A Report of Jackie Robinson Signing With the Brooklyn Dodgers

On October 24, 1945, the Brooklyn Eagle reported on this event (reprinted here via a book called Middle Innings, which you’ll like if you enjoy reading about baseball in the first half of the 1900s). Harold C. Burr wrote that “Robinson was carefully scouted by Tom Greenwade, George Sisler [the former St. Louis Browns star] and Clyde Sukeforth, the Rickey bird dogs. The boy was signed yesterday to a Montreal bonus contract, the Brooklyn club’s Double A International League farm.”

Burr added, “Jackie previously had received a tryout at Fenway Park, Boston, by the Red Sox. Of the three Negroes tried out on that occasion, Robinson received the most favorable attention from Manager Joe Cronin. But the Red Sox made no attempt to sign him and the Dodger scouts took over and reported to Rickey that he was the best of the Negro prospects.”

Some quotes on the signing, first from Branch Rickey Jr., the Dodgers farm director: “Mr. Racine and my father will undoubtedly be severely criticized in some sections of the country where racial prejudice is rampant. They are not inviting trouble, but they won’t avoid it if it comes. Robinson is a fine type of young man, intelligent and college-bred.

“Some of them [ballplayers], particularly those who come from certain sections of the South, will steer away from a club with a Negro player on its roster. Some players now with us may even quit, but they’ll be back in baseball after they work a year or two in a cotton mill.”

Montreal Royals president Hector Racine: “Negroes fought alongside whites and shared the foxhole dangers, and they should get a fair trial in baseball.”

And Branch Rickey, the Dodgers president, said of rumors that he was planning to sign a whole series of black players after Robinson, “I haven’t 25 prospects. The number I have in mind is nowhere comparable to that figure. I will continue to scout Negro talent. I know of no reason why I shouldn’t go after any ball players regardless of color. If I thought it would hurt the Negro, or our players, I wouldn’t have done it.”

A bit more from the Eagle:

Mr. Rickey was asked about the problem of living and traveling while the Royals are on the road.

“The boy himself answered that question. ‘I wouldn’t want to go where I’m not welcome,’ was the way he put it.”

The president of the Dodgers explained why he hadn’t broken ground before.

“When I was in St. Louis Negroes were not allowed in the grandstand. Hence I could not arrange for tryouts. If I was in authority, I would have changed that. I got the idea when I came to Brooklyn after watching Negro teams play at Ebbets Field. Baseball is a game played by human beings, regardless of color, and I want to have winning baseball.”

President Clark Griffith gave out a statement in Washington condemning Rickey for raiding an organized professional league. Rickey came back with a hot retort.

“The Negro leagues, as they are today constituted, are in the nature of a racket and Griffith knows that. History will record that Mr. Griffith introduced Negro ball in the major leagues. I want to help the Negro leagues organize. I’m doing this in spite of outside interests and pressure groups who are exploiting the Negro rather than helping him.”

Rickey said he had a heavy telegram reaction, mostly favorable.

Published in: on November 7, 2010 at 7:26 am  Leave a Comment  
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