Orioles Card "O" the Day

An intersection of two of my passions: baseball cards and the Baltimore Orioles. Updated daily?

Friday, October 1, 2010

Vintage Fridays: Bob Boyd, 1958 Topps #279

91 years ago today, Bob Boyd was born in Mississippi. His story is sadly typical of black players in the 1950s, as he was almost 32 by the time he made his major league debut with the White Sox in 1951 and didn't play regularly in the majors until arriving in Baltimore five years later. Prior to that, all he did was hit over .300 for five straight years in the Negro Leagues. When Chicago signed him in 1950, he topped .300 for five more consecutive seasons, this time in the minor leagues. He won the Pacific Coast League batting title with a .320 mark for the 1952 Seattle Rainiers. Boyd later said, "The early black players had to do much better than the white players to make the majors." One wonders how much better he could have done.

Bob, who was known as "Rope" for his ability to spray line drives, finally got his opportunity with the developing Orioles club in 1956. It was manager Paul Richards, who was familiar with Boyd from his previous post as White Sox skipper, who put him in the lineup. He took full advantage of the situation, hitting .357 until missing nearly three months with an injury. He returned in mid-August and was still at .357 as late as September 6, but fell off a bit and finished at .311. He played a career-high 141 games in 1957 and finished fourth in the American League with a .318 average and eight triples. He also placed seventh with a .388 on-base percentage, and seems to have been one of the better defensive first basemen in the league. Not bad for a 37-year-old. He continued to hit 'em where they weren't in 1958, rapping out a .309 average and a personal-best seven home runs (so power wasn't his game). That year he also hit safely in seven consecutive at-bats in a doubleheader against the Indians. Bob slipped to .265 the following year, and lost his starting job to Jim Gentile. In 1960, the 40-year-old Boyd capped his O's career with a .317 average while serving mostly as a pinch hitter.

The Orioles traded Boyd to the Athletics in 1961, and he split his final big league season between the A's and Braves. But he wasn't done playing baseball by a long shot. He played minor league ball for parts of three more seasons, and reportedly spent several years playing semi-pro ball for the highly competitive Wichita Dreamliners. He also worked as a bus driver for some time. Bob retired to Wichita, Kansas, where he passed away in 2004 at age 84. Consider this a tip of the cap to the first African American everyday starter in Orioles history, someone who deserved better.

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