Today, April 15th, is Jackie Robinson day to Major League Baseball, the anniversary of Jackie’s first game and a celebration of his role in integrating baseball such that peoples of all color and backgrounds could play in the majors. I took a few minutes to look at the coverage of his first game in The Sporting News below. First – a look at what is going on in the game for you fantasy baseball team owners…
Giants closer Brian Wilson may miss the rest of the season after an MRI showed structural damage to his right elbow, meaning a second Tommy John surgery could be in the works. He had a similar procedure done while at LSU. [SI]
The Red Sox juggled their roster one more time this weekend, bring up utility infielder Nate Spears and outfielder Jason Repko, returning Che-Hsuan Lin back to Pawtucket, and designating catcher Luis Exposito and pitcher Michael Bowden for assignment.
The Padres placed outfielder Kyle Blanks on the 15-Day DL with a strained left shoulder.
Tampa placed catcher Jose Loboton on the 15-Day DL with a sore throwing shoulder, and he was replaced on the roster by Chris Jimenez. Meanwhile, outfielder Sam Fuld was moved from the 15-Day to the 60-Day DL.
Pirates starter Charlie Morton returns to action after having hip surgery.
Toronto pitcher Sergio Santos returns after being on a personal leave – he’s a father!
Ryan Vogelsong returns to the Giants rotation after a short 15-Day DL stint.
The Angels activated pitcher Jerome Williams from the DL, optioning pitcher Brad Mills back to AAA Salt Lake City.
San Diego optioned Reidier Gonzalez to AAA Tuscon.
Kansas City recalled pitcher Louis Coleman and sent outfielder Jarrod Dyson back to AAA Omaha.
Colorado optioned Jordan Pacheco back to AAA Colorado Springs, and recalled lefty Drew Pomeranz to add another pitcher to the mix.
Tampa optioned Dane De La Rosa to AAA Durham and recalled Alex Cobb.
(1877) Ed Abbaticchio, old Pirates infielder
(1886) Leonard “King” Cole
(1910) Eddie Mayo
(1931) Ed Bailey
(1940) Woodie Fryman – one of my favorite pitchers from the 1970s
(1940) Willie Davis, a wonderful centerfielder for the Dodgers
(1945) Ted Sizemore
(1969) Jeromy Burnitz
(1978) Milton Bradley
(1982) Michael Aubrey
(1985) Aaron Laffey
Jackie Robinson’s First Week as a Dodger
“All doubt of Jackie Robinson’s status was removed at 3:15 p.m., April 10, when Branch Rickey announced the Brooklyn Dodgers today purchased the contract of Jackie Roosevelt Robinson from the Montreal Royals.”
In general, the front page article suggests that Robinson didn’t play as well at first base during spring training, so the team’s decision was more based on his play in 1946 when he hit .346 with 40 stolen bases as Montreal’s second baseman. The article noted that Jackie could play any infield position, but second and short were taken, so first base was his best option; that or being a frequent pinch runner.
All of this came in the wake of Commissioner Albert Chandler’s suspension of Dodgers manager Leo Durocher for association with known gamblers. Durocher had to sit out the 1947 season, so the decision as to how to use Jackie Robinson was left to interim manager Burt Shotton. Durocher, to his credit, was in favor of bringing Robinson to the Dodgers.
By the way, the Dodgers had to spend spring training in Havana, Cuba because segregation laws in Florida and other states pushed Brooklyn out of the country. The Dodgers paid $25 per player per day, an expensive amount of money to spend on spring training, and got in three spring training games against the Yankees in Venezuela.
Regarding Rickey, he believed that Montreal needed to have spring training with the Dodgers so that Robinson would have to play against his future teammates as much as possible, earning the respect of those players, and hopefully getting less resentment from other Brooklyn players when he joined the team. “No man had greater faith in his abilities as a ball player. We believe that it was Branch’s honest opinion that the Brooklyn players would come rushing to him and shout: ‘Let’s have that fellow. He can win the pennant for us.'”
Gaven, Michael. “Jackie Robinson Gets Change With Flatbush Troupe.” The Sporting News, April 16, 1947, Page 1.
The next week, The Sporting News gave a full page to his debut game.
Robinson said he prayed the night before, but really is worried about finding a nice apartment for his wife, Rachel, and toddler son, Jackie, Jr., who was but five months old.
Arthur Daley in his Sports of the Times column said that the debut was “uneventful, even though he had the quite unenviable distinction of snuffing out a rally by hitting into a remarkable double play.” A veteran Dodger was quoted in that article as saying, “Having Jacking on the team is still a little strange, just like anything else that’s new. We just don’t know how to act with him. But he’ll be accepted in time. You can be sure of that. Other sports have had negroes. Why not baseball? I’m for him if he can win games. That’s the only test I ask.”
Robinson himself said, “I was comfortable on that field in my first game. The Brooklyn players have been swell and they were encouraging all the way. The Brooklyn crowd was certainly on my side but I don’t know how it will be in other parks. The size of the crowd didn’t faze me and it never will.”
Jackie realized, however, he’d have to start hitting. “I hit .349 in Montreal last year and I was pretty fast, but I already realized a difference,” said Robinson. “The big league pitchers are smarter. I realize that, although I haven’t seen but a few of them. Take that fellow Sain of the Boston Braves. He works on you. He has good control. I’m aware that I have to hit to make it this year – this is my greatest chance. Will I hit? I hope I’ll hit. I believe I’ll hit, I’m sure I’ll hit.”
Morehouse, Ward. “Debut ‘Just Another Game’ to Jackie.” The Sporting News, April 23, 1947, Page 3.