Berman: Don Newcombe’s rare interview: Dodgers great talks about breaking down barriers

From Jay Berman at the Orange County Register on June 14, 2017, with mention of SABR member Ray Doswell:

Nearly all the men who broke baseball’s color barrier in the 1940s — Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Larry Doby — are no longer with us.

One who remains is former pitcher Don Newcombe, who joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1949 and is still a member of the team’s management. Newcombe, who turns 91 on Wednesday June 14, was present at the start of the game’s integration, signing with the Dodgers’ minor-league organization in 1946 after two years in the Negro Leagues.

Every year, baseball honors Robinson, who became the first African-American to play in the major leagues in the 20th Century when he joined the Dodgers in 1947, the start of a career that ended with his selection to the Hall of Fame.

Even casual fans know that Robinson endured racial taunts from fans and opponents, and even hostility from some teammates. Less well known are the accounts of the indignities that younger players trying to break the color line endured on their journey to the majors.

Newcombe remembers those days well, and in a 95-minute video interview at Dodger Stadium in 2005 that was arranged by the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Mo., he recounted his early days in the game with “Sweet” Lou Johnson, a major league outfielder in the 1960s who is also a member of the Dodger front office. Seated in leather armchairs in an executive meeting room, the two spoke comfortably about Newcombe’s recollections.

While the interview was conducted by the NLBM and intended to be part of a series made available to researchers, it has never been transcribed or shown to a public audience.
Raymond Doswell, vice president and curator of the NLBM, is the longtime caretaker of the interview that is essentially a video time capsule, being seen and written about here for the first time.

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Originally published: June 14, 2017. Last Updated: June 14, 2017.