Greatest Sports Accomplishment - Part 2
motivations of Brooklyn Dodger general Manager Branch Rickey have always
been questioned. Why did he sign Jackie Robinson? How much of what he did came from a moral conviction that the color
line must go, and how much came from a desire to make money and field a
Irvin, who came up to star for the New York Giants in 1949, suggests that
what Rickey did is far more important than why he did it.
of the motives," Irvin observes, "Rickey had the conviction to
pursue and to follow through."
baseball's color line enabled Rickey to tap into a gold mine, but he
elected not to monopolize the rich lode of talent in the Negro Leagues.
players he did sign who became Rookies of the Year were Jackie Robinson
(1947), Don Newcombe (1949), Joe Black (1952) and Junior Gilliam (1953).
But there were others he passed up.
Irvin cold have been a Brooklyn Dodger, as well as Larry Doby. Sam Jethroe
could have also been a Dodger, but Rickey had Robinson, Roy Campanella,
Don Newcombe and Joe Black.
the bigoted major league club owners who had called Rickey complaining,
"You're gonna kill baseball bringing that nigger in now," were
now asking, "Branch, do you know where I can get a couple of colored
boys as good as Jackie and Campy and Newk?"
ran the Dodgers with a calm efficiency. Part of that calm efficiency
translated to advising Robinson well. Reacting to the taunts and threats,
and fighting back against the bigots could win a battle. But too much
protesting could lose the war.
great dancer Bill "Bojangles" Robinson called Jackie Robinson:
"Ty Cobb in Technicolor." Others had much less complimentary
words for the Brooklyn star.
1949, Jackie Robinson was in his third season as a Brooklyn Dodger and was
no longer the lone black man on the baseball diamond - he could now let it
all hang out. Branch Rickey who had kept the man Dodger fans called
"Robby" under wraps was elated.
sat back happily," Rickey recalled, "knowing that with the
restraints removed, Robinson was going to show the National League a thing
wife Rachel Robinson said, "It was hard for a man as assertive as
Jack to contain his own rage, yet he felt that the end goal was so
critical that there was no question that he would do it. And he knew he
could do it even better if he could ventilate, express himself, use his
what a style it was!
Jackie Robinson remains the stuff of dreams, the striving for potential,
the substance of accomplishment. Today he remains a powerful, driving
symbol of a person with limitless athletic ability, the weight of his
people on his soul, raging against a world he didn't make.
Roosevelt Robinson played for the Dodgers of Brooklyn for a decade, and
then he was done.
what he accomplished in breaking the color line in baseball will last
through all eternity. He blazed a path for many to follow, and they
enriched the game of baseball with their talent, verve, drive, and
# # #
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About the Author:
Harvey Frommer is in his 38th year of writing books.
A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports
books including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and
"Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE
STADIUM was published in 2008 and his REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL
AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION was published to
acclaim in 2011. The prolific Frommer is at work on When It Was
Just a Game, An Oral History on Super Bowel One.
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