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. silhouetted by the sea 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. silhouetted by the sea 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

BBTF Partner

Support BBTF

donate

Thanks to
HowardMegdal
for his generous support.

Bookmarks

You must be logged in to view your Bookmarks.

Hot Topics

Newsblog4-26-2015 OMNICHATTER
(1 - 8:57am, Apr 26)
Last: salvomania

NewsblogOTP - April 2015: Church, baseball, politics: Rahm and Chuy work to close the deal
(3826 - 8:49am, Apr 26)
Last: Bitter Mouse

NewsblogManfred: Rose will be allowed to be part of All-Star Game
(113 - 8:48am, Apr 26)
Last: Gonfalon Bubble

NewsblogYelich dealing with bulging disk in back | MLB.com
(5 - 7:55am, Apr 26)
Last: homerwannabee

NewsblogPosnanski: The Best Pitcher In Baseball History
(125 - 7:51am, Apr 26)
Last: bunyon

NewsblogFormer Expos executive Jim Fanning dies at 87
(2 - 7:43am, Apr 26)
Last: Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer

NewsblogSource: Angels close to trading Josh Hamilton to Rangers | FOX Sports
(10 - 6:40am, Apr 26)
Last: You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR)

NewsblogJosh Hamilton could soon be gone from Los Angeles Angels - MLB - SI.com
(77 - 6:40am, Apr 26)
Last: Gonfalon Bubble

NewsblogThe early leaders in MLB’s “Franchise Four” thing have been announced
(78 - 2:31am, Apr 26)
Last: shoewizard

NewsblogThe emergence of Matt Harvey 3.0 -- and a matchup vs A-Rod - NY Daily News
(10 - 1:47am, Apr 26)
Last: Trundle the Great

NewsblogOT: Monthly NBA Thread - April 2015
(1569 - 12:35am, Apr 26)
Last: PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth)

NewsblogOT: 2015 NHL Playoff thread
(73 - 12:30am, Apr 26)
Last: simon bedford

Newsblog4-25-2015 OMNICHATTER
(106 - 11:51pm, Apr 25)
Last: Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site

NewsblogPrimer Dugout (and link of the day) 4-24-2015
(25 - 5:52pm, Apr 25)
Last: Born1951

NewsblogZack Greinke relaxed, pitching at high level for Los Angeles Dodgers - Dodgers Report - ESPN
(2 - 5:51pm, Apr 25)
Last: Joyful Calculus Instructor

Page rendered in 0.1814 seconds
48 querie(s) executed