On January 28, 1958, the Tigers shipped Jim Finigan and $25,000 to the San Francisco Giants for Gail Harris and Ozzie Virgil. Virgil was called the Tigers’ first black player, though, in actuality, he was their first Latino: He was Dominican.
Virgil played his first game at Tiger Stadium on June 17, 1958, going 5-for-5 against the Washington Senators before a crowd of 30,000.
Ozzie Virgil poses at third base the day before his Briggs Stadium debut on June 17, 1958 when he batted 5 for 5.
“The fans gave me a standing ovation,” he recalled to the Free Press’ John Lowe in 2008. He said that first game in Detroit – in which he batted second and played third base – is one of his favorite baseball memories.
Virgil had actually made his Tigers debut for the team earlier that month in an away game, on June 6.
The Tigers were the second to last team to integrate, before only the Boston Red Sox. Virgil’s debut came 11 years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier.
Virgil was shipped by the Tigers to the Kansas City Athletics in August 1961. Over a nine-year career, Virgil hit .231 with 14 homers and 73 RBI.
Dan Austin, “The day the Detroit Tigers gave up their color barrier“, Detroit Free Press, January 28, 2015.