This Day in Baseball History: March 25th, 1945

It was getting closer.

On March 25, 1945:

Terris McDuffie and Dave “Showboat” Thomas are granted tryouts with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

During and after World War II, the United States came to a harsh confrontation with the issue of race. On one hand, whites had always discriminated against blacks, and they had constructed their world around the premise that blacks were inferior. However, African-Americans were a large part of the war effort, from working in factories to fighting on the front lines. If they could put in so much effort and brilliant work, how could they be inferior? On the baseball diamond, it was much the same. Black baseball players were not allowed to play in the major leagues, but they were doing very well in the Negro Leagues. Many even thought, dare they say it, that blacks were just as good, or better, than whites.

Joe Bostic, sportswriter for the People’s Weekly, was among the most boisterous, and ultimately most persuasive. Branch Rickey had been trying to figure out a way to bring in African-American players, but he wasn’t sure how to do it. If he failed, it could set the entire movement back decades. Rickey was looking for the perfect player, but Bostic wasn’t going to wait that long. He barged into Rickey’s office and demanded tryouts for outfielder Terris McDuffie and first baseman Dave Thomas. Rickey wasn’t happy that Bostic has come to him in such a manner, but because he had rebuffed Bostic a few times before, Bostic decided to just come on in this time.

Unfortunately, these two players weren’t exactly what Rickey was looking for. They were in their late thirties, and they weren’t major-league caliber players. Still, Rickey, basically backed into a corner, gave them a tryout on April 7th. Neither player would make the team, obviously, but it was a start. But why those players if Bostic and everyone else knew they couldn’t make it? They were friends from his hometown of Mobile, Alabama. After the tryout, Rickey let Bostic have it, reminding the journalist that Rickey was working for the integration movement and force wasn’t the best way to handle the situation. Over the next few months, more tryouts for Negro League players would be held around the majors.

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