Friday, March 02, 2007

Is This the First Time a Black Player Charged the Mound?

From Frank Vacarro:

Maxwell Kates asks if "anyone has recorded the first time a black player charged the mound?" This would be (I think!) the Doby-Ditmar fight, Thursday, June 13, 1957, first inning.

Chicago Tribune baseball writer Irving Vaughn, then in his forty-eighth year on the beat, called it "The best I have ever seen on the ball field." The second place New York Yankees 4-3 win became the first of a 29-6 spurt that turned a six game Chicago lead to a six game deficit.

Entering Chicago, Yankee pitchers had a beanball reputation. That Sunday, in Detroit, Ray Boone charged Tom Sturdivant after being brushed back after Sturdivant gave up back-to-back homers. "It slipped" Sturdivant said. Then in Chicago's Wednesday victory, Yankee pitcher Al Cicotte just missed Minnie Monoso's head in the sixth inning. Before the Doby-Ditmar game, Nellie Fox and Elston Howard nearly came to blows after Fox accused Howard of calling for beanballs.

So with two outs and two on in the bottom of the first round Larry Doby wasn't going to cut Art Ditmar any slack. When a fast ball brushed Doby back, Doby took steps toward the mound yelling at Ditmar. Home plate umpire Larry Napp jumped between the two and was getting jostled.

Looking at Chicago Tribune photographs, it seems Napp took a step toward thirdbase in an effort to call over another ump. Right then Doby launched a left behind Napps turned head and landed a punch so square on Ditmar's jaw that Ditmar collapsed like a sack straight down.

Then the benches cleared: mini-fights broke out all over and Billy Martin seemed to be in all of them. Bill Skowron floored Doby with a flying tackle; Walt Dropo sat on Skowron and put him in a head-lock; Enos Slaughter stood above them trying to lift the 230 pound Dropo up by pulling on his shirt. Dropo got up setting off a hockey-style punchfest with Slaughter. I 'm sure many on this list recall a photo of Slaughter dejectedly walking off a field; hat turned backwards and shirt ripped open to expose his chest and stomach. Well, that was from that day, right after he got ejected. In all five were ejected.

The June 26th Sporting News (page 2) also has this photo and refers to everything Doby did as part of the actions of the "first negro to fight on the diamond", etc, despite the fact that he was "not dusted off because of pigmentation differences."

I suppose Doby's actions might not qualify as a "charge". Nevertheless, it was a "small punch for mankind..."

Frank Vaccaro vaccol@EARTHLINK.NET

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