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04/17/09 8:30 PM ET

Pumpsie Green throws out first pitch

Infielder broke color barrier for Red Sox 50 years ago

BOSTON -- It was only appropriate that Elijah "Pumpsie" Green threw out Friday's first pitch at Fenway Park, a pitch caught by David Ortiz.

After all, it was 50 years to the day that Green signed with Boston and broke the color barrier for the Red Sox, the last Major League club to integrate African-Americans. The ceremony also marked the club's annual Jackie Robinson Day commemoration.

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"On behalf of John Henry, Tom Werner and the entire Red Sox organization, I want to express our sincere pleasure in welcoming Pumpsie Green back to Fenway Park, where he made history 50 years ago," said Red Sox President and CEO Larry Lucchino.

"The legacy of players like Pumpsie Green and Jackie Robinson is evidenced by the presence of the diversity of players like Jim Rice, Mo Vaughn, Dave Roberts and David Ortiz as part of the Red Sox's more recent history," Lucchino continued. "As fans and as an organization, we owe both Pumpsie Green and Jackie Robinson a debt of gratitude for their courageous contributions to the game and to society."

Green's debut with the Red Sox came on July 21, 1959, against the White Sox at old Comiskey Park in Chicago, when he entered the game in the top of the eighth inning as a pinch-runner for Vic Wertz, who had pinch-hit for shortstop Don Buddin. Green stayed in the game defensively for the bottom of the inning and played shortstop.

Green's Fenway Park debut was against the Kansas City Athletics on Aug. 4 of that year, when he started in the leadoff spot and played second base.

During four years in a Red Sox uniform, Green batted .244 in 327 games, with 12 home runs, 69 RBIs and an on-base percentage of .353. He was traded to the Mets at the end of the 1962 season and played 29 games for New York in 1963 before retiring.

Also on Friday, the Red Sox honored four Jackie Robinson scholars, sponsored by the Jackie Robinson Foundation and the Red Sox Foundation, as part of the ceremonies. Titciana Barros (Boston College), Adriana Lee (Rutgers University), Shakeela Najjar (Boston University) and Danielle Whiteman (Boston College) were recognized.

Each Jackie Robinson scholar receives up to $7,500 a year in direct support and becomes an active member in the Jackie Robinson Foundation's Education and Leadership Development Program, which offers professional mentoring and assistance for summer internships and permanent employment.

Jackie Robinson Day ceremonies are held annually throughout Major League Baseball to commemorate the date (April 15, 1947) when Robinson debuted with the Brooklyn Dodgers and became the first African-American ballplayer to don a Major League uniform. This year, every player wore No. 42 on Wednesday to honor Robinson for his contributions to the game and his leadership on issues of civil and human rights.

Mike Petraglia is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.