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When Jackie Robinson made history, sports sites shrugged

Jackie Robinson’s debut at the Ebbets Field on the opening day of the 1947 baseball season was nothing short of an American life, breaking the barrier of color in our national pastime 15 months ago when President Harry Truman ordered the US military to integrate.

Robinson was later described by Ken Burns as “the most important person in the history of American sports and…one of the greatest Americans who ever lived” but you would never know it when you read the City papers. New York on that morning 70 years ago. .

Sometimes the press isn’t the first draft of history, and while everyone knows history will be made on Tuesday, April 15, at the cozy ballpark on Bedford Avenue in the back place is considered Flatbush (now Crown Heights), the report is what historians call “submitted.”

Sports journalists have focused their attention pre-opening day to the sudden suspension of the Dodgers’ entire season of violence, Leo “The Lip” Durocher, by commissioner baseball Albert “Happy” Chandler. Along with his close friend, Hollywood star George Raft, Durocher was known to be associated with gamblers. In 1946, the Brooklyn district attorney tapped his phone. In early 1947, Durocher – who clearly enjoyed the limelight – fled with actress Laraine Day to Mexico, where contract star MGM had annulled his current marriage. In response, the Catholic Youth Organization of Brooklyn announced it would boycott the team games. Meanwhile, Durocher was telling his players that “I’m the manager of this team, and I say [Robinson] drama. Moreover, I say he can make us all rich. And if any of you can’t use the money, I’ll see that you’re all trading.”

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But just five days before the season started, Chandler suspended Durocher. Anyway, the celebrity manager really likes the cover of Time when the season starts.

On opening day, Brooklyn Eagles, then a high-volume newspaper with two daily editions, made the biggest front-page headlines for Joe Hatten, who began pitching the Dodgers against the Boston Braves. A sub-headline reads “Robinson, Jorgensen in the Squad” —thus equates the first Black player in the modern majors with a memorable white rookie just because his nickname is ““ Spider”.

The following days eagle found only in the sports section, although it does include a photo of Robinson shaking hands with Brooklyn Borough President John Cashmore and another shot with the first bomber in the tunnel with three colleagues his. One of the newspaper’s sportswriters noted that while “Robinson got a good deal” from the crowd, Dodgers star Dixie Walker received “a standing ovation.”

Such a reaction contrasts with what had happened a few days earlier, when Alabama-born Walker received boos during an Ebbets Field showdown game against the Yankees. Walker was one of the few Dodgers players opposed to adding Robinson to their roster. Note that the taunts come from Robinson’s fans, Eoneglitter The editorial board denounced Walker’s “mistreatment,” warning that it could lead to “expanding the Dodgers experiment in bringing a black person into the national game.”

Meanwhile, the passion of Robinson’s fans got front page attention Amsterdam News, the city’s leading Black newspaper. The Harlem-based weekly also extensively covers Brooklyn’s rapidly growing African-American community.

“Meddling of Well-Wishers Hurts Jackie,” claims the main story in Am News the week Robinson debuted. The passage cited concern from Branch Rickey, president of the Dodgers and a leading supporter of Robinson, about the “5,000 invitations to all kinds of events” Jackie had received. “Jackie’s greatest danger is society,” warns Rickey.

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Am News columnist Dan Burley, a friend of Langston Hughes who has chronicled the fight to integrate baseball, perhaps unexpectedly agrees with eagleDenunciation of fans booing Walker. In Burley’s view, when the team’s schedule brought the Dodgers to racially hostile environments like Cincinnati and St. Louis, Robinson will need the support of “Dixie Walker and all the rest.”

Burley also suggested that Durocher’s suspension may have been orchestrated by other baseball executives opposed to the integration. MacPhail, Burley said, helped make Happy Chandler a commissioner. Meanwhile, MacPhail has shown “a tendency to laugh at the idea of ​​a black player wearing a Yankee uniform.” According to Burley, the fact that Durocher was once one of Robinson’s strongest supporters may have contributed to Chandler’s decision to kick him out.

While the Dodgers were thus led in Robinson’s first season by a lowly character named Burt Shotton, a teetotaler in a peach vest, Jackie’s play was dazzling throughout his first campaign. earned him the title of Rookie of the Year. The team won the National League pennant under interim captain Burt Shotton, only to lose the World Series in seven games to Joe DiMaggio and the damn Yankees. By 1949, Robinson was an undisputed star, and the subject of a hit song.

Robinson’s five successful rookies have blurred his own memories of his opening day. When I recall it 25 years later in I’ve never had it done, “There was an overflowing crowd at Ebbets Field.” In fact, attendance was surprisingly low, with more than 7,000 unfilled seats in the small ballpark (33,000 seats).

The eagle At the time it was speculated that many fans may have stayed away because of the smallpox outbreak. That week, Mayor Bill O’Dwyer, a former NYPD officer (and the last former cop to end up as mayor before Eric Adams) announced a plan to vaccinate the city’s nearly 8 million residents within a year. next three weeks. At the Polo Grounds in Harlem on the first weekend of the baseball season, 90,000 fans turned up to watch Robinson play two games against the New York Giants. It is not clear whether these are more widespread super events.

Even if the year started off quieter than one might imagine, Robinson’s on-field performance made him an undisputed star at the end of the 1947 season. The following season, Rickey let Durocher out of contract. co and manager of the New York Giants, where he finished the World Series in 1954 with Willie Mays at the center. However, Mayor O’Dwyer has fallen from the glory. Shortly after his re-election in 1949, a major gambling scandal broke out, affecting the NYPD directly. In the late 1950s, Harry Truman saved O’Dwyer by appointing him as the United States ambassador to Mexico. To cover the scandal, Brooklyn Eagles took home the Pulitzer Prize.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/when-jackie-robinson-made-history-the-sports-pages-shrugged?source=articles&via=rss When Jackie Robinson made history, sports sites shrugged

Russell Falcon

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