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Sunday, April 14, 2013

P John Wright: Second Black Player Signed After Jackie Robinson Never Made His Mark

Baseball America has the story of the second player the Dodgers signed from the Negro Leagues:

Within weeks of Robinson becoming the first African-American player in modern baseball history to sign in Organized Baseball in the fall of 1945, lanky New Orleans native John Wright became the second. A righthander with a solid array of pitches who had a decade of success in the Negro Leagues, Wright also signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers, with both Robinson and Wright set to report to Dodgers spring training in Florida for the 1946 season.

...Aside from the obvious question of what happened to Wright, in the intervening years historians have also debated why exactly the Dodgers signed him. Did the trailblazing organization view him as a legitimate prospect, or was Wright simply viewed as a companion for Robinson, who was clearly Rickey’s chosen one to make history?

puck Posted: April 14, 2013 at 01:25 PM | 18 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: dodgers, history, jackie robinson

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   1. Jarrod HypnerotomachiaPoliphili (TeddyF.Ballgame) Posted: April 14, 2013 at 10:06 PM (#4414191)
OK, show of hands. Who here had ever heard of John Wright before this article? I hadn't.
   2. BDC Posted: April 14, 2013 at 10:22 PM (#4414197)
I'll admit I hadn't, though I'd read Arnold Rampersad's biography of Robinson pretty thoroughly (and "taught" it once). I'll have to check it again.
   3. The Anthony Kennedy of BBTF (Scott) Posted: April 14, 2013 at 10:39 PM (#4414210)
Nor I.
   4. Publius Publicola Posted: April 14, 2013 at 10:44 PM (#4414212)
Me neither.
   5. greenback is not cosmopolitan Posted: April 14, 2013 at 10:53 PM (#4414217)
He's come up here a couple of times, and I thought his name had been mentioned in one of the earlier 42 threads. But Google isn't pulling anything (aside from this) over the last year.
   6. crict Posted: April 14, 2013 at 10:58 PM (#4414219)
Ok, even tougher. Who was the third signed?
   7. crict Posted: April 14, 2013 at 11:29 PM (#4414228)
Edit of the previous post: After checking, the guy I was thinking about was not the third signed. But, in 1946, he was the only black player in Organized baseball not in the Dodgers organization.
   8. jdennis Posted: April 15, 2013 at 12:21 AM (#4414244)
i looked up the black players of the late 40s and early 50s recently on bbref

there's this stereotype that except in hockey and other extremely white sports, the first black players were always all stars. i guess this is true to a degree for obvious reasons. but there were tons of guys shortly after robinson who were in there for like 6 games or something. i'm exaggerating, but they did not have sustained careers. it's depressing in a way because it makes them look like a gimmick when they obviously weren't.
   9. Howie Menckel Posted: April 15, 2013 at 07:14 AM (#4414286)
wasn't he the FIRST black player signed after Jackie Robinson?

   10. Mark Armour Posted: April 15, 2013 at 11:38 AM (#4414460)
Most of the early post-Jackie black players were stars. Some of the stars did not stay in the majors long, at least partly because they could not withstand the abuse. Of the first 10, six are in the Hall of Fame--three for their work in the majors, two for their work pre-majors (Paige, Willard Brown), and one for a bit of both (Irvin). The other four include Minoso (who I believe should be in the Hall) and Newcombe, both of whom were stars. That leaves Thompson, an excellent player though it took a few years, and Bankhead, who did not make it. It was a pretty tough minefield, but this is a good crop.
   11. Der-K: downgraded to lurker Posted: April 15, 2013 at 11:47 AM (#4414464)
There's a book on these guys that I've wanted to buy but can't remember the title of - focus is on older NL rookies from the first few post-integration years (like Sam Jethroe) - does anyone know it?
   12. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: April 15, 2013 at 11:48 AM (#4414466)
OK, show of hands. Who here had ever heard of John Wright before this article? I hadn't.


"John Wright" no, though I had vaguely heard that Dodgers had signed SOMEONE to be Jackie's roomie so to speak.
   13. puck Posted: April 15, 2013 at 11:50 AM (#4414468)
wasn't he the FIRST black player signed after Jackie Robinson?

Yes, this is correct.

I blew it. I was trying to figure out how to summarize the article (the article's actual title is kind of long and not as descriptive) and conflated the two lines I was thinking of.

The article also was not written by P. John Wright.
   14. esseff Posted: April 15, 2013 at 12:06 PM (#4414473)
The quick synopsis on John Wright from Jules Tygiel in "Baseball's Great Experiment:"

Unclear where he fit in Rickey's scheme. Said to have been signed as a companion for Robinson, yet several major-leaguers who had faced him in exhibitions predicted success. Bottom line quotes -- Don Newcombe: "He didn't have a major league fastball." Robinson: "John couldn't stand the pressure of going into the new league [IL presumbably] and being one of the first."

He apparently pitched well in one early mop-up appearance for Montreal before being demoted, at which point another African American pitcher, Roy Partlow, was signed as a replacement.

As an aside, I'm saddened that Jules isn't here to give us his take on "42." It's been a quick five years since his passing.
   15. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: April 15, 2013 at 12:14 PM (#4414479)
There's a book on these guys that I've wanted to buy but can't remember the title of - focus is on older NL rookies from the first few post-integration years (like Sam Jethroe) - does anyone know it?

You may be thinking of Crossing The Line by Larry Moffi and Jonathan Kronstadt. It's got short biographical sketches of the first 100+ African American Major Leaguers who made their debuts from 1947 through 1959.
   16. Der-K: downgraded to lurker Posted: April 15, 2013 at 12:52 PM (#4414514)
That's not it (I read the one I'm thinking of 15-20 years ago), but I may pick that one up; thanks!
   17. There are a lot of good people in alt-Shooty Posted: April 15, 2013 at 01:00 PM (#4414526)
OK, show of hands. Who here had ever heard of John Wright before this article? I hadn't.

I had! I mentioned he'd be an interesting subject for a movie in the 42 review thread.
   18. Steve Treder Posted: April 15, 2013 at 01:02 PM (#4414530)
As an aside, I'm saddened that Jules isn't here to give us his take on "42." It's been a quick five years since his passing.

Very true. He was, and I mean this entirely literally, a scholar and a gentleman.

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