Sixty nine years ago today the Brooklyn Dodgers broke the color line at Ebbets Field when Jackie Robinson took the field, playing first base. The door was opened and it was the beginning of the end of the Negro leagues.
I was 5 years old.
By the time I was 10 I would be sitting in the bleachers with my friends screaming our heads off for Jackie, Roy Campanella, Don Newcomb. There were plenty of black kids too, from Bed-Sty screaming right along with us. Nobody was black or white to us kids; it only mattered if you were Dodger blue.
Larry Doby would integrate the Cleveland Indians, Monte Irvin joined the Giants and Ernie Banks, the Chicago Cubs.
They paved the way for Willie Mays and Hank Aaron.
I would watch Jackie, Campy and Newk until the Dodgers left for L. A. I would see Willie Mays and Hank Aaron in our band box of a ball park.
Jackie made his first all-star team in 1949, receiving more votes from the fans than anyone except Ted Williams. And he was still a star player in 1955 when the Dodgers finally beat the hated Yankees in the World Series.
And wherever baseball was played the hotels were desegregated and the restaurants were desegregated if they wanted to house or feed a major league baseball team.
When Jack and his wife Rachel couldn’t buy a home in Stamford, Connecticut because of racial bias, Andrea Simon of Simon and Schuster (and Carlie Simon’s mom) invited them to stay in her home temporarily and worked tirelessly to fight the prejudice. The Robinson’s broke the color line in Stamford.
Jack Robinson’s number 42 has been retired all across baseball; nobody wears 42 anymore in honor of Jack.
Tomorrow, April 15, Jackie Robinson Day, every baseball player taking the field will wear number 42.
I can honestly say that, for the kids in Brooklyn in 1955, we didn’t know what the hub-bub was all about.
None of it mattered if you could play.