In honor of Major League Baseball’s celebration of Jackie Robinson yesterday, and in memory of Chadwick Boseman, who passed away yesterday and who had played Robinson in the movie 42, here’s a short piece I found about Robinson and his role in baseball and in society.
He never asked to be a hero
For him, playing ball would be just fine
Potentially his chance was less than zero
To overcome that black-white racist line
Unlike Duke, Dimag and Mickey
Jackie entered through back doors
The stage was set by Mr. Rickey
For Robinson to fight that Civil War
Sports, they say, mirrors society
So, they should have hung their heads in shame
For what was then America’s propriety
Brought prejudice to every game
The Brooklyn Bums, at long last, found salvation
When Robinson’s talents were revealed
With the awesome double-play combination
Reese and Jackie brought to Ebbetts Field
Stealing fan’s hearts with baseball fire
Displaying skills in every way
Robinson played with such desire
Stealing bases most every day
They could never expect from him the expected
He turned the most racist hate to love
And finally he was most respected
Respect that came from more than bat and glove
For Jackie, baseball was more than just a game
He opened doors for Campy, Mays and others
Number 42, now in the Hall of Fame
Proved men of all colors could play in life as brothers
He never asked to be a hero!
The youngest player in MLB history to hit a home run was Tommy Brown of the Dodgers, who accomplished the feat on August 20, 1945. Brown was 17 years, eight months, and 14 days old on the day of the blast. The Brooklyn shortstop started his career as a 16-year-old high school student, and his homer proved to be the only run Brooklyn would score that day off the Pirates lefty, Preacher Roe. Roe pitched a complete game in the 11-1 rout of the Dodgers at Ebbets Field.
For the first game of a doubleheader played on August 2, 1938, Larry MacPhail had official baseballs dyed dandelion yellow, and the balls were used in the matchup between the Dodgers and Cardinals at Ebbets Field. The inspiration for this yellow ball came from a New York color engineer named Frederic H. Rahr, who developed it after Mickey Cochrane was severely beaned at the plate the previous year.
“My primary object is to give the hitter more safety and there’s no question that this will be achieved,” said Rahr. “That’s simply because the batter will be striking at a ball he can see instead of at a white object that blurs with the background.”
The Dodgers won that opening game with the yellow baseballs by a score of 6-2. The Dodgers went on to use up their yellow balls in three more games in 1939, but the yellow balls would not get used again after that season.
Slim Sallee became the first pitcher in Cardinal history to steal home on July 22, 1913 in a game against the Brooklyn Superbas. The Redbird lefty performed the feat in the game’s third inning, scoring the first run in St. Louis’s 3-1 victory over Brooklyn at Ebbets Field.
On April 5, 1934, Cincinnati Reds president Larry MacPhail hired Red Barber to broadcast the team games on WLW radio. Nicknamed “Ol’ Redhead,” due to the color of his hair, Barber spent the first five years of his Hall of Fame career in Cincinnati before moving to the Dodgers alongside MacPhail in 1939.
On March 26, 1984, President Ronald Reagan awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously to Jackie Robinson. Rachel Robinson accepted the award on behalf of her husband. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is considered the highest civilian honor given in the United States.
You can watch President Reagan’s remarks from that Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony in the video below. If you’d like to go straight to his remarks about Robinson, you can find them at the 16:03 timestamp.
Jackie Robinson passed away at the age of 53 on October 24, 1972 as a result of a heart attack. Robinson’s death came nine days after his appearance at the World Series, where he threw the ceremonial first pitch before Game 2 at Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium. Robinson died in his home in North Stamford, Connecticut following complications of heart disease and diabetes.
On June 15, 1938, Johnny Vander Meer of the Cincinnati Reds became the only pitcher in major league history to pitch two consecutive no-hitters. Four days earlier, the left-handed Vander Meer held the Braves hitless at Crosley Field, leading the Reds to a 3-0 victory. Then, on June 15th, he defeated the Dodgers at Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field, 6-0.
The St. Louis Cardinals played their first home night game on June 4, 1940. The Cardinals lost to Brooklyn, 10-1, in spite of a 5-for-5 performance by Joe Medwick, including three doubles. The first evening ballgame in St. Louis, which had taken place on May 24, was actually hosted by the Browns, after the two teams had agreed to split the $150,000 cost of installing lights at Sportsman’s Park.
Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully received the Ford Frick Award from the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982. This video does a much better job of introducing him and describing Scully’s background than I ever could do in writing, so I’ll just let you hit play and take in his speech as well as the biographical bit that follows.