Jackie Robinson enters the Brooklyn Dodgers club house as the first African-American admitted to the majors.
(Originally published by the Daily News on Friday, April 11, 1947; written by Hy Turkin)
Jackie Robinson is a Dodger today. Blazing a revolutionary front by admitting the first (African-American) player in modern major league history, Dodger president Branch Rickey yesterday purchased Jackie’s contract from his Montreal farm club. Even as a loud crowd of 14,282 sat huddled in the chill at Ebbets Field and was feeling sorry for Robbie’s “failure” in what had been touted as his big trial – he went 0-and-3 in Montreal’s 4-3 decision over the Flock yesterday – the Dodger boss suddenly decided to break the big news to the press. The official signing will take place this morning, and Jackie will definitely play against the Yanks this afternoon.
Since the Dodgers’ main weakness is at first base, Jackie will continue his chores at that unfamiliar position, though acting manager Clyde Sukeforth said he might use the former UCLA grid star to relieve Ed Stanky at second, too. Asked whether the 28-year-old rookie could make the grade at first, Sukeforth exclaimed:
“I think he’s a great enough all-around athlete to play any position, in time! The records show he plays best under pressure, so I’m sure he’ll help our club a lot. As for any players resenting him, I’ll tell you to look at the record again. Last Spring, there were several Montreal players who frankly didn’t like the idea of playing with him. But he’s such a fine fellow and outstanding player, they all grew to like him.”
Robinson may not be starting with any vocal support from his teammates, but a canvass of the Dodger clubhouse after the news broke yesterday indicated at least a passive acceptance of the situation. The players knew he would make it, for he had whacked a ball at a .340 clip against them in 13 exhibitions this Spring.
IL’s LEADING HITTER
In his lone season of organized baseball, he helped Montreal clinch the pennant last year by leading the IL in batting (.349), leading second basemen in fielding (.985), and finishing runner-up in stolen bases with 40. Robby kept starring as the Royals went on to win the playoffs and Little World Series.
At a secret meeting of all Dodger strategists in Branch Rickey’s home late Wednesday night, the Dodger boss asked each about the advisability of bringing Robbie up in time for the season opener. He got a unanimous “yes.”
Branch revealed that his newly-banned manager, Leo Durocher, had urged that Robbie be made a Dodger as far back as the exhibitions in Havana two weeks ago, but the Dodger co-owner answered that he thought the moment was not quite ripe. In the middle of yesterday’s game, he suddenly decided to postpone the move no longer.
What kind of player is Brooklyn getting? Here’s an analysis from the man who knows his ability best – Clay Hopper, native Southerner who managed Jackie with the Royals last season:
“I know he’ll hit .300 in the majors. He’ll bunt third basemen crazy, and he’ll hit enough line drives to all fields to keep the opposition guessing. He has no real weakness at bat, and is one of the most amazing judges of the strike zone I ever saw.”
“I don’t think he’s of major league first base caliber right now, but there’s no doubt he’ll make it because of his terrific adaptability. Last year, I threw him into an unfamiliar position – second base – and he soon became the best in the league there. He’ll get rid of a ball (throw) faster than any other human being alive!”
Somebody told Hopper before the game that Robbie had said he was feeling all right except for a slightly upset stomach, memento of his Cuban dietary troubles. Asked whether some of that “upset” mightn’t be nervousness, Hopper laughed, “Shoot! How can pressure bother him when he’s been under so much of it for so long and never showed any effects?”
Robinson, an ex-Army lieutenant, came out of yesterday’s game with anything but flying colors. The three times he hit the ball he bounced to the box, flied to short and popped a bunt foul into a double play. Afield, though, he handled seven chances without an error, including a double play.
But, the speedster showed another facet of his value in the deciding four-run rally in the fourth. He led off the inning with a pass. His cat-like movements in a long lead off the bag drew two attempted pickoff throws and a pitchout in vain. Ralph Branes, still sneaking peeks at Robbie’s lead, grooved one for Don Lund and the Royal outfielder poled it into the left field stands.
The other two runs in that frame came on Earl Naylor’s pass and another homer to left by Al Campanis. Both teams were held to six hits, Gene Hermanski starring for the Flock with two doubles.
This entry passed through the Full-Text RSS service – if this is your content and you’re reading it on someone else’s site, please read the FAQ at fivefilters.org/content-only/faq.php#publishers.