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On this date in 1958, Ozzie Virgil integrated the Detroit Tigers baseball team.
Virgil, acquired from the San Francisco Giants in January of that year, became the first Black player to appear in a Detroit Tiger game. He went 1-for-5 as a batter in the 11-2 win over Washington. "I don't believe the Tigers called me up because I was black," Virgil said, "They called me up because I was a player. I was treated very well in Detroit. It was pleasant. I went through the minor leagues with guys like Jim Bunning and Hank Aguirre. They accepted me."
However, being accepted by Blacks in metro Detroit at that time was more difficult. "They thought of me more as a Dominican Republic player instead of a Negro," said Virgil, who is from Latin America. "That bothered me."
Virgil would like to see minorities better represented in the managerial and coaching ranks today. "Blacks and Latin Americans are qualified to coach," Virgil said, "Hopefully with this Jackie Robinson tribute, baseball will open its doors to more minorities, give them an opportunity to show their talent. A man like Felipe Alou, who is considered to be the best manager there is, he was at the right place at the right time." Virgil is currently managing a San Francisco Giants entry in the Dominican Summer League.
20th Century Baseball Chronicle
Year-By-Year History of major league Baseball
Copyright 1999, Publications International Ltd.