In July 1947 the St. Louis Browns were
the worst team in major league baseball. In hopes
of improving their fortunes, the Browns purchased the
contracts of Henry Thompson and Willard Brown from the
Negro League Kansas City Monarchs. The St. Louis
Gazette-Democrat called the move "an
eyebrow-lifting experiment." Thompson and
Brown became the first black teammates in the major
leagues. The move provoked a mixed response in a
city many considered part of the South.
Several observers considered the
inclusion of Brown and Thompson on the Browns roster a
desperate attempt to improve attendance without any real
commitment to integrating the major leagues. A
headline from The Sporting News read "Gates
Rusting, Browns Rush in 2 Negro Players." An
afternoon home game a few days before Thompson and Brown
arrived drew just 478 people.
Thompson, a 21-year-old infielder from Los Angeles,
California, was ranked as a true major league prospect. Before coming
to the Browns, he was hitting .347 for the Monarchs.