Skip to comments.Jackie Robinson's Debut Changed the Game -- and the Nation
Posted on 04/14/2012 10:56:44 PM PDT by nickcarraway
Sixty-five years ago Sunday Jackie Robinson changed the course of history in his fourth-best sport.
After all, Robinson, UCLA's first four-sport letterman, was an NCAA long jump champion in track and field, led the nation in punt return average in football and played for the Bruins' basketball team but he batted only .097 during his one full season with the UCLA baseball squad. Yet for Robinson to have achieved his lasting legacy as a sports icon and racial pioneer, his success on the professional level had to come in baseball. Because in the late 1940s there was baseball and there was every other sport.
Who today remembers that professional football had integrated in 1946, seven months before Robinson took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers? Kenny Washington and Woody Strode (teammates of Robinson's at UCLA) played with the Los Angeles Rams of the NFL, and Hall of Famers Marion Motley and Bill Willis suited up for the Cleveland Browns of the All-America Football Conference. But in that era pro football played little brother to the college game in terms of national popularity. Meanwhile, the NBA was in its infancy, college basketball was a niche sport and hockey was played in too few cities. Baseball's biggest competition came more from boxing and horse racing than any other team sport. Heavyweight champion Joe Louis was one of the world's best known athletes, black or white.
Baseball needed Robinson and Robinson needed baseball to create the greatest long-term impact on sports and society. And directly after World War II baseball was never more popular.
Four years of war-induced shortages and austerity measures had left Americans with a pent-up demand for the good things in life. The nation was in a mood to celebrate and baseball rode that wave. Between 1946 and 1951,
(Excerpt) Read more at sportsillustrated.cnn.com ...
Pee Wee Reese had as much to do with changing baseball as Jackie Robinson did. Reese should not be forgotten in the discussion although he most often is.
Robinson played, and endured vicious abuse from opposing teams, from beanballs and spikings to racial epithets and spitting. Robinson had promised Branch Rickey, the owner and general manager of the Dodgers, that for at least his first two years in the major leagues, he would hold his tongue and his fists, no matter the provocation. And one day — it was probably in Cincinnati, Reese recalled, in 1947 or 1948 — the attack was so nasty that Reese walked over to Robinson and put his hand on the black man’s shoulder.
“Pee Wee kind of sensed the sort of hopeless, dead feeling in me and came over and stood beside me for a while,” Robinson recalled, as quoted in the forthcoming biography “Jackie Robinson,” by Arnold Rampersad (Alfred A. Knopf). “He didn’t say a word but he looked over at the chaps who were yelling at me through him and just stared. He was standing by me, I could tell you that.” The hecklers ceased their attack. “I will never forget it,” Robinson said.
My dad was the starting pitcher for the Dodgers during Jackie’s debut.
We have some interesting pictures on the wall at home featuring my dad and Jackie.
What is left out of many stories about Robinson was that he was a Republican. Another myth about Robinson is that many people believe that if he had failed, there would have been no Blacks in professional sports. The fact is Robinson was the tip of the iceberg. The following year players like Luke Easter and Satchel Paige were playing. Many more entered in the fifties. A number of owners were hoping and waiting for integration. Not that they necessarily had any great desire for integration by itself. They knew there was a ton of excellent black ballplayers just itching for a chance to show what they could do. It’s a stain on the nation’s history they had to wait so long.
Ford Frick, president of the National League, sent an ultimatum; "If you do this, you will be suspended from the league. You will find that the friends you have in the press box will not support you, that you will be outcasts. I do not care if half the league strikes. Those who do will encounter quick retribution."
How many of us could do that for TWO YEARS? Oh, while enduring all of that, he was one of the best players in the game. A better man than I.
For thanks, Walter O'Malley tried to trade him to the Giants. The GIANTS!?! Robinson retired instead.
We marvel at the gazillion varieties of flowers, trees, animals and rock formations but when it comes to the variety of the human race we don't see something beautiful in God's work. Instead the differences in humans become a reason for the kind of hate Jackie Robinson endured and the celebrations of a rock being thrown on Reginald Denny's head by Football Williams.
That kind of hate against God's work is to flip off God just as Football Williams is doing in the picture above.
According to the book Jonathon Eig wrote on Jackie Robinson that story about Pee WeeReese putting his hands around Robinson may not have really happened as popularly described. There was no story in the papers the next day about the crowd booing Robinson and even the black newspapers back then made no mention of this story in their accounts of the game.
Robinson and Reese said it happened. Others that saw it said they appreciated it, players in the black leagues.
My dad was there and he said it happened.