Teams: Baltimore Elite Giants (1943-1950), military service (1943-1945), minor leagues (1951, 1954, 1957), major leagues (1952-1957)
Height: 6' 2'' Weight: 210
Born: February 8, 1924, Plainfield, New Jersey
In 1947, pitching for the Baltimore Elite Giants, the big, strong, hard-throwing right-hander split 18 decisions while leading the league in games pitched. After three more years as the Elites' workhorse, where he registered seasons of 10-5, 11-7, and 8-3, he was selected as the starting pitcher for the East in the 1950 All Star game.
An all‑around athlete at Morgan State College, he had a natural slider that aided him when he made the transition to professional baseball. However, soon after graduation in the summer of 1943, he was drafted into the Army and his baseball career was structured around his military responsibilities. With the Elite Giants in 1944 he split six decisions but had only one start in 1945 before remaining inactive for the duration of World War II. Back with the Elite Giants in 1946, he was 4-9 in his first full season after military service but was beginning to mature as a pitcher. Signed after three good years with the Elite Giants, he entered organized ball in 1951. He split the season with Montreal in the International League (7-9, 3.85 ERA) and St. Paul in the American Association (4-3, 2.25 ERA). A winter season (1951-1952) with Cienfuegos in the Cuban winter league produced a record of 5-7 and a 4.22 ERA.
While the numbers were not impressive, Black's velocity was, and in the spring of 1952 the big fireballer debuted with the Brooklyn Dodgers, having a sensational rookie year, winning 15 games and saving a like number while losing only 4 games. His contributions to the Dodgers' pennant success earned him Rookie of the Year honors. In the World Series that year he started the opening game, winning 4-2, the first victory by a black pitcher in a World Series.
He continued his Herculean efforts as he started two other games and compiled a 2.53 ERA for the Series in a losing cause as the Dodgers dropped a hard-fought seven-game series to the Yankees. That winter (1952-1953) in Cuba, Black's improvement as a pitcher was amplified with a 15-6 record (tops for the league in wins) and a 2.42 ERA. His numbers further reflected remarkable improvements in other areas from the previous winter. His control, hit ratio, and ERA were all significantly lower. This gave him a combined 20-13 work sheet for the two Cuban winter seasons.
In the spring of 1953, while trying to expand his repertory of pitches, he lost a measure of the control that he had demonstrated the year before and, although he pitched for five more major-league seasons with Brooklyn, Cincinnati, and Washington, he was never able to regain the dominance from his rookie season. He finished his baseball career in 1957 by going down to Seattle in the Pacific Coast League and then to Tulsa in the Texas League. He ended his six years in the major leagues with a 30-12 lifetime record.
After leaving the baseball diamond, he continued his college education with postgraduate studies at Seton Hall and Rutgers universities, and served as vice president of special markets with the Greyhound Corporation.
Baseball Career Highlights:
Black joined the Baltimore Elite Giants in 1943 was drafted by the U.S. Army that same year. After fulfilling his military obligations in 1946, Black returned to the Elite Giants' and became the team's workhorse. He was named the starting pitcher of the East-West All Star game in 1950.
Black made the leap to Major League baseball the following year. In the spring of 1952, he debuted playing alongside Jackie Robinson for the Dodgers. That season, Black posted a 15-4 record, saved 15 games and was named "Rookie of the Year" while leading the Dodgers to the pennant. He pitched the opening game of the World Series and registered a 4-2 win over the New York Yankees. That win earned him the distinction of being the first African-American pitcher to win a World Series contest. In six seasons in the majors, Black compiled a 30-12 record.
After baseball, Black continued his college education with postgraduate studies at Seton Hall and Rutgers Universities. While building a successful career with Greyhound Bus Lines, he became well known for "By the Way," his nationally syndicated commentary which aired coast-to-coast on black radio stations and appeared in black newspapers and JET magazine. He is featured in the book and television movie, "Boys of Summer," and has appeared as a special guest on "The Cosby Show." Black also wrote an autobiography, Ain't Nobody Better Than You.
Black retired from Greyhound Corporation as the senior vice president of Urban Affairs. Currently, he is president of JayBee and Associates, a psychographic marketing consulting company based in Phoenix, Arizona.
Awards, Honors, Titles, Championships,
• Graduated from Morgan State University (MSU) - 1950
• Earned All-Conference Honors in Football at MSU
• Earned Negro College All-American Honors in Football
• First African-American pitcher to start three World Series
games as a member of the 1952 Brooklyn Dodgers.
• First African-American vice president of a major transportation
company (Greyhound Bus Lines) - named Vice President of
Special Markets in 1967
NLBM Legacy 2000 Players' Reunion Alumni Book, Kansas City Missouri: Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, Inc., 2000.
James A. Riley, The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues, New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc., 1994.