BOSTON - When the Boston Red Sox won the 2004 World Series, many were quick to hail the ending of the infamous Curse of the Bambino, at long last. But if we are being honest, the curse of the Red Sox was never that they traded Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees all that time ago. The curse was always the racist ownership and executive groups that refused players like Willie Mays and Jackie Robinson from playing with the Red Sox. To turn away some of baseball’s greatest players was reason enough to miss out on championships from then on.
Eventually, though, Boston began to integrate, though they were the last in the league to do so. It just took until the 1959 season, 13 years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball for the Brooklyn Dodgers.
But the player who broke this barrier for the Red Sox was undoubtedly a special one. Elijah “Pumpsie” Green played all around the infield for the Red Sox from 1959 to 1962. He played one last season for the New York Mets before he retiring in 1963, but he left a major impact on baseball and the Red Sox forever. Sadly, Pumpsie Green passed away yesterday at the age of 85.
Pumpsie Green was never the most elite player or hitter, but he was a stealthy baserunner who was used in a slew of high-octane pinch-running situations. He recorded 12 stolen bases in his career, as well as 13 home runs, 74 RBIs, and 196 total hits. His career batting average was .246 over 344 games in the big leagues.
Just last year, Pumpsie was in headlines around Boston as he was inducted into the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame, along with the rest of the class of 2018, which included Buck Freeman, Al Green, Derek Lowe, Mike Lowell, and Kevin Youkilis. A moment of silence was held for Pumpsie before Boston’s game last night against the Toronto Blue Jays.
In the lore of the Red Sox, they will say Pumpsie Green was a pioneer and a game-changer at a time when it seemed like Boston was long past a chance at that. He changed the Red Sox and in his memory, he will always be a part of the basepaths at Fenway.