Later that summer, Robinson met with Branch Rickey, president of Brooklyn Dodgers, which resulted in a minor league contract that paved the way for him to break the baseball color barrier on April 15, 1947, an event marked by that 75-year anniversary season.
Less remembered: In 1945, Robinson tried out at Fenway Park with the Boston Red Sox along with two other black players, Sam Jethroe, a future major league player, and Marvin Williams. The team hosted these players only by force; Boston City Councilor Isadore Muchnick, a civil rights champion, has threatened to overturn a Blue Laws waiver that allowed the Red Sox and Boston Braves to play on Sundays if they do not give black players a chance.
After an attempt in April, Boston manager Joe Cronin, a former Washington Senators star player manager, praised Robinson, saying to Muchnick, “If I had this man at the club, we would be a world winner.” The city councilor had the same view: “You never saw anyone hit a wall like Robinson did that day. Bang, bang, bang – he rumbled.
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In 1979, Cronin admitted to the Boston Globe: “It was a big mistake on our part” to pass on to Robinson, who admitted that trying was a fraud from the start.
“We knew we were wasting our time,” he said years later in the 1972 Boston Globe column. “It was April 1945. Then no one was serious about the main black players, except maybe some politicians.… They said we’d hear from them. We knew we were getting brushed. We didn’t expect to train with the brave.” That would have been the same story. ”
(In 1959, the Red Sox was the last integrated team.)
Two months after the test, Robinson was on his way to the DC Premier League ball court at Griffith Stadium, which the Senators rented out to the halls.
“The prominent newcomer to the monarchs is the short-lived Jackie Robinson,” wrote in a preview of The Washington Post, “a 6-foot, 200-pound former football, basketball and baseball star at the University of California, Los Angeles, now recognized as a 1945 Negro baseball newcomer. jw.org en Robinson ‘may steal the show’ from teammate Satchel Paige and Grays star Josh Gibson.
“Not only is Robinson becoming a consistent striker with tremendous power,” The Post wrote, “but he’s sitting nicely. [at shortstop] despite its large frame. The big man is an amazingly agile, smooth and graceful defender and has one of the best throwing hands in baseball. (According to Baseball-reference.com, Robinson would only play one short game in his high league career.)
The double head, set in the receding days of World War II, confronted the Negro national champion Grays and the star-studded Monarchs. As the Senators were out of town on a 19-game trip, 18,000 people came to see the doubles, The Post reported. It was more than twice the Senators’ average audience, about 8,400 that year, even though the team was in a fierce American League pennant, resulting in Washington finishing in just one and a half games.
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The halls were filled with four future halls of fame: Gibson, Buck Leonard, Cool Papa Bell and 49-year-old Jud Wilson. Monarchs had three Cooperstown-related players: Robinson, Paige and Hilton Smith.
Robinson surpassed even the most bullish predictions. Third, he scored 7 against 7 in two doubles, although he made a costly mistake when Gray made a double.
“Although Jackie Robinson solved [pitcher Roy] “Welmaker’s doubles, two singles and four walks in the first round of the first game, which was his poor throw on a plate filled with bases, wreaked havoc on the visitors,” said the Americans in Baltimore.
Robinson’s Monarchs returned to Washington on August 16, this time as part of a 19,000 draw with four teams. Robinson would finish the season with the team’s best 0.375 strokes with an average of 0.449 percent and 0.600 strokes, which turned out to be his only Negroli League season.
While Robinson helped fill seats at Griffith Stadium, he also helped Senators owner Clark Griffith end up relying on Gray’s rental as a source of income. Robinson’s deal with Dodgers signaled the beginning of the end of the Negro leagues. Perhaps worried about a loss of income, Griffith attacked Rickey for concluding a contract with Robinson without paying compensation to the monarchs.
“While it is true that we do not have an agreement with the Negro leagues – the national and American – we cannot act as illegal in taking these letters,” Griffith said in an October 24, Associated Press report. “If Brooklyn wanted Robinson to buy Robinson from Kansas City, that would be all right, but Negro team contracts should be recognized by organized baseball.
Rickey remained motionless. “Negro baseball organizations are not leagues, and I don’t think they even have an organization. At present, they are rackets in nature,” he told the New York Times.
In his autobiography, Robinson recalled the objections of Griffith and other owners.
“Overnight, some prejudiced white owners and officials became extremely worried about the future of the Negro leagues,” he wrote. “They mourned because Mr. Rickey destroyed defenseless black clubs.” When the monarchs threatened to sue Rickey, some Premier League owners encouraged the Negroli League team, Robinson added.
“These owners wanted to prevent black baseball from getting into the mainstream, and some made money by leasing their ball fields to Jim Crow’s teams,” he wrote. “Washington Senator owner Clark Griffith said the Dodgers should pay the monarchs for my services.” Griffith was the only owner named Robinson.
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The irony is that Griffith had talked about the possibility of integrating baseball in previous years. As early as 1937, he told legendary black sports writer Sam Lacyle of the Washington Tribune, who grew up just five blocks from Griffith Stadium: that the time has come.
Indeed, it would take another 17 years before the Senators finally put a black player on the list; they promoted Carlos Paula, who was born in Cuba in September 1954.
Lacy, who had long advocated the integration of baseball, told Sports Illustrated in a 1990 interview that he was not impressed by Griffith’s concern that a deal with black players would speed up the deaths of Negro leagues. “The Negro leagues were a symbol of isolation,” Lacy told the magazine. “If they had succeeded, the outside world might never have known about Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron or Willie Mays. The Black Leagues were separate and unequal.
Robinson spent 1946 in the Dodgers High League in Montreal, then played his entire high-league career in the Dodgers League of Nations, while Washington played in the American League and there were no inter-league games. Although Robinson has appeared in several show games with Dodgers over the years at Griffith Stadium, fans have never had a second chance to watch him play in Washington’s regular season.
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