The day is April 15th, 1947. The residents of Brooklyn, New York eagerly take in the beauty of springtime after months of endless cold. People line up outside of Ebbets Field to watch the Brooklyn Dodgers take on the Boston Braves. The ball game is not the only thing that draws the crowd out to Ebbets Field. Oh no, there is an event of a different matter to be watched.
Men, women, boys and girls all hastily line up to grab their crackerjacks and hotdogs. The energetic chatter heightens as game time approaches. Die-hard Dodgers fans do not know what to expect. Rumors circulate around the stadium of a new type of ball game. A baseball team with a black man playing with white players? It cannot be? Who ever heard of a black man playing in the Major Leagues?
Anticipation and curiosity spike as the Braves take their places on the perfectly green and groomed Ebbets Field. Just when the Braves take their places a black man playing for the Dodgers saunters up to bat. The crowd’s noise and chatter increase. Who is this black man wearing a Brooklyn Dodgers jersey, taking place up to bat? Yells and taunts are sent down to the concentrated new Dodgers player. Does he look around at the crowd? No. Does he hang his head? No. Steadfast, he prepares to bat.
“Get off the field!” “Go back to where you came from!” “This here Major Leagues ain’t no place for a boy like you!” Amidst the hateful crowd yelling out profanities and racial slurs, a 28-year-old African American man, by the name of Jackie Robinson, keeps focus and composure. The racial tension and hatred is thick in the air as Robinson remains on the field. “Hey Robinson, why don’t you go back to the Negro Leagues where you belong?” The rowdy fans are the least of Robinson’s concern. Outraged Braves players scream profanities at Robinson, infuriated that a black man is playing in their Major League ball game.
Robinson steps up to bat for a second time during the seventh inning. The Dodgers are down, 3 to 2. His teammate, Stanky, is on first. A somber Robinson has a look of defeat on his stern face. Can he handle the cruelty from the spectators, the angry Braves players and his own hostile teammates? “Ahh not you again!” Shouts the angry Braves pitcher. A glimmer of afternoon sun casts down onto Robinson’s face as he prepares to bat. The crowd is wild upon the sight of seeing Robinson prepare to bat again. For a moment it looks as if the level-headed Robinson has lost his courage. He slowly hangs his head with a defeated posture. Is the pressure too much for Robinson? Can he handle the taunts and insults while trying to focus on playing the game he knows and loves?
Just as it looks as though Robinson has been defeated by the racial aggression, the afternoon sun catches his eye again. He slowly raises his head up, looks the Braves pitcher square in the eyes and regains his composure. His body language says it all. Robinson is ready to play ball. With Stanky on first base, Robinson is set up for an obvious bunt situation. Robinson lays down a beauty. The crowd goes wild. Are they cheering for him? Are they angry about his good hit? There is no time for thinking. Robinson speeds down the line as Stanky sprints to second. While the Braves scramble to regain control of the ball, Stanky is able to take third while Robinson slides into second. The Dodgers win the game 5 to 3. As Robinson steps off the field more noise from the crowd follows him. However, a strong and determined Robinson does not flinch. Can Robinson handle a season of racial taunts and hatred? Time will tell. However, from the looks of things, it appears Robinson is able to stand his ground and keep his head up in the face of anger as he breaks the color barrier in Major League Baseball.
Effrat, Louis, New York Times. “Dodgers Purchase Robinson, First Negro in Modern Major League Baseball.” 1947. Accessed October 3, 2013. http://www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/big/0410.html#article.
“Jackie Robinson Breaks Baseball’s Color Barrier, 1945, “Eyewitness to History, www.eyewitnesstohistory.com (2005). Accessed September 29, 2013.