Curt Roberts

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Curtis Benjamin Roberts

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Biographical Information[edit]

Curt Roberts was the second player of color and first African-American player in Pittsburgh Pirates history. Roberts was signed by the Braves organization prior to the 1951 season and obtained by Branch Rickey and the Pirate organization one year later. He spent a total of three years with the Denver Bears in the class A Western League where he was the All-Star second baseman in 1953.

On June 21, 1947, he had been the first Black player to participate in Oakland's annual youth All-Star game, from which two players were selected for the annual Hearst Sandlot Classic in New York. On July 25, 1947, less than a month prior to his 18th birthday, he joined the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro American League, and played with them through 1950. He formed a double play combination with Gene Baker on the Monarchs in 1948 and 1949 and, in 1950, after Baker left the Monarchs, Roberts was paired with a young Ernie Banks.

The second sacker hit just .232 in 134 games in his only full season with the Pirates in 1954. He was also with the Pirates for part of 1955, getting into only 6 games and was with the Hollywood Stars of the Pacific Coast League for the remainder of the year, where he appeared in 123 games and hit at a .321 clip. Roberts, who was fluent in Spanish, was helpful in the transition to the majors of Roberto Clemente that year.

It was just about the same scenario in 1956 with the exception that a 19-year-old second baseman named Bill Mazeroski appeared on the scene. Curt was with the Pirates for 31 games, his last in the majors, and spend the balance of the season with the Williamsport Grays and the Columbus (OH) Red Birds, hitting .318 with 9 home runs in the combined season. While with Columbus, Curt hit four home runs in an International League game on August 27.

After being traded to the Kansas City Athletics for Spook Jacobs after the 1956 season, Curt spent the rest of his pro career in the high minors. He hit .304 with 10 homers for the Denver Bears in 1957 and also hit .307 with the Spokane Indians in 1961. Roberts finished his three-year major league run in with a .223 average in 171 games, and would wind up his 12-season minor league career in 1963 with a .293 batting average with 87 home runs.

Roberts' baseball career started when he was signed by the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues out of McClymonds High School in Oakland, CA, where he preceded major league stars, Frank Robinson, Vada Pinson and Curt Flood. Roberts, who was working in campus security at the University of California, died tragically on November 14, 1969, at age 40 when he was hit by a vehicle while changing a flat tire on a freeway in Oakland, CA.

Sources[edit]

Baseball Players of the 1950s

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