Curt Roberts Breaks the Color Barrier With the Pittsburgh Pirates (April 13, 1954)
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS AND AWARDS:
- In 2006, the Pittsburgh Pirates honored Roberts at the Pirates Highmark Legacy Square Negro Leagues exhibit in PNC Park
- The Pirates established the annual “Curt Roberts Step Up to the Plate Diversity Recruitment Initiative” in 2017
At 17-years-old, Curtis “Curt” Benjamin Roberts, who grew up in Oakland, California, began his professional career with the Kansas City Monarchs in 1947. Four years later, he signed with the Boston Braves and played in the minors before his contract was purchased by the Pittsburgh Pirates for $10,000 in 1952. He continued playing minor-league ball for the next two seasons.
Pirates general manager Branch Rickey, who was influenced by protests within Pittsburgh’s Black community, and the fact that 10 major-league teams were already integrated, facilitated Roberts’ move to the majors. Rickey selected Roberts, like Jackie Robinson, due to his skills and calm demeanor. He debuted with the team on April 13, 1954. Although he left MLB after three seasons in 1956, his participation opened the door for other Black players to join the Pirates’ roster, including future Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente. Roberts continued to play in the minor leagues on various teams, including the Montreal Royals of the International League (1959) and the Pacific Coast League’s Spokane Indians (1961). He retired from baseball in 1963.
Roberts died tragically six years later at age 40, when he was hit by a car while changing a tire on the side of the road.