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Book excerpt: The original Jackie Robinson Day at Dodger Stadium



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On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson grew to become the primary Black participant in MLB historical past, starting a decade-long Corridor of Fame profession with the Brooklyn Dodgers. A commerce to the New York Giants after the ’56 season started a prolonged estrangement from the Dodgers and baseball.

On this excerpt from “True: The 4 Seasons of Jackie Robinson,” writer Kostya Kennedy traces the trail that introduced Robinson to Dodger Stadium on June 4, 1972, for the twenty fifth anniversary of his breaking baseball’s shade barrier, lower than 5 months earlier than he would unexpectedly die at age 53.

Jackie Robinson had not been inside a baseball stadium for years. Since his retirement in 1956, he’d had no official or skilled connection in any respect to Main League Baseball — which he overtly criticized as negligent in its therapy and integration of Black gamers of their post-playing careers. How might he not? Twenty-five years after Robinson broke in, greater than fifteen years after his ultimate sport, no crew had employed a Black supervisor or common supervisor, and only a few Black gamers held jobs of significance within the sport. It was a conspicuous component of Robinson’s protest that he didn’t attend Previous-Timers’ video games or different stadium celebrations. He’d stopped being invited, as a result of his reply was at all times the identical.

However then, on the funeral of Gil Hodges earlier that spring, Robinson had seen so lots of the outdated guys collectively, and he had spoken with Don Newcombe, for whom he retained a heat affection. Newcombe did have a connection to baseball, as a neighborhood relations liaison for the Dodgers and crew president Peter O’Malley. Sensing of their conversations and reminiscences the earliest edges of a thaw, Newcombe invited Robinson to come back to Dodger Stadium later within the spring, on the primary Sunday in June. In an on-field ceremony earlier than that season’s Previous-Timers’ sport, the Dodgers deliberate to retire the uniform numbers of three former gamers who’d reached the Corridor of Fame: Roy Campanella’s 39, Sandy Koufax’s 32, and Jackie Robinson’s 42. Newcombe, Pee Wee Reese, and Jim Gilliam could be there and others as properly. A bunch of the outdated Yankees. Stan Musial. Newcombe labored on Robinson a bit, and so did Tommy Villante, who recollects, “We needed to type of persuade Jackie that Peter O’Malley wasn’t simply the identical man as Walter, who Jackie nonetheless felt cautious about.” Robinson stated sure.

“jackie robinson-dodger feud ends” learn a headline within the Lengthy Seashore Press-Telegram on the day of the occasion in Los Angeles. Separate and other than his dissatisfaction with baseball as a complete, Robinson had a extra specific friction with the Dodgers themselves, stemming not from points round race however from his divide with Walter O’Malley and the galling commerce of 1956. Commerce discussions had circulated round Robinson for a while, and to many, a commerce made sense: Robinson was an older, costly participant along with his finest years behind him however nonetheless succesful on the sector and, as ever, a draw on the gate. And but it appeared that Robinson, along with his lengthy and numinous attain, ought to have been past such mundane calculus. Buying and selling him was akin to excising the lion’s coronary heart. O’Malley, then, exhibited a very pointed flex of would possibly when on December 13, 1956 — just a little greater than two months after the ultimate out of the World Collection, and 299 days earlier than O’Malley formally pulled the Dodgers out of Brooklyn, certain for Los Angeles — he traded Robinson to the rival Giants.

Basic supervisor Buzzie Bavasi delivered the information by phone to Robinson, who smiled (or did he grimace?) on his finish of the road. Privately, Robinson had already moved on. Shortly earlier than studying of the commerce, however already with an inkling of it, he had determined to retire from baseball, accepting a place as a vice chairman overseeing personnel on the Chock Full o’ Nuts restaurant chain in New York. Robinson, maintaining these plans personal (to be revealed weeks later in a paid-for Look journal story), made no point out of the Chock Full job to Bavasi. So the commerce to the Giants was introduced, and it lease a gash by way of the Dodger zeitgeist. Robinson publicly thanked the Giants proprietor Horace Stoneham for wanting him, and within the following days, he and Jackie Jr. held up Giants’ pennants and posed for the photographers who came around the house in Stamford, Connecticut. Throughout the time between the commerce and Robinson’s writing to Stoneham, in early 1957, on Chock Full o’ Nuts letterhead, to say that he wouldn’t in reality report back to spring coaching, that he was leaving baseball for “enterprise alternatives,” Robinson obtained a welcome-to-the-team telegram from the Giants’ twenty- five-year-old heart fielder, Willie Mays.

Robinson knew that Walter O’Malley remained an ally in baseball’s path to progress, and he knew that his spouse, Rachel, had a effective and delicate relationship with Kay O’Malley, Walter’s spouse, and but within the aftermath of the commerce and within the decade and a half since, Robinson and the Dodgers had not gone wherever or achieved something hand in hand. In 1972, the conflicting feelings of a breakup — I don’t want you. I really like you — nonetheless weighed on Robinson. “I couldn’t have cared much less concerning the commerce, as a result of I had already made my determination to retire,” he stated because the Previous-Timers’ Day in Los Angeles approached. “However I used to be damage by it, sure. After you give every little thing you need to one crew, it’s exhausting to be traded.”

Brooklyn Dodgers players Pee Wee Reese, Jackie Robinson, and Preacher Roe, left to right, are a happy trio in 1952.

Pee Wee Reese, left, Jackie Robinson, heart, and Preacher Roe rejoice the Brooklyn Dodgers’ 5-3 victory over the New York Yankees in Recreation 3 of the World Collection on Oct. 3, 1952.

(Related Press)

In 1970, Walter O’Malley had moved himself into the Dodgers’ chairmanship and given every day management of the crew to his son, Peter. Throughout the repatriation of Robinson in ’72, Peter O’Malley stated he couldn’t think about permitting a commerce such because the considered one of Robinson. The franchise’s biggest participant? The crucial baseball determine of his time? That will by no means have occurred on his watch, Peter O’Malley stated. He framed the commerce of Robinson as an organizational remorse.


Typically throughout his later life journey, Jackie would comment that baseball appeared far-off from him and by some means a part of a distinct, different life. He noticed that if he had remained within the sport, as he had as soon as needed to do as a supervisor or front-office sharp, he would have been confined to “a slender strata” that he was now happy to have outgrown. The surroundings and particulars of baseball — being embedded along with his teammates, sharing the priorities and urgency of the trouble, having the competitor’s inevitable in-game notion that the result of an at bat or an umpire’s name bore some existential reality — all of that had modified. He didn’t go to the ballpark or watch video games a lot on TV. He didn’t parse the standings. His closest pals had no connection to the game.

Brooklyn Dodgers players, from left, John Jorgensen, Pee Wee Reese, Ed Stanky and Jackie Robinson on April 15, 1947.

Brooklyn Dodgers gamers, from left, John Jorgensen, Pee Wee Reese, Ed Stanky and Jackie Robinson pose earlier than the sport on April 15, 1947, through which Robinson broke the colour barrier.

(Harry Harris / Related Press)

Upon his induction into the Corridor of Fame in 1962, Robinson requested that his plaque make no point out of his function in integrating baseball. The plaque cited his profession batting common and his MVP award, his stolen bases and his defensive excellence at second base. Nothing else. Nothing about being the primary Black ballplayer of the 20 th century. No dialogue of his good, attacking strategy on the sector. No nod to the circumstances beneath which he performed. The plaque learn as Robinson needed it to. His aspiration hadn’t modified: Hell of a ballplayer, Robinson, and simply one of many guys.

Aeschylus in framing his legacy decreed that the inscription on his headstone bear no allusion to the performs that had made him well-known, however solely to his service as a solider within the protection of Athens and Greece — regardless that his written phrases, the tragedies, have been what publicly distinguished his irreplicable life and would make him immortal. All of it, after all, intertwined. No “Agamemnon” or “The Persians” had Aeschylus not gone to conflict. Nor, within the case of Robinson, might there ever be any extrication of baseball from his message, or his message from the world of baseball — it doesn’t matter what the plaque in Cooperstown learn. For all of the years that he and the game saved one another at arm’s size, and for all of the emphasis Robinson positioned on a life exterior the sport, there was one thing greater than merely becoming, however quite inevitable, that within the ultimate 12 months of his life, 1972, Robinson got here again to baseball, and baseball got here again to him.


Robinson stood speaking with a few the Dodgers executives — crew president Peter O’Malley, the PR director Fred Claire — and a few former gamers on the sector at Dodger Stadium, simply in entrance of the dugout on the third base facet. Newcombe and Koufax and Gilliam have been gathered with them, and it was about an hour earlier than pre-game ceremonies. The low clouds of morning had moved away, and the late spring air and warming sunshine, Robinson stated, reminded him of his youth. Robinson at all times preferred going house to California. Typically he noticed his brother Mack. Just lately, at a studio on Sundown Boulevard, Robinson had filmed an episode of the “Sports activities Problem” quiz present, competing on a crew with Duke Snider and Carl Erskine towards three members of the 1972 Dodgers: Wes Parker, Frank Robinson, Maury Wills.

Batting follow was beneath method, and from the stands followers shouted gamers’ names, as they at all times did earlier than ball video games, as they’d on all these days and evenings again in Brooklyn. From simply behind the Dodger dugout, a person leaned ahead, holding a baseball. “Hey, Jackie, Jackie! Would you signal this?” he known as out, after which he tossed the ball in a delicate arc towards Robinson. “It hit him within the shoulder proper up close to his cheek,” Claire recollects. “He couldn’t see it, not to mention catch it.”

Instantly the group circled round to ensure Robinson was all proper after which began pointing towards the stands. “Everybody was saying, ‘Get that man out of right here! Do away with him,’” Claire says. “However Jackie raised his hand and stated, ‘Settle down, relax. Can somebody hand me the baseball?’ He signed the ball and stated, ‘Please give this again to the gentleman.’ And that was it. I used to be so impressed by how poised he was. His humility and his presence took over. Nevertheless it was unhappy how he couldn’t catch the ball.”

Robinson’s vulnerability that day was new to the numerous who had not seen him in a while, and it delivered a specific, sobering drive given its distinction to the bodily impression he had as soon as made — the imprints that might at all times stay. “The best athlete I ever noticed,” Newcombe declared in the course of the Previous-Timers’ Recreation weekend. (Robinson, it’s value remembering, was a person who had in his trophy room each a silver bat from Main League Baseball and a bronzed soccer cleat from UCLA.) In latest months, his bodily decline had accelerated. Driving, as he had pushed himself to Gil Hodges’ funeral, was out of the query. He stepped uncertainly when not being guided. He moved stiffly by way of his arms and shoulders. At instances, he drew in need of breath. Recalling Robinson’s situation a few week after the occasion in Los Angeles, Campanella wept. “Simply goes to point out, I suppose, how the years could make a distinction,” stated Campy, wiping his cheek.


The Dodgers drew 43,818 followers on that Sunday, June 4 — the most important day-game crowd the crew would entice all season. It was a shiny, lovely afternoon, and the good Bob Gibson was fixing to pitch for the visiting Cardinals. Together with Campanella, Koufax, and Robinson having their numbers retired, a bunch of stars had come for the sport. DiMaggio, Mantle, supervisor Casey Stengel, who was being feted. But nobody obtained higher applause or generated extra dialogue or heat than Jackie Robinson, a repatriated son, because it have been. Within the lead-up to the quantity ceremony, he sat within the Dodger dugout, on the finish of the bench close to the bat rack, and gamers and employees approached him with greetings and thanks. “His signature was nonetheless effective, the lettering was sturdy,” says Mike McDermott, the Dodgers batting follow pitcher who requested Robinson to signal a baseball for him that day.

Los Angeles Dodgers retired the numbers of Roy Campanella, Sandy Koufax and Jackie Robinson in 1972.

On June 4, 1972, the Dodgers retired the numbers of Jackie Robinson (42), Roy Campanella (39) and Sandy Koufax (32) in a pregame ceremony at Dodger Stadium.

(Los Angele Dodgers)

For the ceremony itself, the three former Dodgers got here out onto the infield, together with Peter O’Malley and commissioner Bowie Kuhn, and obtained framed replicas of their respective uniforms. An aide pushed Campanella in his wheelchair. Koufax, who had been named to the Corridor of Fame just some months earlier than, informed the group that the 2 gamers beside him had been heroes of his rising up in Brooklyn. He would by no means have imagined, Koufax stated, that he would sooner or later be standing on the sector beside them on a day as outstanding as this. When Robinson stepped to the microphone, he stated: “This is among the really nice moments of my life. I’m grateful for every little thing that has occurred.” Campanella and Koufax wore their Dodger jerseys — Koufax in full uniform — however Robinson wore shirt-sleeves and tie, and on his left wrist a watch he’d obtained from Invoice “Bojangles” Robinson in 1947, twenty-five years earlier than, the 12 months he had damaged into the foremost leagues.

Earlier in the course of the Previous-Timers’ Recreation weekend, Robinson had met with Peter O’Malley at O’Malley’s workplace at Dodger Stadium, to fix bridges and to speak about some points that Robinson felt wanted speaking about: particularly the development of Black former gamers into baseball administration. “I used to be very a lot impressed with Peter’s perspective,” Robinson stated afterward. “I don’t know what he can do about it, however to start with there needs to be sensitivity to it.” All that weekend — across the discipline, at a luncheon for the honored company — Robinson spoke so properly of Peter O’Malley {that a} rumor, half baked and solely half in jest, sprang up that he would possibly take a job within the entrance workplace of the crew. “Pricey Pete,” Jackie wrote shortly afterward from house in Stamford, “I additionally need you to know the way happy I used to be with our assembly at which was sensed a more true understanding of the character of the issues that evoked issues between baseball and me.”

Book cover of "TRUE: The Four Seasons of Jackie Robinson"

Ebook cowl of “TRUE: The 4 Seasons of Jackie Robinson”

(St. Martin’s Press)

This text has been tailored from “True: The 4 Seasons of Jackie Robinson,” by Kostya Kennedy. Copyright © 2022. Reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Press. You should buy the e-book here.