Tag Archives: Brooklyn Dodgers

Remembering Jackie Robinson

Despite the current lukewarm attitude about baseball of African-Americans, April 15 is still an important date in not only baseball history, but also African-American history.

On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson became the first African-American since before the turn of the century to play Major League baseball. Wearing Number 42 for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Robinson played first base and batted second in the team’s home opener at Ebbet’s Field against the Boston Braves. In three at bats, he reached base on an error and scored a run in the Dodgers’ 5 – 3 win.

robinson standing

To celebrate the day of Robinson’s debut, April 15 is designated by Major League Baseball; “Jackie Robinson Day”. All Major League players will wear number “42”, Jackie’s number, on their uniforms during games today and other activities will also be held at Major League ballparks to honor him.

robinson-day

Growing up in a home where my father and two older brothers were baseball fans, I was made aware at an early age of Jackie Robinson. However; his mark in history, both African-American and Twentieth Century American, continues to grow in significance sixty-nine years after that Brooklyn spring day in 1947.  A mark that he made through his excellence on the baseball diamond whose impact goes well beyond the sport itself.

Robinson hit .297 in 1947 and led the National League in stolen bases. Although many sportswriters doubted he would be successful, the National Sportswriters Association named him 1947 National League Rookie of the Year.  In 1949, he led the National League in hitting (.342), stolen bases, and drove in 124 runs.  For his efforts Robinson won the National League Most Valuable Player Award.  He hit over .300 six in his 10 Major League seasons, and over .290 two others.  A six-time National League All-Star, Robinson helped the Dodgers win six National League pennants (finishing second four times) and one World Series championship (1955).

But I missed his playing career!   When I made my entrance into the world in August 1951, Robinson and the Dodgers were in the process of blowing a 14 1/2 lead against the second place New York Giants to lose the National League pennant.  There was no ESPN, CNN Sports, Fox Sports Net, or MLB Network in the 1950s.  I am sure Jackie would have made the ESPN Top Ten Plays of the Day highlights numerous times.  He retired after the 1956 season as I was in the kindergarten class of Miss Williams at Kealing Elementary.  That is why I love seeing the black and white films showing him in action like in the documentary showed last week on PBS; “Jackie Robinson:  A Film by Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, and David McMaHon”.  The daring way he ran the bases, especially stealing home, is still exciting today.

robinson running

Truthfully Jackie Robinson was not the best player in Negro League baseball when Dodger Vice-President and General Manager Branch Rickey signed him in 1945. But he was named the 1946 International League’s Most Valuable Player while with the Dodgers top minor league team in Montreal.   Bob Feller, the star pitcher for the Cleveland Indians said Robinson would never be good enough as a hitter to make it in the Major Leagues.  How ironic was it that they were inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame together in 1962.  Jackie Robinson accepted the hopes and expectations for success of his race as he faced the expectations and predictions of his failure from those opposed to him.  Despite this pressure from all sides, he proved his skeptics wrong and opened the door for other African-American and dark-skinned Latino ball players to play Major League baseball.  Jackie Robinson was an extra-ordinary man God equipped for a super extra-ordinary task!

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To read more about the Negro League baseball era Last Train To Cooperstown

The Negro League Baseball Fact For Today – Joe Black

Born on February 8, 1924 in Plainfield, New Jersey; right-handed pitcher Joe Black possessed a power fastball and natural slider. Black pitched with the Baltimore Elite Giants of the Negro National League (1943 -1950) while finishing college (Morgan State) and then was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers.

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As a 26 years old Major League rookie, Black pitched in relief for Dodgers in 1952. His former Elite Giant teammate Roy Campanella was the Dodgers’ catcher.  Black won 15 games; he also saved 15 and received the 1952 National League Rookie of the Year award.

To Black’s surprise, Dodgers’ manager Chuck Dressen chose him to be the starting pitcher against the New York Yankees in Game One of the World Series. Black had only started two games during the regular season.  He responded by becoming the first African-American pitcher to win a World Series game beating the Yankees 4 – 2.  However, Black lost Game Four 2 – 0 and Game Seven 4 – 2.  He finished the Series with a 2.15 ERA, lowest of all Dodger starting pitchers.

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After a six-year Major League career (1952 – 1957) in which he was 30 – 12, Black worked in business becoming a vice president at the Greyhound Corporation.

Learn more about the Negro League Baseball Era Last Train To Cooperstown

Amoros & Neal: Stars in Dodgers’ World Series History

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Today is for long time Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodger baseball fans, like James O’Berry in Houston, to celebrate the birthday of two players who were on a World Series Champion Dodger team; Sandy Amoros (left) in 1955 and Charlie Neal (right) in 1959. Neither of them received formal “hero status” in their team’s triumph.  But Dodger fans know how important each of them were those years; the two World Series Championships for the franchise in the 1950s.

After five previous World Series losses against the New York Yankees; 1941, 1947, 1949, 1952, and 1953, the Brooklyn Dodgers defeated them in 1955.  Johnny Podres claimed the moniker of “Series hero” for the Dodgers by pitching a 2-0 shutout in Game Seven, his second complete game win in the Series.  It is in that important Game Seven when Sandy Amoros makes his contribution to the Dodgers’ victory.

Born January 30, 1930 in Matanzas, Cuba, Edmunido “Sandy” Amoros could hit a baseball with surprising power for his 5’7 ½”, 170 pounds physical stature. He played Negro League baseball in 1950 with the New York Cubans.  The team went out of business after the season and Amoros played in Caribbean baseball leagues until signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1952.  The left-handed outfielder hit over .300 and showed power in his batting stroke while in the team’s minor league system.  However, after integration Major League teams had a “quota” on the number of African-Americans to have on their rosters.  With Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Don Newcombe, Joe Black, and Jim Gilliam already wearing Dodger blue, the team kept Amoros in the minor leagues.

It is Amoros’ defense, however, that engraved him a place in Dodger history.  In the deciding Game Seven of the 1955 World Series, the Dodgers were leading 2 – 0 in the bottom of the sixth inning; but the Yankees had the tying runs on base with no outs.  Yankees’ catcher Yogi Berra hit a line drive headed towards the Yankee Stadium left field corner that appeared it to be a game tying double.  However Amoros; who had been put in the game for defensive purposes when the inning started, ran as fast as he could and caught it.  He quickly threw it back to the infield and completed a double play.  Amoros’ play killed the Yankees’ scoring threat and the Dodgers held on to win the game and be 1955 World Series Champions.

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Amoros’ 1955 World Series Catch

In 1959, the second season after moving to Los Angeles, the Dodgers defeated the Chicago White Sox in the World Series. Dodger relief pitcher Larry Sherry played a role in all four of the teams’s victories and got the nod as Series “Most Valuable Player”.  He pitched 12.2 innings with an Earned Run Average (ERA) of 0.71.  Entering the contests as a relief pitcher, Sherry got the save in World Series Games Two and Three, and was the winning pitcher in Games Four and Six.  Whereas Sherry was the pitching star for the Dodgers in the Series, Charlie Neal led the team in hitting.

Born January 30, 1931 in Longview, Texas; Charles Lenard Neal signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1950. A promising prospect, the 5’10’, 165 lb. infielder first languished in the minor leagues as the Dodgers had team captain Pee Wee Reese at shortstop, All Star Jackie Robinson playing second base, and 1953 National League Rookie of the Year Jim Gilliam also playing on the infield.  In addition as Sandy Amoros discovered, the Dodgers were reluctant to have “too many” African-American and dark-skinned Latinos on the Major League roster.

Neal made his Major League debut April 15, 1956; playing in 62 games his rookie season and hitting .287. The starting second baseman in Game Three of the 1956 World Series, Neal went hitless against the Yankees’ Whitey Ford in the Dodgers’ 5 -3 lost.  When Jackie Robinson retired in 1957, Reese moved over to play third base and Neal became the Dodger’s starting shortstop.  In 1958, the Dodgers first season in Los Angeles, Neal hit 22 home runs and drove in 65 runs.

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Charlie had the best year of his career in 1959, hitting .287 with 19 home runs, 83 RBIs (2nd on the team), and a team leading 177 hits.  The All-Star second baseman also received his only Gold Glove Award.   After the White Sox won Game One of the 1959 World Series 16 – 0, the Dodgers trailed 2 – 0 in the top of the fifth in Game Two.  Neal broke the team’s streak of 13 scoreless innings with a solo home run.  He then hit a 2-run homer in the seventh to give the Dodgers a lead that Sherry kept in their 4 – 3 win.  While a crowd of 92,394 looked on at the Los Angeles Coliseum in Game Three, Neal went 2 for 4.  With the score 0 – 0, he singled to start a Dodger rally in the bottom of the seventh and scored the first run in the team’s 3 – 1 victory.  In the Series clinching Sixth Game, he got three hits.  His double drove in two of the Dodgers’ six runs in the top of the fourth on their way to winning the game 9 – 3 and the World Series Championship (four games to two).  For the Series, Neal hit .370 with two home runs, six RBIs and had the most hits; 10.

 

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Baseball, and Jackie Robinson

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Today is the national celebration for the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., what would have been his 88th.  Much will be written giving tributes to his life and the impact his legacy continues to have not only on this country, but also the world.  However, I want to mention what appears to have been Dr. King’s favorite sport, baseball.

When Jackie Robinson crossed the “invisible color line” in 1947 to be the first African-American to play Major League baseball in the 20th Century, he became the idol of an 18-year-old teenager in Atlanta, Georgia; Martin King Jr.  Like many other African-Americans at that time, whether baseball fans or not, the Brooklyn Dodgers were the young King’s favorite baseball team because of Jackie Robinson.  Many of those African-American Dodger fans, including King, remained loyal to the team after Robinson retired and it relocated to Los Angeles in 1958.  In addressing the 1966 Milwaukee Braves’ move to his hometown of Atlanta, Dr. King indicated it would complicate his personal allegiance that had existed since 1947.  “And so I have been a Dodger fan”, he said, “but I’m gonna get with the Braves now”.*

But Dr. King had been more than a fan of the Dodgers; he understood the significance for African-Americans of what Jackie Robinson had done in 1947. After becoming a leader in the Civil Rights movement, Dr. King knew where his idol as a teenager’s accomplishments fit overall in reference to that movement.

When Rosa Parks refused to surrender her seat on that Montgomery, Alabama city bus in December of 1955 triggering the Civil Rights movement of the late 1950s and 1960s, Jackie Robinson was nearing the end of his baseball career. He announced his retirement on January 5, 1957; fifteen days after the successful end of the Montgomery bus boycott led by the 26-year-old pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In the 1960s, Robinson became actively involved in the Civil Rights movement with Dr. King. He spoke at Civil Rights rallies in the South for Dr. King, marched in demonstrations with him, and held fund-raisers for Dr. King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).  Dr. King and Robinson became co-laborers in the African-American struggle for equality.  He considered Jackie Robinson a friend.

At a testimonial dinner for Jackie Robinson on July 20, 1962 celebrating the former Dodger’s upcoming National Baseball Hall of Fame induction in three days, Dr. King paid tribute to him. He defended Robinson’s right to speak out about segregation and civil rights.  “He has the right”, King insisted stoutly,  “because back in the days when integration was not fashionable, he underwent the trauma and the humiliation and the loneliness which comes from being a pilgrim walking the lonesome byways towards the high road of Freedom.  He was a sit-inner before sit-ins, a freedom rider before freedom rides.  And that is why we honor him tonight.”**

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. may have liked other sports. However; because of Jackie Robinson, baseball appeared to be his favorite.  Since idolizing Robinson while being a teenager in 1947, Dr. King never forgot the significance of the baseball player’s accomplishments in the struggle of African-Americans for equality.

*”At Canaan’s Edge: America in the King Years 1965 – 1968”, Taylor Branch, p.394

**”Jackie Robinson: A Biography”, Arnold Rampersad, p.7

 

 

Honoring Jackie Robinson, #42

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Please excuse the tardiness of this blog post.  In my effort to assemble a team to play in the Satchel Paige Division (age 11 – 12) of the RBI (Reviving Baseball in the Inter-City) program run by the Kansas City Boys and Girls Club, I allowed April 15th to slip by me.  But that is still not a good excuse, considering how important that day is not just in Major League baseball but because of its significance in both African American and 20th Century American history.

On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson became the first African American since before the turn of the century to play Major League baseball. Wearing Number 42 for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Robinson played first base and batted second in the team’s home opener at Ebbet’s Field against the Boston Braves. In three at bats, he reached base on an error and scored a run in the Dodgers’ 5 – 3 win.

To celebrate the day of Robinson’s debut, last Friday was designated by Major League Baseball; “Jackie Robinson Day”. All Major League players wore number “42”, Jackie’s number, on their uniforms during games that day and other activities were also held at Major League ballparks to honor Robinson.

Growing up in a home where my father and two older brothers were baseball fans, I was made aware at an early age of Jackie Robinson. However; his mark in history, both African American and Twentieth Century American, continues to grow in significance sixty-nine years after that Brooklyn spring day in 1947.  A mark that he made through his excellence on the baseball diamond whose impact goes well beyond the sport itself.

robinson standing

Robinson hit .297 in 1947 and led the National League in stolen bases. Although many sportswriters doubted he would be successful, the National Sportswriters Association named him 1947 National League Rookie of the Year.  In 1949, he led the National League in hitting (.342), stolen bases, and drove in 124 runs.  For his efforts Robinson won the National League Most Valuable Player Award.  He hit over .300 six in his 10 Major League seasons, and over .290 two others.  A six-time National League All-Star, Robinson helped the Dodgers win six National League pennants (finishing second four times) and one World Series championship (1955).

But I missed his playing career!   When I made my entrance into the world in August 1951, Robinson and the Dodgers were in the process of blowing a 14 1/2 lead against the second place New York Giants to lose the National League pennant.  There was no ESPN, CNN Sports, Fox Sports Net, or MLB Network in the 1950s.  I am sure Jackie would have made the ESPN Top Ten Plays of the Day highlights numerous times.  He retired after the 1956 season as I was in the kindergarten class of Miss Williams at Kealing Elementary.  That is why I love seeing the black and white films showing him in action like in the documentary showed last week on PBS; “Jackie Robinson:  A Film by Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, and David McMaHon”.  The daring way he ran the bases, especially stealing home, is still exciting today.

robinson running

Truthfully Jackie Robinson was not the best player in Negro League baseball when Dodger Vice-President and General Manager Branch Rickey signed him in 1945. But he was named the 1946 International League’s Most Valuable Player while with the Dodgers top minor league team in Montreal.   Bob Feller, the star pitcher for the Cleveland Indians said Robinson would never be good enough as a hitter to make it in the Major Leagues.  How ironic was it that they were inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame together in 1962.  Jackie Robinson accepted the hopes and expectations for success of his race as he faced the expectations and predictions of his failure from those opposed to him.  Despite this pressure from all sides, he proved his skeptics wrong and opened the door for other African American and dark-skinned Latino ball players.  Jackie Robinson was an extra-ordinary man God equipped for a super extra-ordinary task!

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