Nathaniel Clifton

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Nathaniel Clifton
(Sweetwater, Nat)

BR Minors page

Biographical Information[edit]

Known primarily for being the first African-American player in the NBA in 1951, Nathaniel Clifton served in the US army during World War II then became a professional baseball player in 1949. A first baseman, he played for the Chicago American Giants and Detroit Stars in the Negro Leagues that year then moved to the integrating minors with the Pittsfield Electrics of the Canadian-American League. He struck out 31 times in 80 at-bats, but still managed to hit .275 with 3 homers. He batted .449 when he did not strike out. He also played for the Central League's Dayton Indians, where he batted .322 with 11 homers despite striking out frequently. He was 4th in the CL in average and tied for 9th in homers even though his time was limited due to his playing on three other teams that year.

In his second season as a pro baseball player, Sweetwater hit .304/~.368/.464 for Wilkes-Barre Indians in the Eastern League. After that year, though, he became a full-time basketball player, twice finishing in the top 10 in rebounds and making one All-Star team while making history as a basketball pioneer. In 1958, after his basketball career ended, he played for a minor all-black baseball team with former Harlem Globetrotters teammate Goose Tatum and appeared in the East-West Game.

Sources include Baseball's Canadian-American League by David Pietrusza, The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues by James Riley

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