Sunday, April 13, 2014

April 13, 1954: Tom Alston Breaks The Cardinals Color Barrier

     On April 13, 1954, the Cardinals opened up the season with a disappointing 13-4 loss to the Cubs in St. Louis. While the numbers in the runs scored column leaned toward the wrong team, the game was notable for many reasons which included Wally Moon hitting a home run in his first major league at bat, Stan "The Man" Musial hitting a solo shot, and perhaps the most notable thing to happen that day was Tom Alston was penciled in at first base. The moment Alston took to the field he became the first African American player to suit up for the Cardinals in a regular season contest.

     The next day Moon was the headliner in the newspapers. The young centerfielder was filling the shoes of Enos Slaughter who had been traded to the New York Yankees. Moon would later say that he was much more nervous in the field than he was at the plate. His comfortability at the plate showed after being issued two balls before connecting on the third Paul Minner pitch that sailed 350 feet and over the wall. Moon proclaimed "It was quite a thrill." He was just the second Cardinals player to accomplish the feat in his first at bat. To date, eight Cardinals have hit a home run in their first at bat, with the latest coming in 2008 off the bat of Mark Worrell.

     The debut of Tom Alston with the Cardinals came seven years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Brooklyn. Alston was regarded as a can't miss prospect when he was purchased from the San Diego Padres of the Pacific Coast league for an estimated $100,000. However, he played in career high 66 games during that '54 season, and would only hit .244 over four years in the big leagues. Regardless of what he did on the field, or at the plate, Alston is a very important figure in the history of the St. Louis Cardinals. While the Cardinals ended up on the wrong side of the scoreboard on that day in April, Alston helped opened the door for men like Bob Gibson, Bill White, Curt Flood and countless other African American as well as Latino players who have worn the birds on the bat. A new era had begun in St. Louis.

You can view the box score here:


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