Jackie Robinson Remembered
He was born in Cairo, Georgia on
the last day of January in 1919, and died on October 24, 1972 in
Stamford, Connecticut. A chilly April 15, 1947 was the day he
broke baseball's color barrier at Ebbets Field, the lone black
man wearing the ice cream white uniform of the Brooklyn Dodgers.
The man they called "Robby" attended UCLA, where he won letters
in three sports. He was in the Army during World War II and then
played briefly in the Negro Leagues when the war ended. He was
signed to a minor league contract with the Montreal Royals in
1946 by Branch Rickey, and the following year came up to the
Brooklyn Dodgers and broke baseball's age-old color line.
He played in the major leagues for a decade. He won the
inaugural Rookie of the Year Award in 1947, the National League
Most Valuable Player Award in 1949, and he helped the Dodgers
win six pennants and one world championship.
Despite all the pressure he played under, he was still able to
record a lifetime batting average of .311. His base-stealing
ability and hustle won many games for the Dodgers. He set
several records for fielding for second basemen.
His influence on sports is immeasurable. His breaking of
baseball's color line against the greatest of odds is still one
of the most dramatic stories in all of sports history. And there
are those who still have special memories of the man and the
legend. Here is how one from that time still remembers the great
player Brooklyn Dodger fans called "Robby".
When school was out, I sometimes went with my father in his
taxi. One summer morning, we were driving in East Flatbush in
Brooklyn down Snyder Avenue. My father pointed to a dark red
brick house with a high porch.
"I think Jackie Robinson lives there," my father said. He parked
across the street and we got out of the cab, stood on the
sidewalk and looked at the house. Suddenly, the front door
opened. A black man in a short-sleeved shirt stepped out. I
didn't believe it. Here we were on a quiet street on a summer
morning with no one else around.
The man was not wearing the baggy, ice-cream-white-uniform of
the Brooklyn Dodgers that accentuated his blackness. He was
dressed in regular clothes, coming out of a regular house in a
regular Brooklyn neighborhood, a guy like anyone else going out
for a bottle of milk and a newspaper.
Then, incredibly, he crossed the street and came right toward
me. Seeing that unmistakable pigeon-toed walk, the rock of the
shoulders and hips that I had seen so many times before on the
baseball field, I had no doubt who it was.
"Hi Jackie, I'm one of your biggest fans," I said
self-consciously. "Do you think the Dodgers are going to win the
pennant this year?"
"His handsome face looked sternly down at me. "We'll try our
best," he said.
"Good luck," I said."
"Thanks," he replied."
He put his big hand out, and I took it. We shook hands and I
felt the strength and firmness of his grip. I was a nervy kid,
but I didn't ask for an autograph or try to prolong the
conversation. I just he walked away down the street.
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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.
His work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times,
Washington Post, New York Daily News, Newsday, USA Today, Men's Heath,
The Sporting News, among other publications.
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