The Integration of the Pacific Coast League
By Author, Amy Essington
Wilson, during spring training in 1952, played four seasons for the Rainiers after integrating the club along with Bob Boyd. / David Eskenazi Collection
The Pacific Coast League was not the first minor league to integrate, but it was the first minor or major league to integrate each of its teams. Over five seasons, between 1948 and 1952, the eight teams of the PCL added more than thirty players of color to their rosters.
The 1948 season was not the first time that players of color joined PCL rosters. Players with native Hawaiian and Asian ancestry were the first non-white players in the PCL in the 1900s and 1910s. Barney Joy, a half-Chinese and half-Hawaiian pitcher, played in 49 games for the San Francisco Seals in 1907. During a barnstorming trip to Hawaii in the winter of 1914-1915, Portland Beavers owner Walter McCredie signed Lang Akana, a player with native Hawaiian and Chinese ancestry. White players labeled Lang Akana as black, despite having the same heritage as Barney Joy, and McCredie released him. On Sunday, May 28, 1916, Jimmy Claxton, presented by the Oakland Oaks as Native American, pitched in both games of a double-header against the Los Angeles Angels, finishing the first and starting the second, for a combined 2 1/3 innings. The Oaks released Claxton the next week. Claxton felt it was because fans “discovered” that he was black. Teams restricted certain players of color from rosters when others viewed them as black. Claxton should not be the player noted as the player who integrated the PCL because the teams did not accept him as black, the race by which he identified himself, and he was only one player in two games rather than one of many who later successfully crossed the color line to create social change.
Claxton and his father.
Courtesy Shanaman Sports Museum Collection
Luke Easter, Artie Wilson, and John Ritchey of the 1949 San Diego Padres
Booker McDaniels - 1949
That social change came when Bill Starr of the San Diego Padres signed John Ritchey, a veteran of World War II and a player for the Negro League team the Chicago American Giants in November 1947. For the 1948 season, Ritchey was the only black player on the Padres and in the league, but Luke Easter, Artie Wilson, and Minnie Miñoso joined him in San Diego in 1949. That season the Oakland Oaks signed Artie Wilson, the Portland Beavers signed Frank Austin and Luiz Márquez, and the Los Angeles Angels signed Booker McDaniels. In 1950, the Sacramento Solons added Marvin Williams and then Walter McCoy to their team. The San Francisco Seals singed Frank Barnes and the Hollywood Stars added Roy Welmaker in 1951. The final PCL team to integrate was in Seattle when Bob Boyd and Artie Wilson became Rainiers to open the 1952 season.
While the PCL was not the first minor league to integrate, that milestone went to the International League in 1946, it was the first league in baseball, either at the minor or major league level, to have each of its teams include a player of color on its roster during the regular season. While the integration of the major leagues is more well-known, it is the integration of the minor leagues that allowed for integration of the major league teams to succeed. The PCL was on the forefront of that process.
Manager Bill Sweeney, kneeling left, and coach Eddie Taylor, right, with the 1953 Seattle Rainiers. Artie Wilson (No. 8), the first player by calendar date to integrate the Rainiers, is in the front row, far left. / David Eskenazi Collection
John Ritchey, Seattle Rainiers
I really like that 1949 San Diego Padres jersey. Are you guys ever going to sell that one?
Gary Griffith, above, has written one of the great notes!
I started attending games when Sicks Seattle Stadium was first built..We lived in Everett but came down mostly on the train or drove our 37 Plymouth. I don’t remember anything about race. I just saw players. I was raised that way. I have a cap and jersey of the Rainiers that I treasure. At 87 tears old I no longer have friends that I can share these memories with. I am now reading again PITCHERS OF BEER Aging is not for wimps. I can’t figure out how to correct the mistake of tears when I meant years. Thanks for the memories.