This story initially ran within the October 1951 version of SPORT journal, throughout Jackie Robinson’s fifth season within the main leagues. We’re republishing it now in celebration of the seventy fifth anniversary of Robinson’s debut, on April 15, 1947. This story has been condensed for readability and house.
JACK ROOSEVELT ROBINSON of the Brooklyn Dodgers made his precedent-shattering invasion of organized baseball carrying an armor of humility. It was, for him, an unnatural garment that chafed regularly and on sure events dug ruthlessly into each his flesh and his spirit. Hiding his true combativeness behind the armor rigorously chosen for him by Department Rickey, allowed to vent his along with his bat, glove and flying ft, Jackie was the unresponsive goal for barbs of humiliation that no man however Robinson might absolutely recognize. The humility he practiced so rigorously — rigidly is perhaps a fair higher phrase — didn’t come naturally. No meek and humble man might probably play baseball with the hearth and sprint Robinson reveals. However there was reserve in Jackie, much more reserve than any white ballplayer ever had proven. He needed to have it, and simply as he kilos a base-hit must be obtained, so he managed to restrain his feelings when it needed to be completed to guarantee his success. However it has been 5 years since Jackie broke into the Nationwide League, years chock stuffed with astonishing feats, of limitless honors, and every year the nice second-baseman of the Dodgers has been inclined to placate fewer and fewer folks. It’s a noteworthy milestone within the historical past of baseball that Robinson is right this moment, in the end, his personal man.
Jackie has thrown off the shackles regularly however purposefully. In 1949, he wrangled with the umpires and was compelled by Commissioner A. B. Chandler to tender an apology to umpire Cal Hubbard throughout the World Sequence. In 1950, he took the brakes off his feud with Leo Durocher and it burst forth into the open. He accused sure Nationwide League umpires of getting shaped a heckling cabal in opposition to him and charged they have been trying to impress him. He invited an investigation by Nationwide League President Ford Frick. This previous spring in an exhibition recreation at Asheville, North Carolina, he stood on the diamond chin to chin and argued heatedly with umpire Frank Dascoli for a number of minutes. He resented bean balls being thrown at his head and the heads of his teammates of their interboro scraps with the Giants. In a single recreation, he laid down a bunt to power pitcher Sal Maglie to area the ball on the first-base line the place he might bump him. “I did it intentionally,” Jackie admitted, “to power the league to step in and cease this beanballing earlier than any person will get harm. I’ll take the fantastic, the suspension or the rest that goes with it, however this throwing at a person’s head has bought to be stopped. If the umpires haven’t the braveness to cease it, then Mr. Frick ought to step in. “
“Final Sunday,” Robinson mentioned, “Larry Jansen hit me with a pitch. The mark’s nonetheless there. Maglie had already thrown one too near me. I made up my thoughts to do one thing to guard myself and the opposite fellows. I got down to create sufficient of a disturbance to convey this factor to a head.”
That evening, watching the sport from her common seat at Ebbets Area, Jackie’s spouse, Rachel, who has made priceless contributions to her husband’s pioneering job in baseball, was significantly conscious of the stress. As she has from the very starting, she saved her ears attuned to the feedback about her husband. A person seated close to her mentioned, as Jackie bumped Maglie, “There’s a man getting bigheaded.” It was a comment Rachel repeated to her husband later that night as they drove again to their dwelling in St. Albans, Lengthy Island. It’s a remark that has been made many instances inside current months in a technique or one other as Robinson has demonstrated that he acknowledges not any limitations upon him which don’t circumscribe different gamers. I’ve heard it in dressing rooms, dugouts, bars, on planes and trains, the place baseball folks collect or amongst plain followers. I’ve watched Jackie from the start and have seen his aggressiveness turn out to be extra pronounced. …
By no means once more will Jackie put on the armor of humility. This, then, is the actual Jackie Robinson — with the wraps off. Is he actually big-headed, or getting a “god complicated” as one reader wrote me following the Maglie incident, or has Robinson merely handed from stage to pure stage within the evolution of his nice experiment in baseball?
Numerous phrases have been written concerning the chilly, calculated fury of Eddie Stanky, the emotional combativeness of Enos Slaughter, the profane, goading insolence of Leo Durocher. For essentially the most half, they’ve been phrases of reward as a result of the personalities of those males are the reflections of that aggressive high quality which lifts them above others of equal or better capability.
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To understand what has occurred to Robinson, undoubtedly one of many all-time greats of baseball, though he was compelled to function underneath essentially the most harrowing circumstances and circumstances, one should perceive the way it will need to have been for him to play baseball, as Invoice Reeder so expressively put it in his guide on Jackie, “in a masks.” Jackie anticipated crank notes, abuse, roughhousing, segregation in sure resorts, animosity from the opposition and even from a number of the gamers on his personal group. However what occurs to a person inside whom emotion rages, but who will not be allowed to let the searing emotions escape him?
Bench-jockeying is part of baseball and the person who offers it expects to get it again. However firstly, Jackie couldn’t give, solely obtain. In tight flag races; in slumps, in spurts, on unhealthy performs and shut choices by umpires, within the thousand little disturbing moments that mark the 154 video games of each baseball season. there are occasions a person should let off steam or burst. However for Robinson there was no security valve, no outlet.
Take into account these circumstances earlier than judging the person. Keep in mind what Robinson has completed, pacing the Dodgers to their flags in 1947 and 1949 and successful essentially the most worthwhile participant award within the latter 12 months as he had received the rookie of the 12 months honor in ’47. Regardless of his apparent success on the sector, far surpassing what Rickey had hoped for at any time, Jackie couldn’t be happy with issues as they have been. Inside him welled a resentment at being stifled, certain by restrictive do’s and don’ts that chafed not solely bodily, however threatened his personal psychological stability.
Maybe the primary to learn about it was Mel Jones, Jackie’s normal supervisor at Montreal. As soon as, Robinson got here into his workplace and mentioned, “No person is aware of what I’m going by this season.”
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It wasn’t till a couple of months in the past that Mrs. Robinson, a registered nurse who understands the boundaries to which a person can expose his physique and thoughts to self-discipline, disclosed what torment she and her husband went by within the seasons Jackie wore his armor of humility.
“On the finish of his first season in baseball,” she mentioned, “I turned extraordinarily nervous about Jack. I knew no one might go alongside day after day, week after week, and month after month bottling up his emotion. I knew what Mr. Rickey had suggested and, like Jack, I agreed. But I anticipated my husband to interrupt free at dwelling, even when he couldn’t do it on the sector. Understanding his downside, which was mine as effectively, I’d have welcomed an outburst at dwelling. I requested him to talk his piece once we have been alone collectively. Each man wants to speak himself out when he has an issue, however as a substitute Jack turned much less talkative.
“He couldn’t eat,” Mrs. Robinson mentioned, “and at evening he’d toss continually in his sleep. Lastly, I insisted that Jack seek the advice of a physician, who warned him if he didn’t steer clear of the ball park he would certainly endure a nervous breakdown. However Jack wouldn’t give it up. In two days, he was again, taking part in in addition to he ever did earlier than and carrying the identical issues round inside him.”…
THE RESTRICTIONS WHICH have been positioned upon him when he began made for an unnatural baseball life, which might have been unusual sufficient because it was due to the colour of his pores and skin. A whole code of conduct was foreordained for Robinson earlier than he ever stepped on a area. Wherever he was attributable to seem, Rickey despatched his advance man and advance plans to manage the natural- and generally bestial-forces.
Committees have been arrange by church buildings and social organizations and civic leaders have been shaped into “find out how to deal with Robinson” golf equipment. Every ready its personal listing of do’s and don’ts for Jackie. His conduct on and off the sector was to be determined for him and supervised from everyday. His deportment acquired extra consideration earlier than he ever swung a bat or fielded a ball than is lavished on Princess Elizabeth.
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He couldn’t endorse breakfast meals or lend his title to journal articles or newspaper tales, which go to swell a participant’s earnings and popularity. He got here to the ball park secretly and left the identical approach. Adulation needed to be prevented as a lot as criticism from the stands and the followers. It was feared Jackie would symbolize a logo greater than a ballplayer trying to make good. …
On the entire, it was an admirable marketing campaign and for essentially the most half it served an incredible objective. But right here there was an try and stifle unnaturally the passion of the tens of millions who noticed self-identification with Robinson. …
To those that haven’t traveled the highway with the Dodgers, it could be tough to understand absolutely, however those that have seen Robinson enter or depart the ball parks across the circuit know what an incredible affect he has been on an entire race of individuals.
The target bystander inside and out of doors Wrigley Area, Chicago, for instance, is struck by the complete that means of Jackie Robinson for his folks. They regard him with nothing lower than adoration, which, in its strictest sense, is a phrase that may be utilized solely to the deity. This isn’t meant, in any sense, to be sacrilegious. It’s a recognition of issues as they’re — of what Robinson has come to imply.
The Dodgers journey to and from their downtown resort to Wrigley Area in a non-public bus, which is parked on a facet avenue. Actually hundreds are ready to see them when the bus arrives on the ball park, however after the sport the crush is so thick it’s virtually unattainable to traverse the few hundred ft from the gamers’ exit to the ready car.
Each Dodger is a hero of kinds, after all, for any who are available in contact with Robinson have assumed, within the thoughts of his worshippers, sure of Jackie’s attributes. Roy Campanella and Don Newcombe, Jackie’s Black teammates, are available in for his or her share of consideration, naturally, however the true adoration is reserved for Robinson. There may be an ecstasy that borders on spiritual aid as the group sees Jackie and crushes itself into an motionless mass on both facet of him.
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They name his title in a approach no different participant’s title known as. They plead to shake his hand or ask for his autograph. They contact his garments as he walks by, unhurrying, nice, pleasant, cooperative, as a result of Jackie has by no means as soon as overpassed what the sport has meant to him and what he has meant, means now, and can all the time imply to his folks. Regardless of his pioneering, Robinson by no means wished a task of reformer.
All he ever requested, as soon as he had proved himself to Rickey, who believed in him from the start, was to be accepted as a participant amongst different gamers. He didn’t as soon as whimper when the restrictions have been positioned upon him and the opposition started to check his braveness and mood. He took every part anyone needed to give. He started his profession in organized baseball underneath a supervisor reared within the anti-Black custom of Mississippi and was confronted in his first season with the Dodgers with risk of two strikes in opposition to him, each actually and figuratively. …
[Now,} it was solely pure for Jackie to return to understand his personal value on the gate and wish to tear away from the unnatural bonds that restricted him.
YOU COULD PICK any level throughout this previous season when Jackie accomplished his personal emancipation and you’ll be each proper and flawed. The Maglie incident at Ebbets Area, maybe, could be as shut as any in estimating when the final shackle was torn free.
To 1 who remembered the restricted Robinson taking part in with a fence about him, so to talk, that incident characterised the brand new Jackie. There had been telltale evidences of his new strategy to the enterprise through which he earns his residing earlier than he ran up the Large pitcher’s again and there have been to be extra after he did so, however this one wrapped up the brand new Jackie right into a neat little bundle for all to see.
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Robinson was a pioneer, however identification within the position of a reformer was one thing he by no means sought and didn’t relish when it got here to him. However he felt that hectic evening at Ebbets Area final April that he needed to see it by even on the threat of his popularity, his physique, his wealth and in opposition to the recommendation of his spouse. Such was the reason he made to me when he instructed why he had determined to make himself the avenging aggressor for the beanballing feud which had turn out to be the motif of the Dodger-Large sequence.
I instructed Jackie that Maglie had denied throwing at him.
“I suppose I’m at fault,” he mentioned.
“Each time one thing occurs, I decide up a paper and browse I’m at fault. If Maglie didn’t throw at me, then his catcher thought otherwise. After the bunt, I got here again to the plate and picked up my bat and Westrum mentioned, ‘Sal wasn’t throwing at you. You’ve been carrying us out. He was simply brushing you again.’
“That’s too fantastic a distinction for me,” Robinson mentioned. “This morning I learn the place Durocher mentioned it was a bushleague trick. If I’m bush Durocher made me that approach. He taught it to me. Proper right here on this clubhouse, he used to inform us every single day, ‘In the event that they throw one at your head, don’t say something. Push one down and run proper up his neck.’ Leo’s an professional at it. He was proper. The following two instances at bat, not pitch got here near me.”
Following the sport that evening, Jackie and Mrs. Robinson drove again to their Lengthy Island dwelling and Jackie defined is viewpoint to her. She, in flip, talked of the bigger image. A while later, she repeated their dialog to me and mentioned, “I’ve been attempting to make Jack see it from the followers’ viewpoint as a result of they will’t perceive what’s in Jack’s thoughts. They don’t recognize that he’s keen to run the chance of harm to cease what he believes is flawed. To them it appeared he was maliciously attempting to injure Maglie. How can they know what’s in his thoughts?
“Perhaps right this moment Jack feels otherwise about what occurred,” she mentioned. “I feel I perceive his downside higher than most. When he’s at bat, he doesn’t have a lot time to cease and assume. Perhaps a couple of hours later, he thinks and does otherwise.”
AS a lot as I like Mrs. Robinson and her incomparable contribution in her partnership with Jackie, I knew as she spoke that she was flawed as a result of Jackie had indicated as a lot to me.
“I don’t wish to must do one thing like that once more, but when I’ve to I’ll,” he mentioned.
The actual fact is Jackie right this moment feels underneath no restraint in any way. Maybe even lower than another participant as a result of, in impact, he has completed extra. Different gamers hesitate to air their opinions, however Jackie, who had allowed a lot to be shut inside him for thus many seasons, speaks his piece at any time when there’s something on his thoughts. A lot of it’s of an incendiary nature, however Jackie doesn’t thoughts explosive quotes. He despises Durocher and he says so. He thought he was ticketed for commerce earlier than the beginning of this season and he felt free to inform me about it. …
That is the unencumbered Robinson. The one distinction between Jackie and the others is that he, Don Newcombe and Roy Campanella can not keep in the identical resort in St. Louis due to the town’s segregation customs.
However there the variance ends. The place he as soon as couldn’t make endorsements, Jackie now considers there aren’t any strings upon him within the matter of cashing in off the sector on his expertise on the sector. If he desires to make a public look, free of charge or for cash, he does so with out first taking the matter to the Brooklyn higher-ups. He admits no motive why he ought to observe a course of conduct any totally different from that pursued by the Joe DiMaggios, the Bob Fellers or the Ted Williamses. He asks no license however accepts no particular restrictions.
On the sector his bat speaks louder than the others and within the clubhouse there is no such thing as a deference in his voice and his actions due to his delicate place. Not bodily, morally or spiritually does Robby contemplate himself delicate any longer. He proved to Rickey he might take it. He saved his mouth shut and his feelings bottled for an affordable time frame, however that point has come to an finish. And there’s none who cares to problem him or has a proper to say he’s flawed.