Strange But True: Preteen Pinch Hitter

At the age of twelve Joey Relford became the youngest player ever to participate in a minor-league baseball game.

Relford, a black youngster, was the batboy for the Fitzgerald team of the Georgia State League. Minor-league baseball was still for the most part segregated, and blacks and whites played in separate leagues. The Georgia State League was all white. On July 18, 1952, Fitzgerald was losing to Statesboro, 13-0, and by the eighth inning the fans had grown restless.

“Put in the batboy,” they shouted.

Fitzgerald manager Charles Ridgeway heard the fans yelling and decided to give them what they wanted. He talked to umpire Ed Kubick, who said it was okay to put young Joey into the game. The boy was sent up as a pinch hitter and hit a hard grounder to third. He was thrown out at first base.

Then Joey went out to play center field, where he handled himself very well, making a fine catch of a line drive.

Officials of the Georgia State League were extremely displeased with the incident. The next day umpire Ed Kubick was fired and manager Charles Ridgeway was fined and suspended. As for Joey Relford, he had become the first black “player” to take part in a Georgia State League game. A few days later he lost his job as batboy.

From The Giant Book of More Strange But True Sports Stories by Howard Liss. Illustrations by Joe Mathieu.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Reliford

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fitzgerald_Pioneers

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6 Comments

  1. Liss got Reliford’s name spelled wrong in the book, but I’m doing these verbatim, so I left the misspelling in.
     
    The next year after everybody got shitcanned, the Fitzgerald team also changed minor leagues–they went down a grade to a D league, so I’m guessing the change was punitive from the racist league owners.
     
    Later that same summer, Reliford went to work as a batboy for a semi-pro team and even appeared in a few games–so I’m going to guess this was one of the Negro League teams.

    • The next year after everybody got shitcanned, the Fitzgerald team also changed minor leagues–they went down a grade to a D league, so I’m guessing the change was punitive from the racist league owners.

      wow. for 1 at-bat the fans asked for in a 13-0 game from a black kid …

      • I mean, you can’t just let that shit slide, man.  If one black kid plays a single inning in a meaningless minor league game, there’s no telling what kind of chaos will erupt.  Maybe them blacks might want to be able to play in all the games; or be able to drink from the same water fountain; or–God forbid–vote or otherwise be able to live without constant existential terror. We have to make sure the natural order is kept, otherwise the world could end.

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