Great Braves Through The Ages: Sam Jethroe

In this weeks edition of "Great Braves Through the Ages" Dan Pace profiles the career of Sam Jethroe who was the first African American player in the history of the Braves franchise.

This weeks "Great Brave" only played three seasons for the Braves. But being the first black player in the history of the Braves franchise his story is as important as anyones. This week we look at speedy outfielder Sam Jethroe.

Sam Jethroe was born on January 20th 1918 in East St.Louis Illinois. He began his baseball career playing for the Cleveland Buckeyes in the Negro Leagues where he was a four time all star.

On April 16th 1945 Boston politicians pressured the Red Sox to allow three black players to tryout for the team. They were Jackie Robinson, Marvin Williams and Sam Jethroe. The three men worked out at Fenway park but none of them were signed to a contract. Six months later Robinson would sign with the Brooklyn Dodgers to become the first black player in the history of the Major leagues.

Nearly five years later to the day on April 15th 1950 Sam Jethroe would become the first black player in the history of the Braves. The crosstown Red Sox would go on the be the last major league team to intergrate.

In his rookie season of 1950 Sam hit .273 with 159 hits, 28 doubles, 8 triples, 18 home runs, 58 rbi's and scored 100 runs. And he lived up to his nickname "The Jet" by leading the National League in steals with 35. Sam would also be named the 1950 National League rookie of the year. At the age of 32 Sam is to this day the oldest player to ever win the rookie award which is even more impressive when you learn that Sam lied about his age. Much like current Brave Julio Franco no one really knows how old Sam Jethroe really was.

1951 would be an almost exact copy of his rookie season. Jethroe had a .280 average with 160 hits, 29 doubles, 10 triples, 18 home runs, 58 rbi's and scored 101 runs. Once again he led the National league with 35 steals. Sam along with Bill Bruton are the only two Braves to ever lead the league in stolen bases.

In 1952 Sam reportedly had vision problems which not only affected him at the plate but also in the outfield. Sam would go on to hit .232 with 141 hits, 23 doubles, 7 triples, 13 home runs, 58 rbi's and scored 79 runs with 28 steals.

Sam Jethroe went on to spend the rest of his career in the minor leagues (except for two games with the Pirates in 1954) before retiring in 1959. Sam Jethroe passed away June 18th 2001 at the age of 83 and according to the Negro leagues players association a movie about the life of Sam has been pitched to director Spike Lee.

Sam Jethroe Career Braves stats
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Games: 440
At Bats: 1762
Hits: 460
Doubles: 80
Triples: 25
Home runs: 49
Rbi's: 181
Runs: 280
Steals: 98
Avg: .261

Sam Jethroe Career stats (does not include Negro league stats)
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Games: 442
At Bats: 1763
Hits: 460
Doubles: 80
Triples: 25
Home runs: 49
Rbi's: 181
Runs: 280
Steals: 98
Avg: .261

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