Joe Durham, a native of Newport News, Va., began his professional baseball career in 1952 with the Chicago American Giants of the Negro American League. The St. Louis Browns signed him to a contract in 1953 and assigned him to the York, Pa., farm team, which was part of the Piedmont League. That year, Durham made history, helping to break the color line in a league with teams in the segregated states of Maryland and Virginia.
He also enjoyed one of the finest seasons in his professional career, while enduring separate and unequal living conditions and the vilest of racial epithets. The following season, Durham reached the major leagues with the Baltimore Orioles, the second African American to play for that franchise. On September 12, 1954, Durham entered the record books again when he became the first African American to record a home run for the Orioles.
In his big league career, Durham also spent time with the St. Louis Cardinals. He served as a scout for amateur free agents and as the Orioles Community Coordinator in 1988 and became coach of an Orioles minor league team in 1990. Durham, who lives in Maryland, retired from coaching in 1996 and now serves as an Orioles Baseball Club representative.