Power, a gregarious man with a big personality, might have been the first black player to join the New York Yankees, but he didn’t fit the staid personality of the New York franchise. Yankees general manager George Weiss, who traded the minor leaguer to the Philadelphia A's following the 1953 season, said Power didn’t fit “the Yankee type,” noting that the slick-fielding first baseman was “impudent and he goes for white women.”
That was quite the sin in the mid-1950s, but Power grew up in Puerto Rico, where color was of little significance and people of all shades married. At both restaurants and restrooms in the South, Power often demonstrated a colorblindness that was both charming and risky.
Once a waitress informed Power that her restaurant didn’t serve Negroes, to which he replied, “That’s okay, I don’t eat Negroes. I just want some rice and beans.”
He flashed the same sarcastic wit when he was asked about not becoming the first black player with the Yankees. “They say they didn’t call me up because I was going out with white women,“ Power said. “I told them ‘Jeez, I didn’t know white women were that bad. If I knew that, I wouldn’t go out with them.’”
Power landed with the Twins in 1962, kicking off my love affair with one of the more stylish first basemen to ever play the game.
He blew monstrous bubbles with his gum while successfully scooping nearly every low throw with a sweeping motion that was his trademark. Every Little League coach chastised young boys to use two hands catching a ball, but this 8-year-old first baseman followed the Vic Power fielding manual, right down to the bubble-blowing.
Power was a captivating character of the game, but you won’t find a plaque for him in Cooperstown. On my recent trip I enjoyed the next-best option: finding him honored inside the Triple-A ballpark in Syracuse, New York.