Lamb: In a state wrought with racial tension, Jackie suits up for first spring training game

From SABR member Chris Lamb at The Conversation on March 16, 2016:

Seventy years ago, on the morning of March 17, 1946, Jackie Robinson sat with his wife Rachel in a small bedroom in a stranger’s home in Daytona Beach, Florida, and wondered what lay ahead for him that afternoon.

Robinson would make history if he played for the Triple A Montreal Royals in his first spring training game. No black had worn the uniform of a team in organized baseball since the 19th century.

The Royals were scheduled to play their parent club, the Brooklyn Dodgers, and Jackie and Rachel didn’t know if he would even be allowed to take the field at segregated City Island Ball Park. What would happen if he did play? What would white fans yell at him, throw things at him – or worse? He knew that any black who challenged segregation in the South was putting his life in danger.

Much has been written about Robinson’s first game in the major leagues for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947. Far less is known about the spring of 1946, when the ballplayer was competing for a spot on the Dodgers’ top farm club. Rarely has an athlete found himself under more pressure in such hostile conditions as Robinson did in Florida.

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Originally published: March 16, 2016. Last Updated: March 16, 2016.