Baseball History: Dan Bankhead’s MLB Debut

dan bankheadDan Bankhead didn’t have a good outing as a pitcher in his historic major league debut on Aug. 26, 1947.

Bankhead had just been signed by Brooklyn two days before giving up eight runs on 10 hits to the Pittsburgh Pirates in relief of Dodgers starter Hal Gregg.

Gregg had given up six runs by the time he left in the second inning in favor of Bankhead, who became the first African-American to pitch in a major league game just four months after teammate Jackie Robinson joined the Dodgers.

However at the plate, Bankhead was successful in his first at bat as he hit a two-run homer off Pittsburgh’s Fritz Ostermueller in the second inning. It really didn’t help the cause for the Dodgers as they lost 16-3 at Ebbets Field.

The 27-year old Bankhead completed the season and earned a save as he pitched in three more contests for the pennant-winning Dodgers. Although Bankhead didn’t make it too the mound, he did appear in the 1947 World Series against the New York Yankees as a pinch runner and scored a run in game six. That game is best known for Al Gionfriddo‘s famous catch of a Joe DiMaggio line drive.

The Beginning in Birmingham

From 1940-47, the Alabama native began his career in the Negro Leagues with the Birmingham Black Barons and later served in the military during World War II. He was pitching for the Memphis Red Sox when he was signed by the Dodgers.

In 1948 and 1949, Bankhead was 24-6 and 20-6 in the Brooklyn farm system to earn a spot with the Dodgers in 1950.

As a starter and a reliever for the Dodgers as a rookie, Bankhead was 9-4 with three saves. His best performances came against the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals.

On May 24, he tossed a complete game in a 6-1 win over the Cubs allowing five hits. Against St. Louis on June 18, he blanked the Cardinals on six hits with seven strikeouts.

Bankhead’s major league career ended in 1951 after seven games with the Dodgers. He was sent back to the minors and eventually ended his career in Mexico as a player and manager in the 1950s and 1960s.

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