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Daniel Robert Bankhead (May 3, 1920 – May 2, 1976) was the first African American pitcher in Major League Baseball. He played in Negro league baseball for the Birmingham Black Barons and the Memphis Red Sox from 1940 to 1947, then played for the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1947 to 1951.

Dan Bankhead
Born: (1920-05-03)May 3, 1920
Empire, Alabama
Died: May 2, 1976(1976-05-02) (aged 55)
Houston, Texas
Batted: Right Threw: Right
MLB debut
August 26, 1947, for the Brooklyn Dodgers
Last MLB appearance
July 18, 1951, for the Brooklyn Dodgers
MLB statistics
Win–loss record9–6
Earned run average6.52
Negro leagues

Major League Baseball

A native of Birmingham, Alabama, he attended public schools there. [1] His sister Frances was high school classmates with both Hank Aaron and Willie Mays who grew up in the same town, all of them several years older. During World War II, he served in the Marine Corps from 1942 to 1945.[2]

After a strong career in Negro league baseball playing for the Birmingham Black Barons and Memphis Red Sox, Bankhead was signed at age 24 by Branch Rickey to play in the Brooklyn Dodgers' farm system. Bankhead, an excellent hitter who was leading the Negro League with a .385 batting average when purchased by the Dodgers, hit a home run in his first major league at-bat on August 26, 1947, in Ebbets Field off Fritz Ostermueller of the Pittsburgh Pirates; he also gave up ten hits in 3-1/3 innings pitching in relief that day.[3] He finished the season having pitched in four games for the Dodgers with an earned run average (ERA) of 7.20.

Bankhead was shipped to the minor leagues for the 1948 and 1949 seasons. Pitching for clubs in Nashua, New Hampshire, and St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1948, he recorded 24 wins and six losses.[4] He returned to the Dodgers for the 1950 season, appearing in 41 games, with twelve starts, and finished with nine wins, four losses and a 5.50 ERA. In 1951, his final year in the majors, he appeared in seven games, losing his only decision, with an ERA of 15.43. After he played his final major league game, Bankhead spent time in the Mexican League, playing with various teams through 1966.[5]

He died of cancer at a Veterans Administration hospital in Houston, Texas, on May 2, 1976, the day before his 56th birthday.[6]

His brothers Sam, Fred, Joe, and Garnett all also played baseball in the Negro Leagues.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Dan Bankhead, 54, Ex-Dodger". New York Times. May 7, 1976.
  2. ^ "Those Who Served A to Z". Retrieved April 17, 2017.
  3. ^ Sheehan, Joseph (August 27, 1947). "Long Blows Help Beat Brooks, 16-3". The New York Times.
  4. ^ Feuer, Alan (1950). "Bankhead in Dodger Fold". The New York Times (published February 20, 1950).
  5. ^ "Dan Bankhead Minor League Statistics & History". Retrieved December 4, 2013.
  6. ^ Feuer, Alan (1976). "Dan Bankhead, 54, Ex-Dodger, Is Dead". The New York Times (published May 7, 1976).

External linksEdit