Jaffe: Remembering Jackie Robinson’s first 10 days in the big leagues

From SABR member Jay Jaffe at Sports Illustrated on April 14, 2017:

April 15 marks the 70th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s major league debut, an event that’s recognized throughout Major League Baseball and one that’s become an annual part of our coverage at SI.com. This time around, we examine Robinson’s first 10 days in the majors, during which he not only broke the color barrier but flashed the skills that would keep him in the majors, open the door for other African-Americans to follow and make him one of the game’s greatest players over the next decade.

April 15: Boston Braves at Brooklyn Dodgers, Ebbets Field

The front page of the morning’s New York Times contained stories on U.S. Secretary of State George Marshall’s plan to keep Germany disarmed, Soviet Prime minister Joseph Stalin’s conversation with presidential candidate Harold Stassen, talks to end a week-long national strike of telephone workers, and news of a local smallpox outbreak. It did not, however, report that history was about to be made at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn. The only time baseball had broken through to the front page of the Gray Lady that month was on April 10, when commissioner Happy Chandler suspended Brooklyn Dodgers manger Leo Durocher for one year due for “the accumulation of unpleasant incidents detrimental to baseball.”

It was amid the fallout of that front page story that Dodgers president and general manager Branch Rickey chose to announce the purchase of Jackie Robinson’s contract from the Montreal Royals, on the heels of a spring training spent in Havana and the eve of what was effectively a dress rehearsal. From April 11-13, the Dodgers played a three-game exhibition series against the Yankees at Ebbets Field, during which Robinson drove in five runs and handled everything cleanly at first base, his new position. In the April 15 sports section, Times columnist Arthur Daley praised Rickey’s timing of the promotion amid the Durocher-related fallout: “He practically smuggled him in… merely an attempt to lighten the pressure on Robinson’s shoulders.”


Read the full article here: https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/04/14/jackie-robinson-day-first-ten-days

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