Jethroe, Sam

Born: Jan. 20, 1918 in East St. Louis, Ill.
Died: June 18, 2001 in Erie, Pa.

Sam Jethroe was nicknamed "The Jet" because of his acceleration and speed. Prior to joining the major leagues Sam was the premier base stealer in the Negro League. He also led the Negro League in batting average in 1944 and 1945.

In 1945, noted Black sports journalist Wendell Smith arranged for three black players to get a try out at Fenway Park. Jethroe, Marvin Williams and Jackie Robinson didn't get a job with the Red Sox that day, but Jethroe followed Robinson into Major League Baseball.

His first year performance also earned him National League Rookie of the Year honors in 1950. He was 32 that season and, to this day, remains baseball's oldest rookie. At the end of his major league career, he had accumulated a .261 average, 49 home runs, 181 RBIs and 98 stolen bases in 442 games. After his major league career had ended, he played for seven more seasons in the minor leagues.

Sam Jethroe joined the Boston Braves in 1950 and was named the National League Rookie of the Year. In two of his three seasons in the majors, he led the NL in stolen bases

In 1952, problems seemed to set in for Jethroe. All of his numbers tumbled and the rumors were that he had vision problems. There were also rumors that he was really older than his listed age.

In 1953, he returned to the minors and batted .307 in Toledo. Pittsburgh purchased his contract, but he only appeared in two games for the Pirates in 1954. Following that, he spent five more seasons with Toronto of the International League.

In six seasons with the Negro League's Cleveland Buckeyes, Jethroe had a .342 career batting average and had been selected to the East-West All-Star Game four times.

He is credited with being the only player to hit a ball over the 472-foot leftfield fence at Toledo's Swayne Field and into the coal piles of the Red Man Tobacco Factory. During the 1948-49 seasons, he played for Montreal of the International Association. In 1949, he stole 89 bases drove in 83 runs while batting .326.