Remembering Jackie Robinson - (From
Robinson - (From the Vault)
Lest we forget. Jack Roosevelt Robinson was
born in Cairo, Georgia on the last day of
January in 1919 and died on October 24, 1972 in
Stamford, Connecticut. Robinson 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 on April 15, 1947.
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
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
# # #
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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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