2024 Program - Issue 9

1955: A Pivotal Year in breaking barriers for the Yankees and the Triplets By: Jim Maggiore

diamond for the Triplets. He entered the game in the 8th inning with the Triplets trailing by a run and when his work was done, the Triplets were down by five, as he gave up four runs on two hits in one inning, without striking out a batter and walking two. He was farmed out by the Triplets in the middle of May, having ap- peared in that lone game. Later that season he appeared in three games for the Grand Forks Chiefs in the Northern League, posting a 1-3 record. By the time he turned 21, his career was essentially over. After his injury-filled 1955 season, the Yankees sent him back to the PONY league in 1956, hoping he could once again find success, but he appeared in only three games for the Bradford Yankees, posting a 1-2 record. Andrews was born in Umatilla, Florida, on August 31, 1934. He spent his high school days in New Brunswick, New Jersey, before joining the Yankees organization. He played in the PONY (Pennsylvania-On- tario-New York) for the Orlean Yankees in 1953 at the age of 18. He appeared in 19 games as a pitcher, starting 15 times and posting an 11-2 record with 12 complete games. He gave up 101 hits while logging 127 innings, striking out 115 batters. He was an all-around athlete, as he batted .282, with one home run and 20 RBIs during his 76 at-bats that year. He was the fourth youngest player on that Olean team, with the youngest player being future Yankee great Bobby Richardson, who was only 17. The following year the promising Andrews was promoted to the Piedmont League, where he played for the Norfolk Tars. Now 19, Andrews was the youngest player on the team. Andrews appeared in 10 games for the Tars, posting a 5-2 record and a 3.91 E.R.A. while pitching 53 innings. Though he posted a respectable E.R.A, his control eluded him during the season, as he walked 33 batters (an average of 5.6 per nine innings) and struck out only 24. While Edwards struggled in the PONY League, Rivera joined the Triplets again in 1956, but he had a disappointing season, playing in only 70 games, hitting .209 with two home runs and 20 RBIs. He also spent some time in Triple-A in 1956, but his Tri- ple-A statistics were equally disappointing, as he only hit .194 in 12 games. Rivera went on to play four more years, playing at the Triple-A level in 1957, 1958, and 1959. He retired in 1961 without ever reaching the major leagues.

Ford. Binghamton’s most recent Hall of Famer, Bud Fowler, was inducted into Cooper- stown in 2022, and was the first Afri- can-American to play in Binghamton; he did so in the 1887 season—until a revolt by the Binghamton players forced him to leave the team in mid-season. Shortly thereafter, an unwritten ban of all players of color took place in professional baseball. This ban wasn’t broken until Jackie Robinson signed a minor league contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers organization in October 1945. Jackie broke the professional color barrier in March 1946, when he played for the Triple-A Montreal Royals at Daytona Beach, Florida. One year later, on April 15th, 1947, Robinson broke the color barri- er in the major leagues, when he suited up for the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field. In looking back at Binghamton’s role in seeing men of color be integrated into all levels of professional baseball, it is one that mirrors the game itself—it is one of failing to rise to the challenges of the moment, but also one of at least partial atonement when given a second opportunity. Under the heading No EL Segregation: Howard with Club In Only 4 Hotels, Binghamton Press reporter John W. Fox recognized Binghamton’s second chance in an understated tone. In a sidebar article, he wrote “Elston Howard is hitting more than .400 but he can’t really feel he’s accepted in the American League. In three cities on the Yankees’ recent road trip, Howard did not stay at the same hotel as his teammates. Whether there is an out-and-out ban, no one cares to say, but for one reason or an- other, he did not stay at the Muehlebach in Kansas City, the Del Prado in Chicago, or the Emerson in Baltimore….All teams do not stay in the same hotels, but the fact re- mains that no Negro players stay with their teammates in Kansas City or Baltimore. In Chicago it’s about 50-50….The National League setup is much the same.” At a cursory glance the following 38 words that Fox used to close his piece had apparently little significance, but in writing them, Fox might have made the most powerful statement of his sixty years in the press box: “In Detroit, Cleveland, Phila- delphia, New York, Boston, Pittsburgh, and Milwaukee, the Negro players stay with their clubs at the same hotel. We are happy to note the same is true is the eight cities of the Eastern League.”

In the 1956 team photo, Rivera is the first player in the first row. Note that the photo refers to him as “German (Chico)” From the Nego Leagues to the Parlor City Joining Rivera on the ’56 squad was an- other man of color, Geogia native Curtis Hardaway, who played for the Triplets during the 1956 season, getting four hits in 20 at-bats for the Triplets. Hardaway re- joined the team in 1957, playing the entire year with Binghamton. As were the cases for Andrews and Rivera, Hardaway achieved his greatest success before he joined the Triplets. He had a gratifying season playing for the Indianap- olis Clowns in the Negro Leagues in 1953, where he was the starting third baseman in the East-West All-Star game (not one of his better games—he went 0-2 and made an error at third before being replaced by Irwin Castille). Hardaway then starred for the Pampa Oilers in the West Texas-New Mexico League in 1954, hitting 33 home runs and knocking in 122 runs while hit- ting .333. Hardaway followed that up with another stellar season for Pampa in 1955, when he hit .313, with 43 home runs and 106 runs batted in. Hardaway’s stellar back-to-back seasons with the Oilers gained the attention of the Yankee brass and he was drafted in the 1955 Rule V draft. After starting the 1956 season with Winston-Salem in the Caroli- na League, he joined the Triplets for eight games. He played the entire 1957 season in Binghamton, where he hit .245, hitting 6 home runs and knocking in 57 runs. Hardaway (shown posing for a picture with the Triplets on the left) went on to play four more seasons, reaching as high as Triple-A and retiring after the 1961 season without ever reaching the big leagues. It is believed he is the only veteran of the Negro Leagues to have donned a Binghamton uniform. Binghamton’s Second Chance 2024 marks the 109th season of minor league baseball in Binghamton and its leg- acy is a rich one. For 65 seasons it has sent players on to play baseball in New York, first for the Yankees and since 1992 for the Mets. If New York City is the Big Apple, then Binghamton is the core of its baseball heritage. Binghamton also has a role on the national stage, as no fewer than five Hall of Famers donned the Binghamton uniform: John Montgomery Ward, Bud Fowler, “Wee Willie” Keeler, Lefty Gomez, and Whitey

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