24-year-old Mickey Stubblefield took the mound for the Mayfield
Clothiers on June 26, 1952 against the Paducah Chiefs, he became
the first African-American player in the history of the Kitty
He began his professional career in 1947 with the Omaha
Rockets, an independent club that barnstormed against Negro League
teams. He pitched for the Kansas City Monarchs in 1948 and 1949,
reportedly winning 20 games in his first season. He played for
McCook in the Nebraska State League in 1950, finishing with a 13-6
Two years later, Stubblefield was back in Mayfield working for
the local Dr. Pepper Bottling Company and pitching for a local
semi-pro club called the Black Hawks.
Meanwhile, the Mayfield Clothiers were in the Kitty League
cellar with a 20-31 record. Pittsburgh Pirates scouts Frank Rickey
(brother of Pirates GM Branch Rickey) and Bill Burwell were in
town signing local talent for the struggling club and approached
Stubblefield about playing for the Clothiers.
About 1,500 fans -- black and white -- packed War Memorial Park
and overflowed into the adjacent football grandstand in right
field for Stubblefield's historic Kitty League debut. They gave
him a standing ovation to start the game and he struck out the
first batter he faced, Paducah third baseman Russ Davis.
He struck out six batters, walked five, and scattered six hits
in the complete game victory, winning 5-4.
Mayfield manager Red Barrett utilized Stubblefield as a starter
and reliever. Because of racial fears in most Kitty League
towns, he pitched only in Mayfield, with the exception of one start
at Paducah on August 2. He was scheduled to start a game at
Jackson four days later, but it was postponed due to rain.
Kitty League president Shelby Peace shared with the Pittsburgh
Courier (an African-American newspaper) the sentiments of
league owners concerning Stubblefield. "Actually, none of the
club owners are in favor of Negroes in the league," he
explained, "but there is no law that would prevent it, except
in parks that are municipally owned."
No doubt Stubblefield encountered racial prejudice both on and
off the field during his three-month stint in the Kitty League.
Yet he remained with the Clothiers and pitched his final game on
August 28, a 6-3 loss to the Madisonville Miners.