From SABR member Nick Diunte at Baseball Happenings on December 28, 2017:
When the Brooklyn Dodgers signed Jackie Robinson in 1945, he was playing shortstop for the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro Leagues. His signing worried league veterans, as they questioned his ability to adequately field the position at the major league level.
“All us old fellas didn’t think he could make it at short,” Hall of Famer Cool Papa Bell told Sports Illustrated in 1973. “He couldn’t go to his right too good. He’d give it a backhand and then plant his right leg and throw. He always had to take two extra steps. We was worried. He miss this chance, and who knows when we’d git another chance?”
If anyone was qualified to evaluate Robinson’s readiness to play shortstop at an elite level, it was Bell. Regarded as the fastest the Negro Leagues had to offer, Olympian Jesse Owens reportedly refused to race against the fleet-footed outfielder. Even though Bell was in his mid-40s when he faced Robinson in Negro League competition, he could still draw on his legendary speed when necessary. He devised a plan to send a not-so-subtle message that Robinson needed to look for another place on the field if he was going to be their representative to break the color barrier.
Read the full article here: http://www.baseballhappenings.net/2017/12/jackie-robinsons-lone-day-as-shortstop.html
Originally published: December 28, 2017. Last Updated: December 28, 2017.