Jackie Robinson

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27″x19″ Hand Cut, Hand Sewed Appliqué

“When general manager Branch Rickey of the Brooklyn Dodgers offered Robinson the chance to break organized baseball’s powerful but unwritten color line, the fiery ballplayer not only accepted, he also agreed to Rickey’s condition: that he not respond to the abuse he would face.

Jackie Robinson’s debut in organized baseball (April 18, 1946, with the Montreal Royals of the International League, the Dodgers’ best farm club) is now a legend. In five at-bats he hit a three-run homer and three singles, stole two bases, and scored four times, twice by forcing the pitcher to balk.

Promoted to the Dodgers the following spring, Robinson thrived on the pressure and established himself as the most exciting player in baseball. His playing style combined traditional elements of black sports–the opportunistic risk-taking known as “tricky baseball” in the Negro Leagues–with an aggressive style of play. According to his manager Leo Durocher, “This guy didn’t just come to play. He come to beat ya.”

In their response to Jackie Robinson, African Americans rejected “separate but equal” status and embraced integration. Robinson’s presence in baseball electrified them, and they flocked to see the Dodgers in huge numbers and from great distances.

African American sportswriters, many of whom had advocated baseball integration for years, focused their attentions on Robinson and the black players who followed him. His success encouraged the integration of professional football, basketball, and tennis, while the Negro Leagues, which in a sense depended on segregation, began an irreversible decline, losing ballplayers, spectators and reporters.

During his first two years with the Dodgers, Robinson kept his word to Rickey and endured astonishing abuse amid national scrutiny without fighting back. His dignified courage in the face of virulent racism–from jeers and insults to beanballs, hate mail, and death threats–commanded the admiration of whites as well as blacks and foreshadowed the tactics that the 1960s Civil Rights Movement would develop into the theory and practice of nonviolence.”

– From Baseball’s Great Experiment: Jackie Robinson and His Legacy