Baseball for the Thinking Fan

Login | Register | Feedback

btf_logo
You are here > Home > Baseball Newsstand > Baseball Primer Newsblog > Discussion
Baseball Primer Newsblog
— The Best News Links from the Baseball Newsstand

Monday, March 18, 2013

John Thorn: Thinking About Jackie Robinson

Here’s a story about the bridge that Jackie Robinson crossed, and some of the men who built that bridge. I was going to deliver this as a speech last month,  to close out a regional celebration of the Baseball Hall of Fame’s traveling exhibition, Pride & Passion: The African-American Baseball Experience. But because I was suddenly laid low by a bout of ill health, from which I have since recovered, the event had to be cancelled and the speech shelved. Now, as we near Jackie Robinson Day, I thought I’d share these thoughts with you, in two parts. Please note that in some period accounts quoted below, language regarded as offensive today is reproduced verbatim.

A feature film, titled 42, about Jackie Robinson’s breaking of Major League Baseball’s color barrier in 1947 will have its premiere pretty soon, on April 12 in fact. (Had the studio scheduled the opening three days later, they would have launched on the very date that Jackie first wore that number at Ebbets Field; oh well—I’m sure they knew that.) Harrison Ford will play Branch Rickey, Chadwick Boseman will play Jackie, and the screenwriters will get the story right, largely. However, a film will take dramatic license that the written word may not. Like the newsman in the great western picture The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, the director of 42 must say, “This is baseball, folks. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

To a greater extent than Hollywood, a historian is obliged to follow the trail of fact. It diminishes Rickey and Robinson not one bit to think about all those black players of long ago who built the bridge, as my friend Buck O’Neil said, that Jackie Robinson walked across.

I will wish to talk about how African Americans came into the game—as early as slaves playing ball 25 miles south of my home, in Kingston, in 1820—then were excluded from it, and then readmitted only to have the gate close again. The story of the Negro Leagues, founded in 1920, has been amply covered by recent scholars, so I will skip over the well-worn tales of Josh and Satch and Rube and Oscar to focus on some stories and some names that most baseball fans may not know.

Repoz Posted: March 18, 2013 at 09:50 AM | 3 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: dodgers, history

Reader Comments and Retorts

Go to end of page

Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. Just drawing conclusions on the wall Posted: March 18, 2013 at 02:03 PM (#4390595)
Really nice article. It also has a box score of what Thorn says is the first interracial game between first class clubs, in 1869. The 2 major stats listed for each player were outs and runs, which should warm the heart of any sabermatician.
   2. Mom makes botox doctors furious Posted: March 18, 2013 at 02:14 PM (#4390599)
Sabermaticians don't have hearts ; )

More like, "turn on the light in any sabermetrician's mom's basement"
   3. Just drawing conclusions on the wall Posted: March 18, 2013 at 02:21 PM (#4390607)
Point to MMBDF.

You must be Registered and Logged In to post comments.

 

 

<< Back to main

News

All News | Prime News

Old-School Newsstand


BBTF Partner

Support BBTF

donate

Thanks to
Chicago Joe
for his generous support.

Bookmarks

You must be logged in to view your Bookmarks.

Hot Topics

NewsblogRyan Thibs has his 2017 HOF Tracker Up and Running
(837 - 6:30pm, Jan 17)
Last: Howie Menckel

NewsblogOT - December 2016 NBA thread
(1087 - 6:26pm, Jan 17)
Last: billyshears

NewsblogCubs honored by President Obama at White House | MLB.com
(42 - 6:20pm, Jan 17)
Last: Andere Richtingen

NewsblogFive Candidates Who Have Fallen a Single Vote Shy of Election to the Baseball Hall of Fame
(32 - 6:16pm, Jan 17)
Last: DavidFoss

NewsblogOTP 16 Jan. 2017: The ‘honor’ Trumps politics in scheduling Cubs’ White House visit
(507 - 6:07pm, Jan 17)
Last: The Yankee Clapper

NewsblogJerry Dipoto’s Trade Activity, in Context | FanGraphs Baseball
(12 - 5:21pm, Jan 17)
Last: JimMusComp likes Billy Eppler....

NewsblogOT: January 2016 Soccer Thread
(96 - 4:44pm, Jan 17)
Last: jmurph

NewsblogNick Cafardo: Manny Ramirez’s desire to keep playing is being supported all over baseball
(1 - 4:35pm, Jan 17)
Last: eddieot

NewsblogMaterials From Jim Bouton’s ‘Ball Four’ Days Going Once, Going Twice ... - The New York Times
(5 - 4:28pm, Jan 17)
Last: eddieot

NewsblogMatheny: Spring training 'priorities' may look different this year | stltoday.com
(1 - 3:43pm, Jan 17)
Last: cardsfanboy

Newsblog10 baseball trades that look more lopsided now | MLB.com
(28 - 3:24pm, Jan 17)
Last: Walt Davis

NewsblogPrimer Dugout (and link of the day) 1-17-2017
(15 - 3:13pm, Jan 17)
Last: RMc is Fairly Irrefutable

NewsblogPirates' Bell credits yoga for improved flexibility, weight loss | TribLIVE
(9 - 3:09pm, Jan 17)
Last: What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face?

NewsblogGordo: How many of Cards' talented prospects will ever reach the majors? | Jeff Gordon | stltoday.com
(3 - 3:06pm, Jan 17)
Last: cardsfanboy

NewsblogSunday Notes: Baseball Scotland, Projections, Posada, more | FanGraphs Baseball
(26 - 2:58pm, Jan 17)
Last: SoSH U at work

Page rendered in 0.2400 seconds
47 querie(s) executed