Two months after Brooklyn Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey announced that he had signed Jackie Robinson following the 1945 season, he signed another player whose name has largely been forgotten.
New Orleans native John Wright had been a stellar pitcher in the Negro Leagues and would become the first African-American pitcher to sign with a major league team in the integration era. His time with organization’s top minor league club turned out to be short. Now, one of the only known photos of Wright in the uniform of the Dodgers’ minor league franchise in Montreal is up for auction. The 3 x 4 ¼” image is among the headliners at RMY Auctions this month.
While Robinson went on to become the first African-American player to play in the big leagues, Wright wasn’t quite as fortunate. Joining Robinson in Montreal in the spring of 1946, he was hit hard in his first relief appearance. While his next outing went better, Wright had control problems and after six weeks he was demoted to a lower level minor league club. Pitching in a sometimes hostile environment against all white teams must have been a challenge, especially without his family members, who remained at home in New Orleans.
While he won the deciding game of the championship series for the Class C team in Quebec, Wright would never get a taste of major league action. He returned to the Negro Leagues and retired from baseball after the 1948 season, living out his life in his hometown. John Wright died in 1990.
While other photos of Robinson and Wright together in their days at Montreal exist, the photo at auction is the only one ever to reach the auction block, according to RMY.
The photo is one of over 500 available in the online catalog, with bidding set to close August 21.