Dixon opened the door in the Bronx
Slugger was first African-American to homer in Yankee Stadium
A few years after Yankee Stadium opened for business, Herbert Albert "Rap" Dixon left an indelible mark on a historical afternoon.
In the first all-black game played at "The House That Ruth Built," Dixon became the first African-American to hit a home run at Yankee Stadium. He would hit two more home runs during that July 5, 1930, doubleheader between his Baltimore Black Sox and the New York Lincoln Giants.
The Negro League squads split the twin bill, and Dixon's historic achievement was just one of many highlights during a 15-year professional career that included stints with eight teams. Rap batted at least .300 in eight of those seasons, spent five offseasons playing in the integrated California Winter League (batting .326 overall and .316 against white Major League pitchers) and hit a home run in Japan in 1927 that went so deep that even Emperor Hirohito took notice.
Almost 80 years later, Dixon is one of 39 candidates being considered for induction into the Hall of Fame.
A 12-member voting committee, appointed by the Hall of Fame Board of Directors and chaired by former Major League Baseball commissioner Fay Vincent, will meet Feb. 25-27 to review the final ballots of the candidates. The committee will then vote, and any candidate receiving 75 percent of the votes (nine) will be elected to the Hall of Fame and enshrined during the July 30 induction ceremonies in Cooperstown, N.Y., along with Bruce Sutter, Tracy Ringolsby (Spink Award winner) and a Ford C. Frick recipient to be named later in February.
Dixon, who died in 1945 at the age of 43, was a strong-armed right fielder who helped the Black Sox capture the American Negro League championship in 1929, when he batted .382 with seven home runs and led the league with six triples.
Dixon already had established himself as a big-time player, opening the '28 season with a 21-game hitting streak and compiling a 19-game streak later that same season.
Four years later, he became part of one of the finest black teams ever assembled, Gus Greenlee's barnstorming Pittsburgh Crawfords. Playing beside Hall of Famers Satchel Paige, Oscar Charleston, Judy Johnson, Josh Gibson and James "Cool Papa" Bell, Dixon held his own, batting .343 with 15 home runs.
One year after that, Rap was selected to play in the inaugural East-West All-Star game, making his presence felt by scoring two runs, driving in a run and stealing a base for the East team.
He moved on to the National Negro League Philadelphia Stars prior to the '34 season, leading them to the league title. In 1935, his final year as a regular, Dixon batted .344 for the Stars.
Proving that he had an eye for talent as well as a good eye at the plate, Dixon "discovered" a youngster playing in the sandlots of Baltimore in 1934 and invited him to play for the hometown Stars. The player, Leon Day, would go on to have a tremendous career as a pitcher and hitter, being inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1995 with the highest winning percentage (.708) of any pitcher enshrined in Cooperstown.
Also on that '34 Black Sox team was Rap's younger brother, Paul Dixon, an outfielder for several Negro League clubs in the 1930s.
It was prior to the 1927 season when Rap stole the show in Japan.
Rap would entertain the fans prior to the games, running the bases quickly and tossing baseballs over the outfield wall while standing at home plate. When the games began, he was even more dramatic. He belted a home run of such prodigious proportions that Emperor Hirohito presented him with a trophy to commemorate it.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.