Black History Month

Monday, February 25
Integration milestones in pro sports

The Associated Press

The first blacks in major pro sports:

Baseball: Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball's color barrier 55 years ago, but he wasn't the first black to play in the majors. In 1884, the Toledo Blue Stockings of the American Association, then a major league, had two black
Jackie Robinson won the NL MVP in 1949.
players -- catcher Moses Fleetwood Walker and his brother, Welday, an outfielder. Although Welday appeared in just five games, Moses shared catching duties, playing in 42 games and batting .263. Both players were gone the next year and no black appeared in organized baseball again until 1946, when Robinson signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers and played for their Montreal farm team. A year later, he moved into the majors with the Dodgers.

Football: Charles Follis played in 1904 for a pro team known as the Shelby Blues and Fritz Pollard played in 1920 for the Akron Pros. In the modern era, well-known pro teams didn't have black players until 1946. Kenny Washington and Woody Strode played for the Los Angeles Rams that year, and Marion Motley and Bill Willis played for the Cleveland Browns.

Basketball: The first black player drafted by an NBA team was Chuck Cooper, picked in the second round of the 1950 draft by the Boston Celtics. In the eighth round of the draft, Washington chose Earl Lloyd of West Virginia State. At about the same time, the New York Knicks signed Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton from the Harlem Globetrotters. Lloyd made his debut on Oct. 31, 1950, becoming the first black to play in an NBA game. Cooper made his debut a day later. Clifton, the first to sign a contract, played his first game on Nov. 4, 1950.

Hockey: Willie O'Ree broke hockey's color line in January 1958 with the Boston Bruins. He played two games that season and was scoreless. In 1960-61, he played 43 games for the Bruins, scored four goals and 10 assists. His first NHL goal came on Jan. 1, 1961, the game-winner in a 3-2 victory over Montreal. It wasn't until about 15 years after O'Ree joined the Bruins that the second black, Mike Marson, entered the league, with Washington.

Arthur Ashe won the 1968 U.S. Open as an amateur.
Tennis: Althea Gibson was the first black to compete in the U.S. championships, in 1950, and at Wimbledon, in 1951. However, it wasn't until several years later that she began to win major tournaments, including two U.S. championships, the French Open, and three doubles titles at Wimbledon. Arthur Ashe, perhaps the most well-known black in the sport for his great play and civil rights work, became the first black man to win Wimbledon in 1975.

Golf: John Shippen played in the second U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills in 1896 and was in the Open six times, ending in 1913. No black played in the Open again until Ted Rhodes in 1948. Although the USGA did not bar blacks, it had difficulty finding courses for qualifying tournaments that allowed blacks. The Professional Golf Association lifted its "Caucasian clause" in 1961 and Charlie Sifford was the first black to receive tour playing privileges.

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