Black History Month - San Jose Giants History
In celebration of Black History Month, throughout February, teams across Minor League Baseball are taking a look back at five of the best Black players to suit up for their club. While some of these standout performers went on to long and illustrious Major League careers, others simply had great
In celebration of Black History Month, throughout February, teams across Minor League Baseball are taking a look back at five of the best Black players to suit up for their club.
While some of these standout performers went on to long and illustrious Major League careers, others simply had great Minor League careers or, in some cases, just one incredible season that went down as “a year for the ages.” In no particular order, here is a look at five of the best Black baseball players to suit up for the San Jose Giants since our affiliation with the San Francisco Giants began in 1988:
Royce Clayton was drafted out of St. Bernard High School in Playa del Rey in the first round (15th pick overall) by the San Francisco Giants in 1988. He made his San Jose Giants debut in 1989 after being called up from the Clinton Giants. In his time in San Jose, Clayton batted .243 with 17 doubles, 10 triples and 75 RBI in 151 games.
He made his San Francisco Giants debut in 1991 and would go on to play for 10 other teams in his 16-year major league career. In 1997, as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals, he was selected to his first and only MLB All-Star game.
In 2011, Clayton portrayed Miguel Tejada in the film Moneyball, making him the first former big-league player to appear in an Oscar nominated Best Picture film. Clayton was the childhood favorite player of San Francisco Giant shortstop Brandon Crawford, and is currently the head varsity baseball coach at Oaks Christian High School in Westlake Village, CA.
Neal was drafted by San Francisco in the 36th round of the 2005 amateur draft, and signed with the Giants organization in 2006 out of Riverside Community College. After a slow start to his professional career, Neal found large success at the plate in his third year, and first full season in Augusta in 2008.
In 2009, Neal had one of the best seasons in San Jose Giants history, as he batted .337/.431/.579 with 22 home runs and 90 runs batted in. Neal was among the Cal League leaders in runs, hits, doubles, home runs, RBIs, and average. Baseball America ranked him as the best prospect in the Cal League, and as high as #9 in all of the minor leagues. He was also named to the Cal League All-Star team and helped lead San Jose to a league title.
Neal was ultimately traded to the now Cleveland Guardians in 2011, where he made his big-league debut in September of 2012. Neal retired from his playing career in 2015 and has since served as a minor-league hitting coach in the Giants organization.
Fred Lewis was drafted out of Southern University and A&M College in the second round (66th overall) by the San Francisco Giants in 2002. Lewis made his San Jose Giants debut in 2004, and batted .301 with 20 doubles, 11 triples and 57 RBI in 115 games before being called up to AAA Fresno.
He later debuted for the San Francisco Giants on September 1st, 2006. In only his 16th appearance in the major leagues, Lewis hit for the cycle in Colorado on May 13, 2007. He was also the first player in San Francisco Giants history to hit two grand slams in a rookie season. Lewis eventually retired from Major League Baseball in 2012.
Jerome Williams was selected in the first round (39th overall) of the 1999 draft by the San Francisco Giants out of Waipahu (Hawaii) High School.
After spending the 1999 season in rookie ball, Williams came to San Jose in 2000 where he appeared in 23 games, posted a 7-6 record with a 2.94 ERA, and struck out 115 batters. His success in the minor leagues came with a Futures Game Invite during the 2001 season.
Williams made Giants’ history when he made his Major League Debut on April 26, 2003, becoming the first Hawaiian-born player in organizational history (including New York) to appear in a Giants’ uniform. He would eventually receive the same honor when he took the field as a Washington National in 2007. Williams retired from Major League Baseball in 2016, and his accomplishments were later celebrated in San Jose with his own bobblehead.
Ford, drafted in the 18th round of the 2004 draft, began his Giants career in 2008 when he was traded by the Milwaukee Brewers. He would spend the remainder of this season in San Jose, finishing the year with 62 total stolen bases. The 48 bases he stole prior to his arrival in San Jose was good for second in the entire Florida State league, despite only playing 91 games in that league.
Ford returned to San Jose in 2009 where his success on the base baths continued while enjoying one of his best career years at the plate. Ford batted .300 with 50 RBIs and added 35 stolen bases, fourth overall in the Cal League. Alongside an impressive San Jose team featuring the likes of Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, Madison Bumgarner and Thomas Neal, Ford and his teammates brought home the 2009 California League Championship.
Ford was eventually called up to make his big-league debut with San Francisco Giants, appearing in seven games in 2010 and 26 games in 2011, before jumping between the Mariners, Pirates, and back to the Giants from 2012-2016.