BOSTON, MA – The Boston Red Sox mourn the loss of Pumpsie Green, who passed away today at Kaiser San Leandro Hospital at the age of 85. The first African-American player in franchise history, his 13-year professional career included parts of five major league seasons with the Red Sox (1959-62) and New York Mets (1963), as he appeared in 327 games for Boston as a switch-hitting middle infielder.
“Pumpsie Green occupies a special place in our history,” said Red Sox principal owner John Henry. “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.”
“We salute the courage Pumpsie Green demonstrated 60 years ago when he became our first player of color,” said Red Sox chairman Tom Werner. “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.”
Elijah Jerry Green was born on October 27, 1933 in Boley, OK. The oldest of five sons, he moved with his family to California at a young age, attending El Cerrito High School and then Contra Costa Junior College, where he met his future wife, Marie Presley.
Green graduated in 1953 and began his professional baseball career at 19 years old, signing with the Oakland Oaks in the Pacific Coast League. In 1955 he was named the California League’s Most Valuable Player as an All-Star shortstop. After that season, his contract was purchased by the Red Sox and he attended his first spring training with the club in 1956. Added to the Red Sox’ 40-man roster in September 1958, Green would make his major league debut the following season.
On July 21, 1959, in a game against the White Sox at Comiskey Park, Green broke Boston’s color barrier when he pinch-ran for Vic Wertz at first base in the eighth inning, then remained in the game at shortstop. His Fenway Park debut came two weeks later in the first game of a doubleheader against Kansas City on August 4. In his first at-bat of the day, he led off the bottom of the first inning with a triple and scored the game’s first run. Green’s major league debut was recognized along with the 2018 Red Sox Hall of Fame class as a “Memorable Red Sox Moment.”
Green played in 327 games over four seasons with Boston (1959-62) before spending his final major league season with the New York Mets in 1963. After his playing career ended in 1965, he earned a degree in physical education from San Francisco State University and worked for the Berkeley Unified School District. Among his various roles, he coached baseball for 25 years before retiring in 1997. In April 2012, Green threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Red Sox’ game on Jackie Robinson Day and attended the Fenway Park 100th anniversary celebrations.
Green is survived by his wife of 62 years, Marie; daughter, Heidi; brothers, Cornell, Credell, and Eddy Joe; granddaughters, Brittanny Pinn and Juanita Davis; great grandsons, Jaylyn Pinn, Jayce Pinn, Judah Pinn, and Alex Buffington, Jr.; and a number of nieces and nephews. He is preceded in death by his son, Jerry, who passed away in February 2018.
Funeral services will be held on Friday, August 2 at Beebe Memorial Cathedral in Oakland, CA.