web analytics
April 17, 2014 / 17 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post
Spa 1.2 Combining Modern Living in Traditional Jerusalem

A unique and prestigious residential project in now being built in Mekor Haim Street in Jerusalem.



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.

Share Button

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.”

The Jackie Robinson story has been told and retold in print and on the screen. One of the staples of my kosher DVD collection is the 1950 black and white movie “The Jackie Robinson Story,” which stars Jackie Robinson as himself.

Try to find the Robinson DVD and watch the story with your kids. I don’t think I’ll be able to say that about the remake due out next year starring Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey. The new movie is titled, “42,” after Jackie’s uniform number.

By the way, my favorite Jackie Robinson story I head on the baseball beat goes like this:

Robinson received a lot of threatening letters in the mail warning him not to take the field in certain cities. The Dodgers called a team meeting when one letter writer claimed he would shoot Robinson if he went on the field. Reserve outfielder Gene Hermanski raised his hand and suggested, “Let’s all wear number 42. That way he won’t be able to tell which one is Robinson.”

Author, columnist and speaker Irwin Cohen headed a national baseball publication for five years before working in a major league front office earning a World Series ring. The president of the Detroit area’s Agudah shul may be reached in his dugout at irdav@sbcglobal.net.

Share Button

About the Author: The author of 10 books, Irwin Cohen headed a national baseball publication for five years before accepting a major league front office position, becoming the first Orthodox Jew to earn a World Series ring. He can be reached in his Detroit area 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.

No Responses to “Jackie Robinson: A Real Mensch”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Unit 9900 is an intelligence unit that utilizes the unique capabilities of soldiers on the autism spectrum.
Autism in the IDF: Uniquely Talented Soldiers
Latest Sections Stories
Schonfeld-logo1

Regardless of age, parents play an important role in their children’s lives.

Marriage-Relationship-logo

We peel away one layer after the next, our eyes tear up and it becomes harder and harder to see as we get closer to our innermost insecurities and fears.

Gorsky-041814-Torah

Some Mountain Jews believe they are descendents of the Ten Lost Tribes and were exiled to Azerbaijan and Dagestan by Sancheriv.

Baim-041814-Piggy

Yom Tov is about spending time with your family. And while for some families the big once-in-a-lifetime experience is great, for others something low key is the way to go.

A fascinating glimpse into the rich complexity of medieval Jewish life and its contemporary relevance had intriguingly emerged.

Dear Dr. Yael:

My heart is breaking; my husband’s friend has gotten divorced. While this type of situation is always sad, here I do believe it could have been avoided.

The plan’s goal is to provide supportive housing to 200 individuals with disabilities by the year 2020.

Despite being one of the fastest-growing Jewish communities in the U.S. – the estimated Jewish population is 70-80,000 – Las Vegas has long been overlooked by much of the Torah world.

She was followed by the shadows of the Six Million, by the ever so subtle awareness of their vanished presence.

Pesach is so liberating (if you excuse the expression). It’s the only time I can eat anywhere in the house, guilt free! Matzah in bed!

Now all the pain, fear and struggle were over and they were home. Yuli was safe and free, a hero returned to his land and people.

While it would seem from his question that he is being chuzpadik and dismissive, I wonder if its possible, if just maybe, he is a struggling, confused neshama who actually wants to come back to the fold.

I agree with the letter writer that a shadchan should respectfully and graciously accept a negative response to a shidduch offer.

Alternative assessments are an extremely important part of understanding what students know beyond the scope of tests and quizzes.

More Articles from Irwin Cohen
Richie Scheinblum

Even if a player reaches the big league level, there’s still no guarantee he’ll remain with one team for long. Former Jewish outfielder Richie Scheinblum comes to mind.

Baseball-Insider

The snow has melted in most parts of the country and here in Florida, where I have my winter dugout in the Orthodox enclave of Century Village in West Palm Beach, I had the opportunity to take in several spring training games.

If you’re visiting spring training sites, Arizona has two advantages – fewer games are rained out and the facilities are much closer to each other than is the case in Florida.

There were 15 Jews in the major leagues during the 2013 season, but only a few from a Jewish mother.

Musial told the taunted Jackie Robinson: “I want you to know that I’m not like many of the other guys on my team.”

Brooklyn native Lipman Pike was one of baseball’s earliest paid players.

The World Series was born 110 years ago. So were the New York Yankees, as New York inherited the remnants of the old Baltimore Orioles, a charter member of the new American League that was formed in 1901. A year later the team was headed to last place and bankruptcy. Manager John McGraw jumped to the National League New York Giants to assume the same position and brought some Orioles players with him.

Rewind eight decades to 1933.

That year marked the rise of the greatest villain of our time and the biggest Jewish sports hero of all time.

    Latest Poll

    Now that Kerry's "Peace Talks" are apparently over, are you...?







    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

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: