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Elson Howard: The First African American Play For The New York Yankees

Written by Rewindingblack

On April 14th, 1955 Elston Howard became the first African American to play for the New York Yankees baseball team.  His personal victory, came nearly a decade after fellow major league baseball player Jackie Robinson signed to the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Elston Howard was born February 23rd, 1929 in St. Louis, Missouri. He was the son of Emmaline Webb and Travis Howard. While in high school, Elston was known for his sportsmanship. He played several sports such as football and track. He even made the all-state basketball team. Elston was discovered for his baseball playing abilities when he was approximately 16 years old. This discovery was made one day while playing baseball in a sandpit in his local neighborhood.  A person by the name of Frank Tetnus Edwards approached Howard. Edwards was surprised by Howard’s strength. Edwards was also impressed with how far Elston could hit the ball. Frank met with Elston’s mother soon after to try to convince her that her son should play baseball.  It took some time, but Emmaline was convinced.  Elston made his first baseball debut on the local team called Tandy League.

While he was finishing up at Vashon High School, is when Jackie Robinson broke the barriers. As a result, this inspired Howard to start his own baseball team. After graduating high school, his mother had high hopes that he would become a doctor. However, once in college the baseball scouts that agreed to have a black man on their team were out to sign him.  Elston ended up signing a contract that allowed his mother to receive five hundred dollars a month directly. This soothed his mother’s worries.

The contract he signed was with the Kansas City Monarchs, he was 19. The Kansas City Monarchs was a Negro League Baseball Team. He played with them for two years.  At the age of 21, the New York Yankees brought Mr. Howard on to their minor league team.  In 1955, he became officially signed on to the New York Yankees major leagues team.  Elston played for the New York Yankees for twelve years before he signed on with the Boston Red Sox.

Elston Howard married twice during his life. He was also the first African American to win the American League’s Most Valuable Player Award in 1963. He passed away on December 14th, 1980 in New York.

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