LETTERS: The Dodger in the Royals uniform

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This article was published in Fall 2009 Baseball Research Journal

Debunking the legend about a famous Jackie Robinson photo from 1947.

Regarding the photo on page 118 of the summer 2009 issue of The Baseball Research Journal: The caption states that the photo capturing Jackie Robinson in a Montreal Royals uniform and entering the Dodger clubhouse was taken in 1946. That date is incorrect, although it is true that 1946 was Robinson’s only regular season with the Montreal Royals.

That photo, a staged picture, was snapped by W. C. Greene on April 10, 1947. During the sixth inning of an exhibition game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and Montreal Royals on that date at Ebbets Field, it was announced that Jackie Robinson’s contract had been assigned to the Dodgers. Robinson finished the game as a member of the Royals and then moved into the Brooklyn clubhouse.

Further, there is no evidence that the Royals and Dodgers played exhibition games against each other at Ebbets Field in 1946. All sources agree that Robinson had been with the Royals for spring training in 1947 and that the Royals and Dodgers had trained together that year in Havana. Reportedly, Branch Rickey had hoped the major leaguers would be so overwhelmed by Robinson’s talent during the spring that they would demand he be promoted. That didn’t happen, though, and, as spring training wound down, Rickey promoted Robinson to the Dodgers despite what have become well-known objections from several players on the Brooklyn roster. This particular photo has been used many times to capture Robinson’s arrival from Montreal into the big leagues.

At the Hall of Fame’s website, in the section for education and baseball, the photo is credited to the Hall of Fame and is dated April 1947. According to a descriptive note there, it’s from the day that Robinson entered the Dodger clubhouse for the first time. Thank you for the opportunity to set the record straight.

— Paul Hirsch
Danville, California