The First Black Player in the Major Leagues

The first black player in the major leagues was not Jackie Robinson. The first was Moses Fleetwood Walker in 1884, playing catcher for Toledo. Here is a choice anecdote about Walker from $40 Million Dollar Slaves by William C. Rhoden:

“In Toledo, Walker worked with a pitcher named Tony Mullane, who conceded that he did not like blacks, but admitted that he respected Walker’s ability and said he was the best catcher he had ever worked with. But Mullane refused to take signals from Walker, lest he allow a black man to be in a leadership capacity. “Walker was the best catcher I ever worked with…but whenever I had to pitch to him I used to pitch anything I wanted without looking at his signals. One day he signaled for me a curve and I shot a fast ball at him. He caught it and walked down to me. He said, ‘I’ll catch you without signals, but I won’t catch you if you are going to cross me when I give you signals.’ And all the rest of that season he caught me and caught anything I pitched without knowing what was coming.” The fact that catchers didn’t wear gloves in his day made Walker’s task all the more remarkable.”

(p 80-1)



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