Siberian Baseball

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Dan Bankhead exposes a blind spot in my trivia knowledge

Last night featured live trivia at one of the local bars and I headed out to embarrass myself in public lend a hand with my impressive pool of general knowledge.

You can imagine my shame as someone who runs a baseball blog and likes to center on the game's history froze up on a basic baseball question: Who was the first black pitcher in Major League Baseball? The answer, as we all know now is Dan Bankhead of the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Our team went with Satchel Paige, which we knew was wrong, but no one could make a stronger case for anyone else. For the record, I voted for Don Newcombe, but had that confused as he was half of the first black pitcher/black batter combo to meet in the World Series.

For the record, here are some of the famous firsts in case the trivia master decides to get cute and ask some follow-ups next time (full list available here).

Jackie Robinson was obviously the first for a lot of things. He was the first black man to sign a contract in 1945, first minor leaguer in 1946 and obviously the first man to play pro ball in 1947.

Additionally, he was the first black man to make it to the World Series (with Bankhead) in 1947 and the first player to win the MVP award in 1949. Ernie Banks was the first black player to win back to back MVPs in 1958 and 1959.

Larry Doby has his name all over the books for following close behind Robinson and locking up some famous firsts in the American League. He was also the first player to hit a home run in the World Series for the Indians in 1948.

As for the pitchers, Bankhead was the first pitcher and the first black player to hit a home run in his first at-bat in the majors. Paige was the first pitcher in the American League and the first black pitcher in a World Series, where he pitched in relief, both in 1948.

In 1949, Newcombe won the Rookie of the Year award and he won the innaugural Cy Young Award in 1956.

Finally, Buck O'Neil was the first black coach in 1962, Frank Robinson was the first manager in 1975 (excluding the statistical burp for Banks that was mentioned here last week), Bill Lucas was the first GM in 1977 for Atlanta and Cito Gaston was the first to win a World Series in 1992 with the Blue Jays.

A full listing of the first black player for each team can be found here.

So, there you go - you can leave me a thank you in the comments section when you win a free t-shirt from Miller Lite in your trivia league next week.

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