The Brooklyn Dodgers changed the sports landscape with a statement
The story rarely comes with a drum roll or proper pronunciation. Sometimes it just happens. Sometimes it comes in the form of a PR man ripping a piece of paper from his typewriter, proofreading it on the fly, giving it to another man in a suit, and then calling in a small group of sportswriters so he can read a prepared statement .
So it was on the afternoon of April 10, 1947, in the fifth inning of an exhibition game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and their Triple-A farm club, the Montreal Royals. Arthur Mann, an assistant to Dodger’s GM Branch Rickey, appeared in the Ebbets Field press box. He distributed the press release to reporters and then repeated the words on it.
“The Brooklyn Dodgers today bought Jackie Roosevelt Robinson’s contract from the Montreal Royals.”
There was a certain irony to the announcement. Less than 10 seconds before Mann appeared in the press box, Robinson had jumped into an inning-end double as he tried to fight back. It was part of a 0-for-3 day for him, and sportswriters had already begun to speculate that failing such a test might force Robinson to break camp with Montreal instead of Brooklyn and postpone the moment where baseball would break a color barrier had existed since 1885, the year after Moses Fleetwood caught Walker for the old American Association’s Toledo Blue Stockings.
Since Rickey had signed Robinson a year earlier, the so-called ‘gentleman’s agreement’ had been in place and it was clear that at 28, Robinson would be the one to face 62 shameful years of exclusion. But he certainly looked shaky that day at Ebbets Field, in front of 14,282 of Brooklyn’s faithful who turned out primarily to see him.
And then suddenly words typed on white paper:
Jackie Robinson was a Brooklyn Dodger.
Most of the people who left the stadium that day had no idea and didn’t want to until the next morning when they flipped open the Brooklyn Eagle and got the news when they saw Robinson announce, “I’m thrilled. This is what I’ve been waiting for,” and his Royals teammates, who wished him well, reply: “Thank you. I will need it.”
On Friday, we’re celebrating the anniversary of that all becoming official, the day Jackie Robinson officially became one of the most revered athletes of all time — a journey that ended with a 5-3 win for the Dodgers over the Boston Braves would start, a game in which Robinson went and scored a run.
But it all really started on Sunday 75 years ago when the Dodgers made it official, the first time since Chester A. Arthur was president that they officially took a spot on a major league roster for an African American. There is a photo – probably one of the two or three most famous sports pictures of all time – of Robinson taken that day, still in his Royals uniform, glove in raised left hand, a smile on his face as he took it just about to step into the Dodgers’ clubhouse for the first time.
On the door of the clubhouse it says: “HOLD”.
But Jackie’s right hand is on the doorknob and the door is slightly ajar and would remain so for the rest of the time. It’s an extraordinary photo on about 30 levels.
“We all agree,” Rickey told the writers himself later in the day, “that Jackie is up for the opportunity.”
Clyde Sukeforth, recently named to succeed suspended manager Leo Durocher (and himself soon to be replaced by Burt Shotton), couldn’t contain his excitement when he learned of the Dodgers’ new signing, who had won the 1946 International League batting crown .349 .
“I think he’s an all-around athlete who’s great enough to play in any position,” Sukeforth said. “The record shows he plays best under pressure, so I’m sure he’ll help our club a lot.
“As for players teasing him, last spring there were several Montreal players who frankly didn’t like the idea of playing with him. But he’s such a fine guy and an outstanding player, they all fell in love with him.”
History will prove a scouting report is about as accurate as anyone could have mustered on April 10, 1947, when baseball made its greatest leap forward. 75 years after Jackie Robinson pushed open that door, it’s right to remember how remarkable that leap was.
As you watch the generation of “Next Tigers” — Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, and Rory McIlroy, to name a few — retreat to the mean of “excellent” rather than “epic,” it becomes increasingly clear just how over-the-top extraordinary was the real Tiger Woods in his prime.
I get it, Yankees fans, you guys have high standards. But when I start getting emails criticizing games like the one on Friday — a game the Yankees happened to win, by the way — I think a few deep, cleansing breaths might be a good suggestion.
The Mets will unveil the statue of Tom Seaver in front of Citi Field on Friday and there will be a large contingent of Mets employees who will make sure they are there. Seaver became a hugely popular figure among Mets clerks on his visits to Citi after the opening, quick to offer hellos and kind words.
Obi Toppin plays like a guy who birdie-birdie-birdie on 16, 17, and 18. Too bad he can’t sign up for another nine this season, but he’s opened some eyes (although, for the record, those eyes). were open to obi from the beginning).
Hit back on Vac
George Corchis: Billy Crystal dropped first seat at Yankee Stadium to hype his new Broadway show. What would have really overdone the moment is if he was wearing his Mets cap from City Slickers.
Vacuum: I’ve often wondered if he got as much trash talk from his friends who know his true baseball alliance as other people did if they did the same. Especially since the Mets were the better team when the movie was made (1990).
Chris Sheldon: MLB’s decision to put numerous Friday games on streaming services should be called Friday Night Lights Out.
Vacuum: It’s been a tough Friday on Apple TV+. My wife, a true sports agnostic, once asked in disbelief, “Where did you get these announcers from?”
@johnschaefer: The Mets didn’t have much of that grit on the mound. Jacob DeGrom, yes. Beyond that, not much. Max Scherzer delivers that. That’s what Steve Cohen paid for.
@ Mike Vacc: Even without his best stuff on Friday, you could see why Mad Max is just a little different from everyone else.
Stephen Nicholson: I’m a die-hard Yankees fan and I’ve always loved Buck Showalter. He always explains baseball succinctly without arrogance. I always wanted him to make it again, so… I’ll make sure he goes all the way.
Vacuum: Not many coaches or managers develop as many followers as Showalter.