Wally Westlake

Wally Westlake (Christian Brothers) admitted he didn’t get a bonus when he signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1940 and was sent to the Elmira Pioneers of the Class-A Eastern League.

Instead, the Dodgers agreed to pay him a $500 bonus if he stuck with the club beyond March 15. However, on March 14, they released him.

Wally Westlake

– Alan O’Connor Collection
Wally Westlake was the first white player to be hit by a pitch thrown by an African American player in 1947.

Westlake swore pro ball hadn’t seen the last of him. In 1947, he made his major league debut with the Pittsburgh Pirates and went on to hit .273 with 17 home runs and 69 runs batted in.

Westlake, who from 1949 to 2000 was the only Pirates’ player to hit for the cycle, has a peculiar place in Major League Baseball history.

“It turns out that I’m the first white player who ever got hit by a pitch from a black player,” Westlake said in the book “This Great Game.”

“It was a kid named Dan Bankhead, a rookie pitching in middle relief for the Brooklyn Dodgers, making his debut and pitching in front of a packed house at Ebbets Field in late August of 1947. He was the first black pitcher to play in the majors, and along with Jackie Robinson, were the first black players to play in a World Series.

“Everyone kind of hesitated when he hit me. There was almost like a hush. It was like what is going to happen next? I didn’t care if he was blue, green or purple out there on the mound because he was trying to get me out and I’m trying to whack his butt, regardless of who he is. But my name gets mentioned quite a bit with that piece of fairly meaningless baseball history.”

In Westlake’s 10-year major league career, he played for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, Baltimore Orioles and Philadelphia Phillies. He played in 958 games and batted .272 with 107 doubles, 33 triples, 127 home runs and 539 runs batted in. He was named a National League All-Star in 1951 with the Pirates. Westlake was 99 when he died.