Elijah "Pumpsie" Green was the first black player on the Boston Red Sox, the last Major League Baseball team to integrate.
Green made his major league debut in 1959, some 12 years after Jackie Robinson played his first game with the Brooklyn Dodgers. It happened after the Red Sox were forced to integrate by a government agency, and after Green endured a humiliating spring training period.
Ted Williams, who stood head and shoulders above everyone else in star power, went out of his way to take Pumpsie under his wing and invited the youngster to work-out with him. But because of racism in the area, Green lived an isolated existence, having to travel to stay in Phoenix each night, some 17 miles from Scottsdale.
Green was considered the top rookie in camp, but he was a middle infielder. Pete Runnels was their secondbaseman. And even though the Sox had the much maligned Don Buddin, who led all shortstops with 31 errors, manager Mike Higgins made no secret that he hated blacks and openly told writers that none would play for him as long as he was the manager.
Green did have a great camp, batting .327 with four home runs and was good enough to head north with the team. But when the Sox played their final exhibition game on April 7th, Higgins cut him and sent him back to Minneapolis. The move outraged members of Boston's black community.
The Sox finally brought up Pumpsie Green, who was hitting .325 in Minneapolis, and named to the American Association All Star team for the second straight year, on July 21st.
Pumpsie's first game at Fenway Park came on August 4th. He had two hits in six times at bat, but his average declined after that, as the pressure began to affect him. He lacked the confidence needed to play full time and was relegated to a utility role for the rest of the season. He got into 50 games, batted .233 with a .350 OBP, and one home run. Green played shortstop and second baseman for the Red Sox, but said later that he never did get comfortable, never.
In 1962, Green was traded to the Mets, where he played 17 games before retiring as a player from professional baseball. He returned to California, where he grew up, and worked as a high school baseball coach.
Pumpsie died on July 17, 2019 at the age of 85 in a hospital in San Leandro, CA. No cause of death was immediately available.