Elijah "Pumpsie" Green, the first African-American player in Red Sox history, died on Wednesday at age 85. The Red Sox held a moment of silence prior to Wednesday's game against the Blue Jays at Fenway Park.
Green pinch-ran in his Major League debut for Boston on July 21, 1959. Although he could switch-hit and was considered a promising prospect, Green was unable to secure regular playing time with Boston, but he did land the legendary Ted Williams as his throwing partner. Williams, who retired in 1960, made a point of warming up with Green prior to games to help him feel like part of the team.
"We salute the courage Pumpsie Green demonstrated 60 years ago when he became our first player of color," Red Sox chairman Tom Werner said. "Despite the challenges he faced, he showed great resilience and took pride in wearing our uniform. He honored us by his presence. We send our deepest condolences to Pumpsie’s family and friends."
A shortstop and second baseman, Green remained with the Red Sox until his trade to the Mets following the 1962 campaign. Green played just 17 games for New York in '63, however, before retiring. He finished his career with a .246/.357/.364 batting line in 344 career games.
Green maintained close ties with the Red Sox in retirement, returning to Fenway Park to throw out first pitches on multiple occasions. In 2018, his pivotal role in the franchise's storied history was honored by the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame. Although Green may not have made much of a dent in the record books, his impact on the Red Sox will never be forgotten.
"Pumpsie Green occupies a special place in our history," Red Sox principal owner John Henry said. "He was, by his own admission, a reluctant pioneer, but we will always remember him for his grace and perseverance in becoming our first African-American player. He paved the way for the many great Sox players of color who followed. For that, we all owe Pumpsie a debt of gratitude."