Friday, May 17, 2013

Happy Baseball Birthday...Ozzie Virgil Sr.

Today's Baseball Birthday is former New York/San Francisco Giants, Baltimore Orioles, Pittsburgh Pirates, Kansas City Athetics,  and Detroit Tigers 3rd Baseman Ozzie Virgil, Sr.

Osvaldo Jose Virgil was born on this date, May 17th, in 1932.

I wanted to write today about Ozzie Virgil as soon as I saw that today Ozzie is celebrating his 81st Birthday.

Ozzie Virgil made his big league debut on September 23rd, 1956 for the  New York Baseball Giants, the first player born in the Dominican Republic to play big league baseball.

In nine years in the big leagues Ozzie batted .231, collecting 174 big league hits, with 14 home runs and 73 RBI.

Ozzie Virgil is a very special baseball player to me.

He's the first African-American to play baseball for my favorite team, the Detroit Tigers, in 1958.


In his first game as a Tiger Ozzie Virgil went 5 for 5.

In three years with the Tigers, '58 ,'60', '61, Ozzie batted .228 in 131 games, collecting 81 hits, 7 HRs, and 33 RBI.

Those numbers don't seem like much, but Ozzie Virgil will always be part of Detroit Tigers history, the first black man to play for the Tigers.

The Tigers were one of the last teams to integrate players of color into the organization.

Ozzie Virgil's Tigers debut in 1958 came 11 full years after Jackie Robinson broke the baseball color barrier on April 15th, 1947.

The Tigers, like many other big league clubs, continued to ignore the situation, refusing to sign African-American ball players.

Only the Boston Red Sox kept the Tigers from total embarrassment.

Boston was the last big league team to have a African-American player.

Pumpsie Green made his BoSox debut on July 21st, 1959, just 13 months after Ozzie Virgil donned a Detroit uniform.

The Tigers, like every other big league ball club, could have had had players like Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Don Newcombe, Roy Campanella, or Frank Robinson.

How about an outfield of Henry Aaron, Frank Robinson, and  Al Kaline for the late '50s Tigers?

Imagine that.

I'm sure young, black ball players, growing up in the Detroit area, like Willie Horton, saw Ozzie playing for his hometown team and believed that they could one time be a big league ball player.

Ozzie Virgil's legacy in baseball continued with his son.

Ozzie's son, Ozzie Virgil, Jr., was a big league catcher, playing for the Phillies, Braves, and Blue Jays in his 11 year career.

Today we celebrate the birthday of Ozzie Virgil, a special player, a special man.

Happy Birthday Ozzie!

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