Yes indeed, it is Sam Jethroe, much beloved former Toronto Maple Leaf outfielder 1955, 56 and 57. We saw Sam on his downward trajectory from the bigs.He led the NL in stolen bases in 1950 and 51 and was the oldest “rookie of the year” ever (age 33).
Sam because of Jim Crow probably shaved a few years off his age to even get a look. He was the first black ball player to play in Boston whose redneck owner waited till 1960 for the Sox to sign their first black player, Pumpsie Green.
The guy even in his late 30s could fly—the skinniest legs of any ball player i ever saw and the man with the shortest lead off.His speed was blinding.
The ball has an interesting story.
My former student at Mimico High, Jerry Farrell is a ball nut and when Sam fell on hard times (he ended up a barber in Erie,Pa,) Jerry heard the story, drove to Erie and gave Sam $500.00.Sam gave him the autographed ball and Jerry gave it to me. Now I use it to play catch with my grandkids.
Sammy Ferris, a great hitter from our city championship teams of ’61 and ’62 was horrified that I use the ball to play catch with Doug and John my grandsons.I told him to me it’s just a ball. My memories are deeper than an object like this. I think Sam would smile watching the joy I get just tossing his ball to these young Blue Jay fans.
Samuel Jethroe (Jet)
Bats: Both, Throws: Right
Height: 6′ 1″, Weight: 178 lb.
Born: January 23, 1917 in Lowndes County, MS
High School: Lincoln HS (East St. Louis, IL)
Signed as a Free Agent with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1948. (All Transactions)
Debut: April 18, 1950 (Age 33.085, 8,238th in MLB history) vs. NYG 4 AB, 2 H, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 0 SB
Rookie Status: Exceeded rookie limits during 1950 season [*]
Teams : Braves/Pirates 1950-1954
Last Game: April 15, 1954 (Age 37.082) vs. BRO 1 AB, 0 H, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 0 SB
Died: June 16, 2001 in Erie, PA (Aged 84.144)
Buried: Erie Cemetery, Erie, PA