the first African-American pitcher to play in the World Series in October 1947, but not as a pitcher. Bankhead went into the game as a pinch runner against the New York Yankees. His last major league appearance was on July 18, 1951. Bankhead died on May 2, 1976 from Cancer at age 55.