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Upon leaving the military Robison found work with the Negro League Kansas City Monarchs. The World War II years marked the heyday of the Negro Leagues. With black and white worker flooding into Northern industrial centers, with relatively full employment, and with a scarcity of available consumer goods, attendance at all sorts of entertainment events increased dramatically. In 1942 three million fans saw Negro League teams play, and the East-West game in 1943 attracted over fifty-one thousand fans
In 1945, during his only season with the Monarchs, Robinson played shortstop, and excelled on the bases. His success with the Monarchs determined sportswriter Wendell Smith to arrange a tryout with the Boston Red Sox for Robinson and two other African-American players from the Negro Leagues. However, they were not signed, and the Red Sox would become the only Major League team to integrate, in 1959 when they would enroll their first African-American player. At this time, Brooklyn Dodgers manager Branch Rickey was already looking for the right player who would break the color barrier at the team, so he sent scout and former catcher Clyde Sukeforth to convince Robinson to meet with him in August about a job with the new all-black team called the Brown Dodgers that Rickey was planning to start putting together. Once Robinson met Rickey, the latter told him that he was actually interested in recruiting him for the Dodgers. Robinson was put through an exhaustive selection process which tested his character and courage as well as his self-control on the field. In fact, according to Robinson's autobiography, he asked Rickey at one point whether the tests were aimed at finding someone afraid to fight back against insults and threats, and Rickey replied that he was looking for a ballplayer "with guts enough not to fight back."
By the end of the season, Robinson had a job with the Montreal Royals, the Dodgers' top Minor League team. Robinson spent one season with the Royals helping them win the Little World Series.
In 1947 Robinson went to spring training with the Brooklyn Dodgers but his accession into the majors was definitely not easy. St. Louis Cardinal players threatened to refuse to play against the Dodgers if the latter included Robinson. Racial segregation was part of sports thus it was also part of baseball. It was no coincidence that Robinson was met with threats and insults in St. Louis. The threatened 1947 Cardinals' strike against Robinson's presence on the field reflected the hostility of the majority of local fans in the area
. Long after the 1947 event, virtually the entire club which included mostly players from the South, was hostile to Robinson during his debut year.
Ford Frick, National League president, reacted forcefully to this threat although he had never been a supporter of integrating the majors. As Robinson's first season with the majors progressed, he faced continued attacks and taunts from opposing players, and saw his family threatened. However, there is one important note to be made here: fans, including large numbers of African-Americans, turned out to see the new star, and Robinson certainly delivered. He batted .297 with 42 bunt hits and stole a league-leading 29 bases while winning the Rookie of the Year Award. Brooklyn won the first of six pennants it would capture during Robinson's 10 years with the team, along with the World Series in 1955, the first-ever world championship for the Dodgers. Jackie Robinson followed his extraordinary rookie season with even greater years. He won the batting title in 1949 with a .342 average and was named Most Valuable Player in the National League. That same year he drove in 124 runs and won another stolen-base title, with 37. The 1949 season was the first of six consecutive years that Robinson batted over .300. As the 1956 season ended, Robinson had a lifetime batting average of .311 1 with 1,518 hits and 197 stolen bases
. Once his career as a professional baseball player had ended, Robinson traveled South during the 1960s to lend his support to the civil rights movement. When Curt Flood fought the reserve clause, Robinson stood up in federal court and testified on behalf of individual freedom. Jackie Robinson died in 1972, aged 53, due to heart disease and diabetes, only 10 days after throwing out the first ball at the World Series that same year.
Robinson's status as a well-respected athlete generated social consequences. As far as his professional career as a baseball player, Robinson needed only one year to prove that the quotations from the Bible invoked by Christian Fundamentalists to justify racial segregation were both wrong and un-Christian. His amazing performances also encouraged whites who despised bigotry to speak in favor of civil rights, and he gave Southerners the opportunity to see that African-Americans were people just like them, and that racially fueled fear was completely unreasonable
. In addition, Robinson demonstrated that it was better for the American people to be united and that all citizens deserved equal opportunities to excel in their chosen profession. Although it would be another two decades before civil rights legislation would push the movement forward through government sanction, men like Martin Luther King and other African-American activists greatly benefited from Robinson's success which made their voices sound louder, and reach wide audiences. In respect to the African-American community, the impact of Robinson's success as a professional baseball player was beyond measure. Recalling the day when Robinson came to Florida with the Dodgers, Ed Charles, later a star for the New York Mets, said: "I can recall myself talking to God, asking why things were the way they were, asking 'When will there be a better day for our people?' And then when Jackie came, it was like, 'My dreams have come true now. We'll have that opportunity to prove to the world that given a fair chance, we can produce, we can be responsible.'"
The desegregation of baseball opened the way not only to African-Americans, but also to blacks in other parts of the Americans as well.
Throughout the twentieth century, baseball had generated a double standard on Latin players accepting only those with light complexions. With the color barrier down, clubs discovered great talent in the Caribbean with Minnie Minoso, also known as the "Cuban Comet" becoming the first Latin star in the Major League.
Scores of black players came into organized baseball after Jackie Robinson broke that trail in 1947. Many of them (in minor league Southern towns especially) faced the same daily assault of taunts and insults. Many, including players such as Larry Doby, Monte Irvin, Willie Mays, and Roy Campanella, were capable of the same unflinching valor as Robinson if they had been called to the challenge
. But because Jackie Robinson had fought the first battle, they had an inspiration, an example to follow. Although Robinson's combativeness that marked his relationship with many reporters could have worked against his early election to the Hall of Fame, it didn't. He was elected, virtually unanimously, in 1962, and presented by Branch Rickey.
For several years in the early 1950s, the Negro Leagues remained a breeding ground for young black talent. The New York Giants recruited Willie Mays from the roster of the Birmingham Black Barons, and the Boston Braves discovered Hank Aaron on the Indianapolis Clowns. The Kansas City Monarchs produced more than two dozen major leaguers, including Robinson, Paige, Banks, and Howard. But for most African-American baseball players the demise of the Negro Leagues had disastrous effects as Effa Manley wrote in 1948, "The livelihoods, the careers, the families of 400 Negro ballplayers are in jeopardy because four players were successful in getting into the major leagues."
The slow pace of integration left most in a state of limbo. Some players like Buck Leonard and Cool Papa Bell were too old to be considered; others like Ray Dandridge and Piper Davis saw themselves relegated to the minor leagues, where even outstanding records failed to win them promotion
. Throughout the 1950s the Negro American League struggled to survive, recruiting teenagers and second-rate talent for the modest four-team loop. In 1963 Kansas City hosted the thirtieth and last East-West All-Star Game, and the following year the famed Monarchs ceased touring the nation. By 1965 the Indianapolis Clowns remained as a last vestige of Jim Crow baseball.
On the issue of civil rights and equal rights activists, Robinson wrote in his column in the Amsterdam News, "You mouth a big and bitter battle, Malcolm but it is noticeable that your militancy is mainly expressed in Harlem where it is safe."
Robinson thought that Adam Clayton Powell Jr. was a crook. Although even Powell's supporters shared Robinson's point-of-view, they did not do anything about it. However Jackie defended the Harlem politician when Congress unseated him. Perhaps playing with the likes of Hugh Casey and Leo Durocher had convinced Robinson that rascals could be put to good purposes.
In politics, as in sport, Robinson was uncompromising,…[continue]
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