Flashback Friday: Jay Heard Becomes the Orioles' First Black Player
April 25, 2014
Thursday marked a significant milestone in this 60th anniversary season of the Orioles' arrival in Baltimore. Jehosie "Jay" Heard became the team's first black player when he took the mound in a relief role on April 24, 1954.
The 34-year-old Heard got the call with two outs in the sixth inning at Comiskey Park where the Orioles faced the White Sox. He induced a groundout back to the mound from Cass Michaels and recorded the assist to strand two Chicago runners.
Heard returned to the mound and posted a hitless seventh inning before being lifted from the game for a pinch hitter in the top of the eighth inning. His final line listed 1.1 innings of work with no hits, strikeouts or walks. The Orioles lost 14-4.
Here is how the sports pages described Heard's first appearance, as recounted in the book Small Town Baltimore.
"The tiny Negro southpath thus became the first member of his race ever to appear in an Oriole uniform in a regular season game. Heard's debut was a good one. He stayed for just four outs, but he didn't allow a hit, before Dykes lifted him for a pinch hitter. Four bird chuckers were victimized by the Sox onslaught and only rookie Jehosie Heard show credibility during a brief fling on the mound."
Heard played in his second and final game with the Orioles on May 28, 1954, this time at Memorial Stadium, and was roughed up for five runs in two innings of work, including a grand slam by Cass Michaels. The Orioles lost 11-6.
After two games, the former Negro League pitcher's major league career was over.
Heard's place in Orioles history could well have belonged to Satchel Paige, an All-Star with the St. Louis Browns in 1953. However, as Aaron Carter of Capital News Service explained in a 2012 story, the future Hall of Famer had become "too high profile" for the team.
Here's to Jay Heard and his place in Orioles history.