In the spirit of Black History Month Sports Q&A will be recognizing some forgotten/uknown African American pioneers in the sportsworld, many who achieved firsts and feats that sports fans are unaware of. First up: Dan Bankhead of the Brooklyn Dodgers, the first African American Major League pitcher.
While many Major League Baseball fans rightly acknowledge Jackie Robinson for being the first African American to play in the major leagues, he wasnt the only one blazing paths wearing Dodger blue. He was also joined by Roy Campenella, who became the first black catcher in 1948, but few know about Dan Bankhead who was the first black player to toe the mound in the majors. Originally from Empire Alabama, Bankhead was a star for the Memphis Red Sox of the Negro League prior to having his contract purchased by Branch Rickey and the Dodgers. What made his August 26, 1947 debute most impressive was that Bankhead hit a home run in his first at-bat in Ebbets field against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Unfortunately he wasnt able to have the same success as his pioneering brother Robinson, and after struggling in a couple of pitching appearances, was shipped to the minors for the 1948 and 1949 seasons.
He eventually returned to the Dodgers for the 1950 season, appearing in 41 games, with twelve starts, and finished with nine wins, four losses and a 5.50 erned run average. In 1951, his final year in the majors, he appeared in seven games, losing his only decision, with an ERA of 15.43.
He later died of cancer on May 2 1976 in a Veterens Administration hospital in Houston, Texas.