Long before 1947, when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball, there was another Black player who beat him to the plate. In a single game, on a summer day, in 1879. Except for one critical detail. Nineteen-year-old William Edward White, the son of a white man and an enslaved woman from Milner, Georgia, did not identify himself as Black.
That story, published on Jan. 30, 2004 in The Wall Street Journal, stunned Alvin Strane ’69, and his identical twin Albert Strane ’69 when they read it 17 years ago.
The brothers—among the first Black baseball players at SCU—thought they knew their baseball history, especially that of the Negro Leagues.
“I said to myself: ‘Who in the heck is William Edward White?’” Alvin recalls. “And then you follow the storyline, and he just … vanished.”
Work by the Society for American Baseball Research revealed White had been a student and ball player at Brown University.
When the first baseman on the National League’s Providence Grays broke his finger, the team tapped White to fill in for one game on June 21, 1879, which he did with aplomb, according to press reports.