Saturday April 02, 2016
Yankees Suck, Reason #38, Cont.
Two years ago I posted about the shabby treatment of Vic Power at the hands of the New York Yankees, which appeared to be grooming him to become the team's first black player—roughly seven years after Jackie Robinson broke through with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Then ... not so much. They kept him down in the minors for several seasons, and, in December 1953, traded him in a multiplayer deal with the A's (then in Philly), where he made his major league debut on April 13, 1954. A year later, he had a .319/.354/.505 line while playing Gold-Gloveish D. (He wound up winning seven GGs during his career.) And even though the by-then Kansas City A's were essentially a Yankees farm club between 1955 and 1960—shipping to the perennial champs the likes of Roger Maris, Ralph Terry and Hector Lopez—Power stayed in KC.
Because? Racism? Well, the Yankees did bring up Elston Howard, and he made his MLB debut on April 14, 1955—eight years minus one day from the day Jackie broke the color barrier—so some might say it wasn't really racism. But it kinda was.
I'm reading Bill Madden's book, “1954: The Year Willie Mays and the First Generation of Black Superstars Changed Major League Baseball Forever,” and Madden goes into it a bit. Here's Tom Greenwade, the Yankee scout who signed Mickey Mantle, in a 1960 interview with New York Herald-Tribune's Harold Rosenthal on the Yankees' supposed reluctance to break the color barrier:
The Yankees have never discriminated against Negroes. Our policy has always been: “When we find one good enough, we'll take him.” Vic Power and Rubén Gómez were not the right type. You had to know Power's reputation. He's a bad actor. Chases after white women and stirs up trouble. We had trouble with him in Kansas City [the Yankees' Triple A farm team] and we knew he wasn't going to the Yankees, so we got rid of him. Elston Howard, on the other hand, is a high type of Negro. He was the one we wanted.
Madden's book also details the ways Yankees owner Del Web and GM George Weiss screwed over the supercolorful Bill Veck to keep him from moving the hapless St. Louis Browns to either Milwaukee or Baltimore, or possibly the west coast, opening the door for the Dodgers and Giants to do that. The Browns eventually moved to Baltimore but under different ownership.