The 1938 Pittsburgh Pirates that never were – until now

Jackie Robinson, as we all know, broke the so-called “color barrier” established within professional baseball by taking the field for first the Montreal Royals, then the Brooklyn Dodgers both therefore clubs with all-white rosters playing in all-white leagues – though it’s hardly as though Dodgers club president Branch Rickey invented the idea of pioneering baseball’s integration when no one had dreamt so audaciously before.

For more than a decade, sportswriter (and later sportswriter/editor)  Chester Washington was one of the most strident voices for the sport’s racial integration. Washington worked for the Pittsburgh Courier, at one time the highest-circulated newspaper among those for African-American readership. The paper’s location in Pittsburgh meant that not only did Washington cover the Pirates, he also had the beats of two of the Negro National League’s more successful franchises, the Crawfords and the Homestead Grays.

This gave Washington an idea in late 1937, prompting him to send a telegram to Pirates manager/president Pie Traynor with an offer he figured Traynor couldn’t refuse (or at very least seriously consider)…

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