Jaffe: Jackie Robinson and Dodgertown, a haven of tolerance

From SABR member Jay Jaffe at FanGraphs on April 15, 2019:

Jackie Robinson Day marks the 72nd anniversary of the breaking of baseball’s color line, an annual opportunity to take stock of Robinson’s immeasurable courage in confronting racism as well as the immense talent he showed while playing at the highest level. Earlier this month, Major League Baseball commemorated the centennial of Robinson’s birth and furthered his legacy by renaming Historic Dodgertown — the former Navy housing base in Vero Beach, Florida that served as the Dodgers’ spring training headquarters from 1948-2008, which MLB assumed operational control of on January 2 — the Jackie Robinson Training Complex.

Recognized as “the jewel of Florida’s baseball crown” even after expansion put two teams in the state on a permanent basis, the facility was the first fully integrated major league spring training site in the South, a “haven of tolerance” in the words of historian Jules Tygiel. “It was, without doubt, the first crack in the wall of prejudice that continued to plague baseball for the next 15 years,” wrote Sam Lacy in the Baltimore Afro-American. On this anniversary, its role in Robinson’s story, and in the history of baseball’s integration, is worth considering.

While the April 15, 1947 date is etched into history, Robinson actually signed his first professional contract on August 28, 1945 at the Dodgers’ business offices at 215 Montague Street, a location just a five-minute walk from this scribe’s residence. While team president Branch Rickey hoped to wait until November or even the following January to announce the historic deal, a confluence of factors involving city politics forced the acceleration of his timetable. The contract was announced on October 23 in Montreal, where Robinson would play with the Royals, the Dodgers’ top minor league affiliate and a site well-insulated from the racism and segregation prevalent in the United States. Still, the Dodgers had to navigate significant logistical hurdles to prepare Robinson and his teammates for the season.


Read the full article here: https://blogs.fangraphs.com/jackie-robinson-and-dodgertown-a-haven-of-tolerance/

Originally published: April 17, 2019. Last Updated: April 17, 2019.