Harvey Frommer / Players
Writing About Jackie Robinson: An Experience at Once Moving, Poignant, Inspirational / Jackie Robinson / Remembering Jackie Robinson
Get Harvey's book: Rickey and Robinson
Jackie Robinson Remembered
By Harvey Frommer
He was born in Cairo, Georgia on the last day of January in 1919, and died on October 24, 1972 in Stamford, Connecticut. A chilly April 15, 1947 was the day he broke baseball's color barrier at Ebbets Field, the lone black man wearing the ice cream white uniform of the Brooklyn Dodgers.
The man they called "Robby" attended UCLA, where he won letters in three sports. He was in the Army during World War II and then played briefly in the Negro Leagues when the war ended. He was signed to a minor league contract with the Montreal Royals in 1946 by Branch Rickey, and the following year came up to the Brooklyn Dodgers and broke baseball's age-old color line.
He played in the major leagues for a decade. He won the inaugural Rookie of the Year Award in 1947, the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 1949, and he helped the Dodgers win six pennants and one world championship.
Despite all the pressure he played under, he was still able to record a lifetime batting average of .311. His base-stealing ability and hustle won many games for the Dodgers. He set several records for fielding for second basemen.
His influence on sports is immeasurable. His breaking of baseball's color line against the greatest of odds is still one of the most dramatic stories in all of sports history. And there are those who still have special memories of the man and the legend. Here is how one from that time still remembers the great player Brooklyn Dodger fans called "Robby".
When school was out, I sometimes went with my father in his taxi. One summer morning, we were driving in East Flatbush in Brooklyn down Snyder Avenue. My father pointed to a dark red brick house with a high porch.
"I think Jackie Robinson lives there," my father said. He parked across the street and we got out of the cab, stood on the sidewalk and looked at the house. Suddenly, the front door opened. A black man in a short-sleeved shirt stepped out. I didn't believe it. Here we were on a quiet street on a summer morning with no one else around.
The man was not wearing the baggy, ice-cream-white-uniform of the Brooklyn Dodgers that accentuated his blackness. He was dressed in regular clothes, coming out of a regular house in a regular Brooklyn neighborhood, a guy like anyone else going out for a bottle of milk and a newspaper.
Then, incredibly, he crossed the street and came right toward me. Seeing that unmistakable pigeon-toed walk, the rock of the shoulders and hips that I had seen so many times before on the baseball field, I had no doubt who it was.
"Hi Jackie, I'm one of your biggest fans," I said self-consciously. "Do you think the Dodgers are going to win the pennant this year?"
"His handsome face looked sternly down at me. "We'll try our best," he said.
"Good luck," I said."
"Thanks," he replied."
He put his big hand out, and I took it. We shook hands and I felt the strength and firmness of his grip. I was a nervy kid, but I didn't ask for an autograph or try to prolong the conversation. I just he walked away down the street.
Harvey Frommer is his 33rd consecutive year of writing sports books. The author of 40 of them including New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball. His Remembering Yankee Stadium: An Oral and Narrative History of the House that Ruth Built (Abrams, Stewart, Tabori and Chang) was published in 2008 as well as a reprint version of his Shoeless Joe and Ragtime
Frommer sports books are available direct from the author - discounted and autographed.
FROMMER SPORTSNET (syndicated) reaches a readership in excess of one million and appears on Internet search engines for extended periods of time.
**Call for Fenway Memories - now working on "Remembering
*****Fenway Park" - will feature stories first game attended, marker moments, odd events, tales of a special player at the Fens, architectural features... Please contact me by e-mail if you have something to contribute.