Jackie Robinson


27″x19″ Hand Cut, Hand Sewed Appliqué Quilt

That same spring the Benjamin Franklin Hotel

in Philadelphia, where my roommates were quartered, refused to accommodate me. The Phillies heckled me a second time, mixing up race baiting with childish remarks and gestures that coincided with the threats that had been made. Some of those grown men sat in the dugout and pointed bats at me and made machine-gunlike noises. It was an incredibly childish display of bad will.

I was helped over the crises by the courage and decency of a teammate who could easily have been myenemy rather than my friend. Pee Wee Reese, the successful Dodger shortstop, was one of the most highly respected players in the major leagues. When I first joined the club,I was aware that there might well be a real reluctance on Reese’s part to accept me as a teammate. He was from Ekron, Kentucky. Furthermore, it had been rumored that I might take over Reese’s position on the team. Mischief-makers seeking to create trouble between us had tried to agitate Reese into regarding me as a threat—a black on at that. But Reese, from the time I joined Brooklyn, had demonstrated a totally fair attitude.

Reese told a sportswriter, some months after I became a Dodger, “When I first bet Robinson in spring training, I figured, well, let me give this guy a chance. It may be he’s just as good as I am. Frankly, I don’t think I’d stand up under that kind of thing he’s been subjected to as well as he has.”

Reese’s tolerant attitude of withholding judgment to see if I would make it was translated into positive support soon after we became teammates. In Boston during a period when the heckling pressure seemed unbearable, some of the Boston players began to heckle Reese. They were riding him about being a Southerner and playing with a black man. Pee Wee Reese didn’t answer them. Without a glance in their directions, he left his position and walked over to me. He put his hand on my shoulder and began talking to me. His words weren’t important. I don’t even remember what he said. It was a gesture of comradeship and support that counted. As he stood talking to mewith a friendly arm around my shoulder, he was saying loud and clear, “Yell. Heckle. Do anything you want. We came hereto play baseball.”

The jeering stopped, and a close and lasting friendship began between Reese and me.