Home / General / Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 1,429

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 1,429


This is the grave of Joe Black.

Born in 1924 in Plainfield, New Jersey, Black was a baseball star in high school. He started playing in the Negro Leagues in 1943 for the Baltimore Elite Giants, but just for two games before he joined the military in World War II. He played just a couple of games in 1944 and 1945 too, so I’m not sure how this all squared up with the military service, but it doesn’t matter too much. He came back in 1946, proved to be a solid pitcher in 1947 and 1948, and went on to play baseball at Morgan State University in Maryland. He graduated from that school in 1950 and signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Of course the Dodgers and Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball. By the early 50s, not every team had integrated (hello Boston!), but it was a lot easier for someone like Black on a team like the Dodgers. He was an old rookie when he first appeared on the team in 1952, being 28 years old. But he was very good and won Rookie of the Year after going 15-4 with 15 saves as the team’s primary bullpen man in the days when teams had like two of those. 56 games meant 141 innings back then. He was third in MVP balloting too, which is pretty impressive for a guy in that role for that time. Then he was moved to the rotation for the World Series, where he started three of the seven games, winning one of them.

But honestly, that was about it for him. He tried to expand his junkball arsenal, but it went only OK. He was in the same role in 1953, but really struggled and had an ERA over 5. He only pitched five games in 1954 and then was traded to the Reds early in the 1955 season, where he swung between starting and relieving. He played for the Reds in 1956 as well and then closed his career with a seven game stint in 1957 with the Senators.

But don’t feel too bad for Black. He had a long and interesting enough career after baseball. He worked as a scout for the Senators in 1959 and 1960, taught PE back in New Jersey, and eventually became a pretty high executive for Greyhound. His business acumen led to a deal with the commissioner’s office to become a sort of financial and career advisors for players, many of whom really needed it. He also took on the role of a sort of lobbyist in the game for the specific needs of Black players and since he had that line to the commissioner’s office, he was an effective advocate on some issues. He also showed up on an episode of The Cosby Show in 1991. You can read more about Black’s success in the chapter on him in Roger Kahn’s The Boys of Summer. I was going to consult that resource for this post, but if you can find my copy on my overcrowded and totally disorganized bookshelves, I’d appreciate it.

Later in life, Black was living in Arizona and so when the Diamondbacks started, he became a public relations person for them and did a lot to promote the team in the community. He also wrote a column for Ebony for awhile and published an autobiography too. So interesting guy overall.

Black died in 2002, of prostate cancer. He was 78 years old.

Joe Black is buried in Hillside Cemetery, Scotch Plains, New Jersey.

If you would like this series to visit other Rookies of the Year, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. Jim Gilliam, the Dodgers second basemen who won in 1953 and went on to have a nice if not exceptional career that lasted until 1966, is in Inglewood, California. Wally Moon, the Cardinals outfielder who won in 1954 and was a pretty good outfielder for the next several years, is in College Station, Texas. Previous posts in this series are archived here and here.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Linkedin
This div height required for enabling the sticky sidebar
Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views :