8.21.2009

Jackie Robinson: finishing first.

Still not feeling tip-top, and sitting at the computer for more than a few minutes is no fun. This is a post we've had in the bank for a while, with intentions to add some more details, but instead I'm going to publish it now and hope you'll get from it at least some enjoyment. See you soon.
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Besides helping the Brooklyn Dodgers get to six World Series and one WS championship in 10 years, Jackie Robinson believed "the right of every American to first-class citizenship is the most important issue of our time." When Jackie Robinson smashed baseball's color line, it ended a 60-year era of segregation in professional baseball, in which black players were prohibited from competing in Major League Baseball and its affiliated minor league systems, and were instead relegated to the Negro Leagues. We wish Topps would do an American Heritage set that fully addresses this aspect of America's game. There's certainly plenty of written and photographic material to make it a compelling set.

We found this in the National Archives site:




It is a letter that Jackie Robinson wrote President Eisenhower in response to the suggestion that black people be "patient." The Supreme Court ruled in 1954 that states must integrate their public schools, but few did so voluntarily. Although Arkansas had begun desegregation elsewhere in its school system, in September 1957 Governor Orval Faubus, hoping to gain political favor, used National Guardsmen to block entry of nine black students who were supposed to attend Little Rock's Central High School that school term. When President Eisenhower sent in federal troops to protect the students and ensure their right to be at Central High, Jackie Robinson, now a coffee and food vending executive, expressed his opinion that decisive Presidential action on civil rights was overdue. "I cannot stand and sing the National Anthem. I have learned that I remain a black in a white world."

If you're interested, Google Videos has the entire "Jackie Robinson Story" feature (1 hour and 17 minutes) available for viewing (free, no funny stuff, either) right here.

The best part of the film may be that Jackie Robinson played himself. Time tip: the discussion he has with Branch Rickey at about 22 minutes in is worth watching, and there are many other compelling moments, especially in the scenes where you see him playing baseball, first with minor league Montreal and then with the Dodgers. (The movie is in black and white; this is not the colorized version.) Be warned that the movie makes Branch Rickey quite the noble figure--but JR doesn't get short shrift.

Around minute 42, you can see Jackie R.'s first appearance in the majors. It didn't come a moment too soon: "If Mr. Rickey hadn't signed me, I wouldn't have played another year in the black league. It was too difficult. The travel was brutal. Financially, there was no reward. It took everything you make to live off."

His autobiography, I Never Had it Made,

is in its entirety on Google books here.

Apropos of nothing except for the fact that this is a baseball card blog, here is our favorite Jackie Robinson card:

This is from the Topps Doubleheaders baseball card set, which was released in 1955 and consisted of 66 cards.

Gary Sheffield, currently with the Mets, recently said: "We wouldn't be here without him.... He's pretty much everything baseball represents--having an equal opportunity to play the game."

Above anything else, I hate to lose. Jackie Robinson

2 comments:

Jeremy said...

That's a great post. I really like Jackie Robinson. I hope you feel better soon!

Dean said...

The thing that it rarely said about Jackie is all the different positions that he played for the Dodgers. Everyone thinks of him as a 2B, but he also played 1B, 3B, and LF. He was much like Pete Rose in that he played where ever the team had a hole and needed him.