Who Was Piper Davis? 1950 Scranton Red Sox

Piper Davis

The Boston Red Sox were the last team in major league baseball to integrate black players. The Brooklyn Dodgers were the first in 1947. The Red Sox finally added a black ballplayer in 1959, Elijah “Pumpsie” Green became the first black man to wear a Red Sox uniform. Green was an infielder and was average with the bat. The Red Sox could have been one of the first to intergrate if they had given Piper Davis a fair chance.

Lorenzo Davis may be a footnote in Scranton sports history (and Boston sports history) but he deserves to be mentioned. Lorenzo “Piper” Davis was the first black player signed by the Boston Red Sox. Scranton was Boston’s one affiliate that was not under the Old Jim Crow laws. The Jim Crow Laws were state and local laws enacted in the Southern and Border States of the United States and enforced between 1876 and 1965. They mandated “separate but equal” status for African Americans. That didn’t mean that racism didn’t exist in Scranton or in the locker room. Davis was forced to stay and eat in the servants quarters on the road apart from the rest of the team and even dress in the visitors’ locker room all by himself. Piper played fifteen games for Scranton in 1950 and was leading the team in batting (.333), homers (3), and RBI’s (10). . But two days before the May 15 deadline he was called into the office and was told that he was being released for “economic reasons”. The Red Sox had promised to pay Piper’s former team $7500 if he stayed on the roster unitl May 15th.

Davis had served his purpose–critics could no longer charge that the Red Sox organization had never signed an African American. He tried out again in 1951 with the Red Sox and was cut in Spring Training.

According to his daughter, Piper speculated that the reason he was cut from the Red Sox was because of his race. One of the local area papers put a Caucasian picture with Piper Davis’ picture underneath. The same picture was also used for Willie Mays. They did not want people to know their hot prospect was black.

Piper Davis was a great two sport athlete, basketball and baseball. He was a star in the old Negro leagues and played for the Harlem Globetrotters before giving it up to play baseball.

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