Lowenfish: Book links Jackie Robinson and son of Carl Erskine

From SABR member Lee Lowenfish at BookTrib on January 29, 2013:

February is Black History Month. I know that some critics even cynics feel that it is a snub to highlight the contributions of African-Americans during the shortest month of the year.

Personally, I think the commemorations should begin on January 31. For it is the birthday of both Jackie Robinson, who would have been 94, and Branch Rickey Jr. 99 – an able baseball executive and right-hand man of his father during the battle against baseball segregation.

We know now that Robinson’s success as a major leaguer starting in 1947 was the indelible first salvo in the civil rights movement. So as a Branch Rickey biographer, I was thrilled to be asked to appear in mid-January on a panel in Indianapolis to discuss the Indiana Repertory Theater’s production of “Jackie and Me,” playwright Steven Dietz’s adaptation of Dan Gutman’s young adult novel.

It was a benefit performance to raise money for the Indianapolis chapter of Major League Baseball’s RBI program, Restore Baseball in the Inner City. David James, director of MLB’s RBI program, was also on the panel and the former Little League executive in Williamsport, Pa. likes to say that he is the only one ever to jump directly from the Little League to the Major Leagues.

“Jackie and Me” tells the story of a baseball-loving Little Leaguer with a temper problem who has the supernatural ability to rub baseball cards and transport himself back in time. For a school assignment he travels back to 1947 to meet Jackie Robinson during his tumultuous rookie season. To add drama to his adventure little Joey Stoshack (played by Joseph Mervis) goes back as a black boy to better understand the hostility Robinson (Beethovan Oden) was facing.

During the panel discussion after the play, Carl Erskine, Robinson’s Brooklyn teammate, admitted that he cried at the moment in “Jackie and Me” when Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson appear on stage together. A gaunt Ruth near death clad in camel-hair coat points to the center field bleachers re-enacting his famous “called shot” World Series home run. At the same time young intense Robinson stands at home plate bat in hand ready to belt the baseball.

Read the full article here: http://leelowenfish.booktrib.com/2013/01/29/carl-erskine-and-the-keeping-of-the-spirit-of-jackie-robinson-alive/

Originally published: February 15, 2013. Last Updated: February 15, 2013.