web analytics
April 27, 2015 / 8 Iyar, 5775
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post


Jackie Robinson: A Real Mensch


Dodgers broadcaster Red Barber, who grew up with the prejudices of the South, had to learn to treat Jackie Robinson as an equal.

Dodgers broadcaster Red Barber, who grew up with the prejudices of the South, had to learn to treat Jackie Robinson as an equal.

I was lucky enough to have met and interviewed many Hall of Famers including Joe DiMaggio, Hank Greenberg, Ted Williams and Stan Musial.

I also had the chance to meet and gab with many of the stars from the old Negro Leagues who went on to play in the major leagues after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier – Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks, Larry Doby, Monte Irvin and Satchel Paige. But I never had the chance to meet Jackie Robinson.

I did, though, meet Rachel Robinson, Jackie’s elegant, graceful widow.

From everything I’ve heard on the baseball beat, Jackie Robinson was a credit to his race – the human race. More important than being a great athlete and ballplayer, he was intelligent, articulate, and above all a great husband and father. He was, in short, a genuine mensch.

Robinson was only 53 when he died in 1972, old before his time, racked with diabetes and nearly blind.

This year baseball is celebrating the 65th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s breaking the color barrier. It was April 15, 1947, when Robinson became the first openly black man to play in the major leagues.

Ebbets Field was a ballpark of small dimensions and limited seating capacity of some 32,000. Only 25,623 paid their way in to see Robinson’s debut on Opening Day in 1947, 4,000 less than the ’46 opener. But the Dodgers went on to set their all-time Brooklyn attendance record of 1.8 million in 1947.

The only black man in the majors excited fans that year by batting .297 with 12 home runs and 29 stolen bases, more than double anyone else.

Calling the games on radio that year for Brooklyn was Red Barber, a man steeped in the prejudices of his era and place of birth. Barber was born in Mississippi and moved with his family when he was 10 to central Florida.

“I saw black men tarred and feathered by the Ku Klux Klan…. I had grown up in a completely segregated world,” Barber recalled in his book 1947 – When All Hell Broke Loose in Baseball.

Barber thought about quitting. After all, a Southern gentleman in 1947 couldn’t be expected to work for an organization that would treat a black man as an equal. But Robinson wasn’t an equal – he was superior to most ballplayers at the time, superior as a player and as a man.

Robinson went to college and starred at UCLA in basketball and football before serving in the army. He earned the rank of second lieutenant and was stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas, and Fort Hood, Texas, where white officers wouldn’t give him a chance to try out for the baseball team.

After being turned in by a bus driver to military police for refusing to sit in the rear seating area, Robinson faced a court martial for disobedience but eloquently won his case. After receiving an honorable discharge, and with the doors closed to blacks in many fields including professional baseball, Robinson joined the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues in 1945.

Fair-minded men at the time tried to promote the integration of blacks in baseball without success. Boston Jewish councilman Isidore Muchnick threatened to pass legislation to ban Sunday baseball in Boston unless the Red Sox granted a tryout to three Negro Leaguers.

A tryout was arranged for three players from different Negro League teams – Jackie Robinson, Sam Jethroe and Marvin Williams.

The tryout was originally scheduled for April 12, 1945, but that turned out to be the day President Roosevelt died. Vice President Truman was inaugurated as president and Roosevelt was buried in Hyde Park, New York, on Sunday, April 15. The day of FDR’s burial, British forces liberated the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp where 16-year-old Anne Frank died the previous month.

The following day, April 16, the three Negro Leaguers came to their Red Sox tryout at Fenway Park. Jackie Robinson was the most impressive of the tryout trio, prompting Red Sox manager Joe Cronin to tell Muchnick he hoped the team would sign Robinson. But the Red Sox never followed up and would become the last major league team to field a black player – some 14 years later.

Robinson went on to star for the Kansas City Monarchs in 1945 and attracted the attention of Brooklyn Dodgers boss Branch Rickey, who followed Robinson’s activities off the field as well. Rickey was convinced he had found the right man to break baseball’s unwritten color barrier and signed Robinson to a contract in early 1946 and assigned the infielder to the Dodgers’ top minor league club in Montreal.

Red Barber was also following Robinson’s progress. It was just a matter of time before Robinson would be up with the Dodgers and Barber was mulling over quitting.

“I didn’t quit,” Barber related in his book. “I made myself realize that I had no choice in the parents I was born to, no choice in the place of my birth or the time of it. I was born white just as a Negro was born black. I had been given a fortunate set of circumstances, none of which I had done anything to merit, and therefore I had best be careful about being puffed up over my color.”

About the Author: Author, columnist, and lecturer Irwin Cohen headed a national baseball publication for five years and worked in a front office position for a major league team, becoming the first Orthodox Jew to earn a World Series ring. He can be reached in his dugout at irdav@sbcglobal.net.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Jackie Robinson: A Real Mensch”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
This is what is left of the bus that was firebombed Saturday night.
Shhhhhhh! Police Now Say Bus was Firebombed Saturday Night
Latest Sections Stories
Food-Talk---Eller-logo

“People who never buy cookbooks are getting this one,” said Victoria. “They read it cover to cover and find it so interesting.”

South-Florida-logo

We have recently witnessed how other minorities deal with even perceived danger aimed at their brothers and sisters. They respond in great numbers.

South-Florida-logo

The Hebrew Academy students took part in all categories and used successful and innovative techniques to achieve their goals.

“The objective behind establishing small communities as places for relocation was a remedy for the excessive cost of housing and education in the large New York metropolitan market,” Mr. Savitsky explained.

Jewish Democrats did not entirely trust the son of Joseph Kennedy, a man broadly considered to be both anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi.

The teenage years are not about surviving. They are about thriving.

Every moment was a gift. I held each one, savoring.

We arrived in Auschwitz on Thursday, January 30, 2014. My seminary was taking us to see where the prisoners were kept. When we got there, I stepped off the bus in complete and total silence. I was in the back, and when we got to the gate I hesitated and started shaking uncontrollably. I couldn’t […]

From the moment Israel was declared a Jewish state, it has been the subject of controversy and struggle.

Now that Pesach is over, we return you to your regularly-scheduled pressing questions:   Dear Mordechai, Can I use a nose hair trimmer during Sefirah? Harry Lipman   Dear Harry, Yes, as long as your nose hairs are so bad that they’re affecting your job. Like if you have a desk job, and they interfere […]

It is very natural for kids to want attention and to be jealous of each other, especially when there is a new baby.

During the Second World War, a million and a half Jewish soldiers fought in the Allied armies, the Partisan units in Eastern Europe, and the anti-fascist underground movements in Western Europe and North Africa. These Jewish fighters won over 200,000 medals and citations. The Museum of the Jewish Soldier in World War II in Latrun, […]

The 2-day real estate event will take place in Brooklyn on April 26 and 27.

More Articles from Irwin Cohen
Baseball-logo-NEW

The Mets at least have hope for the future with some good young pitchers.

Baseball-logo-NEW

The big news this spring is that the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals will be leaving their old spring homes north of Port St. Lucie and moving south to a beautiful new complex scheduled to open in two years in West Palm Beach.

A famous face from that first ’52 Topps set was Alvin Dark, who died in his South Carolina home recently at 92.

As the years flew by, one thing remained constant in Sid’s life – the New York Yankees.

During 1939, anti-Semitic groups such as Fritz Kuhn’s German American Bund held rallies in New York and other major cities across the country.

The two World Series combatants, the Kansas City Royals and the San Francisco Giants, were Wild Card teams (meaning they didn’t win their respective divisions) that got hot at the right time.

Many former baseball players who left us with happy memories also passed away in the past year.

“No kid is worth a million dollars to sign,” Newhouser said, “but if one kid is, it’s this kid.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/sports/baseball-insider/jackie-robinson-a-real-mensch/2012/05/09/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: