Author’s note: I spent the weekend in Colorado visiting some friends. On Friday night, we went to see a Colorado Springs Sky Sox game. The Sox are the Triple-A affiliate for the Colorado Rockies (and they feature ex-Met Mike Jacobs at first base – but that’s another story for another time). I picked up the Sky Sox’ program on the way into the ballpark, and was surprised to see a familiar face inside. Kind of. It was Sam Hairston, grandfather of Scott and Jerry Jr. He had been inducted into the Colorado Springs Sports Hall of Fame in April of this year. My curiosity was piqued, so I decided to do some research. Here’s what I came up with. – PJF
Samuel Harding Hairston (1920-1997) was the patriarch of the largest family of Major League players in the game to date. A catcher by trade, he was discovered by the Birmingham Black Barons while playing for the city’s amateur industrial league. He played in the Negro Leagues for the Barons in 1944, then spent the next five years with the Indianapolis Clowns. In 1950, he won the Negro League Triple Crown, batting .427 with 17 HR and 71 RBI. That caught the attention of Major League scouts, including those of the Chicago White Sox, who signed him to a Minor League deal later that year.
He was shipped to the Colorado Springs Sky Sox, then the A-ball affiliate of the White Sox, for the remainder of the 1950 season. In 1951, he became the first black American to play for the South Siders (Cuban-born Minnie Minoso also debuted that year for the Sox). Hairston’s Major League career was short-lived, as he went 2 for 5 in only 4 games with Chicago.
He returned to the Sky Sox in 1951. He would go on to have a successful career, compiling a .304 career batting average in 11 Minor League seasons.
A total of five Hairstons, beginning with Sam, have played in the majors, the most any baseball-playing family. Sam’s son Johnny had a cup of coffee for the Cubs in 1969, playing only 3 games as a September call up. His other son, Jerry Sr. played from 1973-1989, starting and ending his career with his Dad’s White Sox.
Jerry Sr. has two sons who currently play in the the Majors, Jerry Jr., and the Mets’ very own outfielder, Scott.
Sam was a pioneer, not only in baseball, but in American society. Following Jackie Robinson, he was one of the first African Americans to play in the Majors, helping to break the color barrier in sports and in the country.