Kaiser: Jackie Robinson and “42”

From SABR member David Kaiser at Bill James Online on April 19, 2013:

I was born within two months of Jackie Robinson’s debut in the major leagues, and by the time I was 7 I was already a baseball nut and well aware of his historical significance. In October 1955 I raced home from school in time to watch the last three innings of the first game of the World Series and saw him steal home against the Yankees, a moment I will never forget. During the World Series the next year I saw him interviewed, along with some other players, on the Today show, a surprising experience to which I shall return. Just a few weeks later I was shocked to read he had been traded to the Giants, and then, that he had retired. I knew about his continuing involvement in politics—including his endorsement of Richard Nixon in 1960—and I read a great deal about his years in the majors.

In 1972, Roger Kahn’s book The Boys of Summer presented a strikingly honest portrait of Robinson the ballplayer in the years 1952-3. Thanks to Jim Bouton’s taboo-breaking Ball Four two years earlier, Kahn could faithfully reproduce the profanity with which baseball players talked. Later that year, Robinson died suddenly of diabetes and heart disease just a few days after his last public appearance at the Cincinnati-Oakland World Series. That evening, Red Barber, the Mississippian who was broadcasting Dodger games in 1947, movingly described how he had told Branch Rickey that he would have to quit if Robinson joined the Dodgers. His Mississippi upbringing would not allow him to broadcast integrated games. Rickey asked him to think the matter over, and he did. Within months he was a fervent Robinson supporter. In subsequent decades a number of books on the breaking of the color line appeared which added to the story.

Read the full article here: http://www.billjamesonline.com/jackie_robinson_and_42/

Originally published: April 19, 2013. Last Updated: April 19, 2013.