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On This Date in Cardinals History: April 15, 1942

On April 15, 1942 -- five years to the day before Jackie Robinson would break the race barrier for African Americans in Major League Baseball -- Cubs reliever Hiram Bithorn becomes the first Puerto Rican to play in the major leagues when he appears in a game against the Cardinals at Sportsmans Park.

If his name sounds familiar, it's because Puerto Rico's largest baseball stadium -- which played host to major league games when the Expos played a portion of their home schedule there in 2003 and 2004 before they transformed into the Washington Nationals.

Bithorn pitched two scoreless innings, allowing only a walk, as the Cardinals won 4-2 in a complete game pitched by Harry Gumbert. He would go on to notch a 9-14 record with a 3.68 in 1942 before pitching his best season in 1943: 18-12 with a 2.60 ERA.

In 1944 Bithorn joined the Navy and missed the next two seasons. when he returned from the service in 1946 he had lost his stuff and was sent back the bullpen where he was 6-5 with a 3.84 ERA. After a brief stay with the White Sox in 1947, his major league career was over.

The Cardinals lost their home opener to the Cubs on April 14 but won the next two to win the opening series. And they would go on to win 106 games out of 154 that season before claiming the 1942 World Series crown over the Yankees.