Oct 26, 2014

Ground Breaking Early Sixties Mets Infielder: Sammy Drake (1962)

Samuel Harrison Drake was born October 7, 1934 in Little Rock Arkansas.

The speedy five foot eleven infielder attended Phlander Smith College at Little Rock. He began his pro career in the Negro Leagues playing with the legendary Kansas City Monarchs. Drake was a team mate of Hall of Famer Ernie Banks under manager Buck O'Neil.

Drake seems to have been forgotten throughout the annals of time, but he did make a few ground breaking feats in his career.

In 1955 he made history when he & his teammate Ernest Johnson, were the first two black players to play for the AA Macon Peaches. Next, Sammy & his brother Solly Drake became the first African American bothers to play in the major leagues during the 20th century.

Solly Drake would play for the Chicago Cubs (1956) Los Angeles Dodgers (1959) & Philadelphia Phillies (1959) in the late fifties batting .232 lifetime in 141 career games. Sammy Drake hit .318 in the Chicago Cubs organization in 1960 & got a cup of coffee with the big league club for 15 games that September.

He was used primarily as a pinch hitter going 1-15. In 1961 he hit .307 at AAA Houston getting another brief September call up going 0-5. As an infielder, there wasn’t much room for Drake on a Cubs infield that had Ernie Banks at short, Ron Santo at third & Don Zimmer at second base.

He was chosen by the New York Mets in the 1961 expansion draft as the 24th pick. He played at AAA Syracuse & Columbus before being brought up to the expansion '62 Mets in early August 1962.

Drake debuted as a Met on August 1st going 0-1 as a pinch hitter in a 11-9 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies. He was used as a pinch hitter most of the month, getting his first Mets hit in his fourth career game.

It was an RBI base hit against Don Drysdale & the Dodgers at Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium. By September he was seeing more steady playing time at second & third base through the rest of the season.

His big day in the sun came in a Polo Grounds double Header against the Houston Colt 45’s on September 18th. Although the Mets lost both games, Drake had a hit and an RBI in the first game, and then went 2-5 with three RBIs in the night cap. He only hit .192 with ten hits, no extra base hits & seven RBIs in 25 games that season & never made the major leagues again.

He spent the next three seasons at the AAA level, leaving baseball at age 31. Overall he hit .153 with 11 hits, seven RBIs & a .238 on base % in 53 major league games. In 782 minor league games he batted .273 in a career lasting over ten years.

Retirement: In 2008 Drake said his best asset was his speed. "God had blessed me with so much speed, "I ran the 100-yard dash in 9.7 seconds. It's on my baseball card." 

After baseball, he served as a Sunday school teacher in his older brother Solly Drake's Baptist Church. He passed away in January 2010 at the age of 75 in Los Angeles, California.

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