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African-American Heritage

The Detroit Tigers have a long history of achievement by African-American players. They were the 2nd to last team in front of the Boston Red Sox to sign an African American ballplayer. Systematically barred from the game even in the immediate years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, when Larry Doby put on the Old English D for the first time. Doby was the 1st African American ballplayer in the American League signing with the Cleveland Indians just 3 months after Jackie Robinson in 1947. Doby was inducted into Baseball's Hall of Fame in 1998. Dominican Ozzie Virgil became the Tigers first player of color and first player from a Spanish-speaking country, coming from the Giants in June 1958.

On April 11, 1961, 14 years after Jackie Robinson broke the Major League Baseball color barrier. Jacob "Jake" Wood Jr., made his Major League Debut as the first African American to come through the Detroit Tiger organization and play for the Detroit Tigers. Jake was the primary reason Tigers Great and "Hometown Hero" Willie Horton signed with the Detroit Tigers, following his dad's direction along with Legal Advisor Judge Damon Keith. The elder Horton felt signing with the Tigers might make a difference for more African American ballplayers in the future. A couple of years after Jim Campbell became General Manager, Horton's mentor Judge Damion Keith began working closely with him and bringing more African American ballplayers to the Tigers. They believed this change would lead to more African American fans and businesses. The Tigers became a true reflection of the City of Detroit with the signing of more African American ballplayers.

The achievements of African-American stars like Billy Bruton, Jake Wood, Gates Brown, Willie Horton, Earl Wilson, Lou Whitaker, Chet Lemon, Larry Herndon, Cecil Fielder, Gary Sheffield, Curtis Granderson, Austin Jackson and recently Torii Hunter & David Price have thrilled and inspired generations of Tigers fans.

2015 Negro Leagues Luncheon Gallery »