Buff Biographies: Bob Boyd

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Bob Boyd

Bob Boyd

First baseman Bob Boyd (BL/TL) (5’10”, 170 lb.) “broke the color line” for all professional, collegiate, and high school sports teams representing the City of Houston as a player for the Houston Buffs Baseball Club on May 27, 1954. For those of you who may be too young to remember, “breaking the color line” means that Bob Boyd was the first black athlete to cross that invisible line of segregation that dictated American life in the South by keeping people of the black race from participating with whites in so many areas of life well into the 1950s and 1960s.

Back then, black fans who chose to support the all-white Houston Buffs, had to sit in a segregated uncovered grandstand section located down the far right field line of Buff Stadium. Black fans also had their own segregated water fountains and restrooms. It truly was an embarrassing time for civil rights, freedom, and common decency, but it was – the way things were.

“Breaking the color line” was not always blatantly contentious. It wasn’t in Houston. Not at all. Some people don’t seem to get that fact. Often times, “breaking the color line” truly was, as it was with Bob Boyd in Houston, an act of celebration over the death of one segregation tentacle.

There was only one Jackie Robinson – and not all “color lines” by team or league were hostile propositions. The color line for all players in the Texas League, in fact, already had been broken in 1952 by pitcher Dave Hoskins of the Dallas Eagles. By the time Houston’s breaking away from this one piece of social segregation in our local baseball operation was upon us, the appearance of Bob Boyd in a Houston Buffs home uniform was pretty much greeted by most Houstonians as an inevitable development. Add to the cause for celebration the fact that the 1954 Houston club had championship potential running throughout its roster and the belief that the addition of Bob Boyd from the White Sox may have just answered our quest for that one last missing piece.

It certainly helped that Bob Boyd came though in his first game as a Buff with a triple in the second and a double in the fourth to pace Houston to a well-deserved victory over Shreveport, Bob had a steady likable personality and a baseball talent that kept on producing as he hustled his way to a .321 average with 7 homers in 94 games of  the team’s road to the Texas League pennant.

The man still had to do his baseball work in an environment that didn’t allow him to take his meals with teammates in public restaurants, stay in hotels where his co-workers stayed, drink from water fountains, use rest rooms, or attend movies in the direct company of whites.

It is a far better world today in Houston. And that is why we celebrate the coming of Bob Boyd as the man who came to town in 1954 as our guy who crossed over the old color line and buried it with both his ability as a player and also his likable dignity as a really fine and decent human being.

Bob Boyd also played for the Houston Buffs in 1955, batting .310 with 15 HR. He then moved back up to the major leagues for the completion of a 9-season (1951, 1953-54, 1956-61) career and a .293 career BA with 19 HR. Over his 10-season minor league years (1949-55, 1962-64), Bob Boyd batted .321 with 53 homers.

Bob Boyd’s best year was 1957 when he hit .318 with 4 homers in 141 games for the Baltimore Orioles. He struck out only 31 times in 552 plate appearances.

After baseball, Bob Boyd went back to his home in Wichita, Kansas and drove a municipal bus until his retirement. He died on September 7, 2004, just seventeen days shy of his 85th birthday.

Bob Boyd ~ Late in Life.

Bob Boyd
~ Late in Life.

God rest your soul, Bob Boyd. You “did us proud” down here in Houston. As one who was there to watch you break the color line as an act of celebration, I shall never forget you. You will always be honored by all who remember, know of, and understand the importance of your contribution to Houston baseball history.

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6 Responses to “Buff Biographies: Bob Boyd”

  1. materene Says:

    Well said, a very nice tribute

  2. Mark W. Says:

    Thanks for this tribute. A good man. I love my 1961 Topps baseball card of Boyd. He was a 31 year-old “rookie”. He looked like a pretty good hitter for three years in the late 50s, high BA and OBP, and he was pushing 40 then! I think if he could have been a middle infielder he’d have stayed longer in MLB, although what would have really helped is if he had broken in 10 years earlier. But then we’d be talking about Bob Boyd instead of Jackie Robinson.

  3. Mark W. Says:

    Boyd was ten months younger than Robinson, yet he played in the major leagues five years longer than Robinson did.

  4. tom murrah Says:

    Thanks for another wonderful column. Perhaps others also have his
    ’57 card on which a “twinkle” in his eyes shows along with the hint of
    a smile as if he knows “I can hit this guy.” Looks to me like his ’52
    season at Seattle where he won the PCL batting title earned some
    days with the White Sox. His slow start with them in ’54 might have
    made him “available” for the Buffs. The last statement on the back
    of the ’57 card reads “In ’55, he led the Texas Loop in hits and was
    drafted by the Orioles.” That’s when I became lucky enough to root
    for him and Brooks Robinson. Thanks for the memories.

  5. Glen Krajca-Radcliffe Says:

    I became a LH hitter because of watching Boyd at Buff Stadium when I was growing up. He was my favorite Buff during that period. Well done piece.

  6. Pete Gorton Says:

    Signed with the White Sox by John Wesley Donaldson one of the greatest NL players ever. Donaldson was the first Black Scout in the history of MLB

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