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Sam Jethroe

Sam Jethroe

There always has to be a first. For the Boston Braves (now known as the Atlanta Braves), integration of the team came in 1950. Sam Jethroe was a speedy center fielder. He was the team’s first African American player.

He was a great offensive player. He homered in his first game. And fast he was. He led the National League in stolen bases. To his credit, he was named Rookie of the Year.

Nicknamed “The Jet” for his stunning speed, Jethroe was born in East St. Louis, Illinois. Until late in his life he was believed to have born in 1922, but more recent sources have given the year as 1917 or 1918.

A switch-hitter who threw right-handed, he played semipro ball in the St. Louis area after high school, and briefly appeared as a catcher for the Indianapolis ABCs in 1938.

It is reported that the Braves paid the Dodgers $100,000 for his contract. Manager Billy Southworth put him in as the Center Fielder during Spring Training. What a great move that was.

He played his first exhibition game in St. Petersburg against the St. Louis Cardinals. It was the first time that an African American played at Al Lang Field.  He played despite a law prohibiting integrated play.

The New York World Telegram’s headline was “Social Revolution hits St. Pete”.

The Braves would finish Fourth in 1950 with a 83-71 record.