Baseball’s Lenny Green
When Lenny Green was traded to the Washington Senators from the Baltimore Orioles in June 1959 it inspired Afro-American reporter Sam Lacy to declare “the Washington Senators acquired their first ‘legitimate’ colored player early this week when they obtained Lenny Green.” While Green was not the first Black ball player to wear a Senator’s uniform, Lacy’s position more accurately summed up public opinion than fact. This was largely due to the late integration of the franchise.
According to David Evans’ article Late in the Game: the Integration of the Washington Senators, the color barrier of the Senators was not broken until September 6, 1954, when Carlos Paula trotted out to left field at Griffith Stadium. This was more than seven years after Jackie Robinson stepped onto the diamond for the Brooklyn Dodgers. However, as a Cuban, Carlos Paula was not fully accepted by many as representing an integrated Senators.
Paula’s addition to the Senators continued a long history of mining talent from the Caribbean and Central and South America that put Bobby Estalella in the outfield of Griffith Stadium in 1935. After Paula other black Cubans would be added to the team, but it was not until August 1, 1957, that the Senators signed their first African-American with Joe Black.
Black was a one-time star with the Brooklyn Dodgers who was described as brilliant in 1952, but by 1957 his career was clearly on the decline. His tenure with the Senators was short-lived. Black was released by Washington in November of 1957 after appearing in only seven games as pitcher. This prompted many fans to feel that Black’s signing was disingenuous and not a “‘real deal.”
Due largely to these factors, Lacy proudly proclaimed in the Afro-American that Lenny Green would be “accepted by [Washington’s] colored fans as the first bona-fide member of their race on the home roster.” And play he did. He had more playing time than he’d had with the Orioles (he had 190 at-bats the remainder of the 1959 season, batting .242 with two homers and 15 RBI) and he remained with the Senators through the 1960 season. When the Senators resettled in Minnesota as the Twins Green moved with them and spent another three-plus seasons with the Twins.
While in Washington Green resided at 730 Rock Creek Church Road, NW. He kept busy and had his own daily sports program — when the team was at home — on Washington radio station WUST. He was also lucky to avoid serious injury on September 18, 1959, when his car and a Fire Department ambulance collided at Sherman Avenue and Columbia Road. The impact forced the ambulance into three parked cars. The worst Green received was a speeding ticket.
A more detailed biography on Lenny Green along with his career history can be found at the Baseball Biography Project.People, Sports leisure and entertainment comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.