Saturday, August 26, 2006

August 26th, 1947

Dan Bankhead Debuts

Here's a pretty good trivia question. Most everyone knows the first black player in baseball history, and most baseball fans can tell you the first black player in the American League (Larry Doby, if you didn't know) but few could tell you who the first black pitcher in Major League history was. The popular guess, I assume, would be Satchel Paige but that's not the case. The answer, as you probably guessed, is Dan Bankhead.

Bankhead made his debut today for the Dodgers--of course--and, it must be said, failed to impress. Starting against the Pirates Bankhead gave up ten hits and six runs before being knocked out in the fourth inning of an eventual 16-3 stomping by the Bucs. The highlight of Bankhead's day was the home run he hit in his first Major League at-bat. Ultimately, Bankhead has been reduced to trivia answer in large part because he simply wasn't very good. He pitched just ten innings in 1947 and finished with a 7.20 ERA. He was out of the Majors for 1948 and '49 but returned to the Majors in 1950. Bankhead won nine games against four losses, but did so despite a 5.50 ERA. In 1951 Bankhead was again with the Dodgers but saw action in just fourteen innings as he posted a 15.43 ERA.

That marked the end of Bankhead's MLB career, as he finished with a 9-5 record and a 6.52 ERA in just over one hundred and fifty innings. Given the nature of his accomplishment, it is a shame that Bankhead is not better remembered, and exists only as a footnote to the story of baseball integration.

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