The day the Brooklyn Dodgers fielded Major League Baseball’s first majority-black lineup
Walter Alston changed his mind about playing Sandy Amoros, and the rest is history
Walter Alston had no intention of playing Sandy Amoros in the Brooklyn Dodgers’ July 17, 1954, matchup versus the Milwaukee Braves. The Cuban outfielder was batting .361 with 50 runs batted in and 13 home runs in 66 games, but his tumultuous run through the Dodgers’ farm system had given Brooklyn’s manager pause about calling him up.
With their fourth consecutive loss to the Braves in their five-game series, Alston decided the issues with the player and organization could be resolved later.
A move made out of necessity ultimately turned out to make for a historic afternoon for Major League Baseball and the 39,250 fans at Milwaukee’s County Stadium who turned out for the three-hour, seven-minute game. By inserting Amoros onto the diamond, the Dodgers fielded the league’s first majority-black lineup.
Third baseman Jackie Robinson, who was playing through a left arm injury, pitcher Don Newcombe, second baseman Junior Gilliam, catcher Roy Campanella and Amoros, a rookie, were able to help break Brooklyn’s losing streak with a 2-1 victory in the 11th inning over the home team.
“I’ve changed my mind,” Alston told The New York Times before the game. “He’s hitting as well as anybody.”
The game was a nail-biter, as outfielder Duke Snider, for the final out of the contest, robbed Henry “Hank” Aaron of a long liner that surely would’ve won the game for the home team.
Gilliam kick-started the 11th by forcing pitcher Lew Burdette to walk him. He would ultimately be forced out at second after a poor jump on a Pee Wee Reese hit.
Snider would play hero on both sides of the ball, as it was his single that delivered Reese to third. Gil Hodges, on a 2-1 count, would give the Dodgers the winning blow with a hopper that went over the head of Milwaukee third baseman Eddie Mathews, allowing Reese to come home.
Even though the Braves were able to get 12 hits off Brooklyn’s pitchers that day, they left 15 men on base. The Dodgers left only seven on, and four of them came in the final two innings. Outside of Robinson coming home on a single by right fielder Carl Furillo in the second inning, Brooklyn was held scoreless the next eight innings.
An earlier version of this story listed an incorrect date for the game.