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Mudville: July 5, 2022 4:45 am PDT
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Beyond 42

Happy Jackie Robinson Day.

What if I told you that the Brooklyn Dodgers almost jettisoned Jackie Robinson in 1955?

It almost happened.

In the spring of 1957 Cardinals General Manager Frank Lane, the tenuous occupant of the seat that Branch Rickey once held in St. Louis, dropped a baseball bombshell while holding court at Al Lang Field in St. Petersburg.

By 1955, his ninth year with the Dodgers, Jackie Robinson was a 36-year-old player without a position. Rickey was a distant memory in Brooklyn. Walter O’Malley was busy trying to get a stadium built in Brooklyn, while fans were getting impatient “waiting for next year.”  It looked as if Ebbets Field an aging relic and source of discontent, might never see a championship. The aging Brooklyn Dodgers came darn close but failed to win that elusive World Series. It seemed an inevitability that Jackie Robinson would lead them there. As a rookie, the first Black National League player fell – short. His Dodgers won the pennant in 1947, 1949, 1952, and 1953.

Each time the vaunted, lily-white enemy, New York Yankees beat them in the World Series.

Jack Ryan (left), chairman of the Chicago chapter of the Baseball Writers Association, presents the J. Louis Comisky Memorial Award to Jackie Robinson, Dodger first basemen, at the annual Writers dinner, November 12. Robinson was selected as the Rookie of the Year by a nationwide poll of sports writers.

Dodgers’ brass had to watch the rival Giants feted for their National League pennant through the Canyon of Heroes the day before they met Cleveland in the 1954 Fall Classic and swept the Tribe, who won a record 111-games, to win the World Championship in stunning fashion. Of course, there would’ve been no Willie Mays without Jackie first. Still, Jackie snapped in 1954: “What do we care what Willie Mays is doing?”

It seemed like 1955 might be Brooklyn’s year. Brooklyn won their first ten games, lost two-of-three to the World Champs, then knocked off another 11-wins in a row. The Dodgers had almost a ten-game lead by the middle of May and left their crosstown nemesis in the rearview mirror. It also seemed like Jackie Robinson had worn out his welcome.

Robinson did finish April with a typical .308/.442/.873 slash line. However, come May, he looked every bit the grizzled football star on the wrong side of 35 with an arthritic ankle and bad knees. A 3-34, slump sunk his average to .230 with an OPS under 700. The end of the road, once whispered about, looked nye.

An ascending team like the Chicago White Sox might’ve been elated. It was early, and just the regular season. Brooklyn had seen this movie before. While moviegoers watched The Jackie Robinson Story, they saw the sequels play out sans storybook ending. Brooklyn imbibed the pain of bitter enemies snatching victory from their grasp. Their tragedies took on Shakespearian proportion.

In August 1951, they had a 13-game lead. The Giants lost just eight more times the rest of the year – they won every day. On the final day of the season, it looked like the Giants had willed destiny. Brooklyn was down 4-0 to Philadelphia in the second inning at Shibe Park.

Then, Jackie did Jackie. He called this performance his best. His triple helped the Dodgers overcome two four-run deficits. to send the game into extra innings. Less than 12-hours after they pitched, Phillies Hall-of-Famer Robin Roberts came out of the bullpen to stimy the Dodgers, who called on a weary Don Newcombe after his 5-0 shutout to beat Roberts made him the first Black pitcher to win 20-games in the National League. By Newcombe’s fifth inning he was cooked. Philadelphia, the last all-White team to win the National League, almost broke Brooklyn’s hearts for the second straight year in the 12th inning, until Robinson sprawled and leaped into a full dive to snatch back their destiny from making its way into center field. Jackie then sent destiny, it seemed into the left-field stands, with a game-winning homer to force a three-game playoff against the Giants, who again put the Dodgers on the brink of elimination. Back against the wall, Robinson didn’t wait. At the Polo Grounds in the top of the first, Robinson banged another two-run homer to give the Brooks an immediate 2-0 lead they never relinquished.

It looked like the Dodgers had staved off the Giants onslaught and finally had the pennant wrapped up after Robinson knocked in a first-inning run. By the ninth inning Newcombe was gassed after pitching over 22-innings in three games over 5-days. With one out, two on two outs to get, two runs to the good, Dodger Manager Charlie Dressen gave the ball to New York native Ralph Branca. Bobby Thomson stepped to the plate as the winning run. Even Jackie couldn’t jump high enough to knock down “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World.” The Giants won the pennant.

Robinson hit .338/.429/.527 with 19 long balls and 25 steals. The Yankees then defeated the Giants to win their third straight World Series. The Dodgers rebounded from collapse as few teams do. They won the next two pennants. Robinson played three All-Star games at three different positions in 52, 53, and 1954.

Still, Brooklyn had no World Championship. The Dodgers suffered the same fate as the Giants in back-to-back seasons. Their NL archrivals had done a pincer-move around baseball’s Waterloo and captured the championship from the enemy Yankees without even having to face them. Still, the Giants were World Champions. The Dodgers were an aging team in decline. Manager Charley Dressen, a public bulwark for Robinson, who viewed him as a confidant, couldn’t outrun the Shot Heard ‘Round the World. Walter Alston was hired to replace him. Robinson, once a hero was now an aging lightning rod.

“Nobody mentioned that I never wanted to be a baseball player,” Robinson recalled in his Look Magazine memoir. “Nobody mentioned that most of my friends for Branch Rickey had pulled a terrible boner by picking me for the delicate experiment of being the first Negro in the major leagues.”

Robinson entered the Major Leagues under a microscope packed into a pressure cooker. He wore the hope of Black America on his shoulders and bore the antipathy of American prejudice.

Clyde Sukeforth reminded Rickey of his pronouncement when they discussed their historical meeting with Robinson in January 1950: “You said if you could get your hands on a great colored ballplayer you would be tempted to [sign him],” recounted the only other man in the room, “providing he had the right temperament and pause and was the type of fellow who could take insults and carry the flag for his race.”

The first Dodger to meet Jackie remembered Rickey’s skepticism when he brought Robinson to the Dodgers offices at 215 Montague Street in Downtown Brooklyn: “I don’t think you are that fellow. If somebody called you a black-so-and-so, you would start a fight and that would set the cause back 100 years.”

According to Jackie’s Look Magazine memoir, those who knew him best were even more dubious. “A Negro friend who knew the significance of Mr. Rickey’s move told me: ‘Jackie, your temper can ruin us’.”

Robinson knew the stakes: “I don’t consider myself a particularly temperamental man, except on this one issue or prejudice. I had never walked away from the fight on the score, but, for the sake of Mr. Rickey‘s experiment, I knew I would change my ways.”

Robinson was exactly who, and what, Branch Rickey was looking for.

Noted the verbally judicious Sukeforth, a perfect yin to Rickey’s verbose yang: “And then followed a few more thousand questions and a lot of drama…You were at your best that day — I remember Robinson’s answers, [given] after a lot of thought. [Jackie] finally said: ‘Mr. Rickey, I think I can play ball, but I will promise you that I will do the second part of the job. I won’t be involved in an incident.’ He meant that he would do all right off the field too.”

Suitably impressed, Rickey dictated (in similar fashion to their 1950 conversation) a secret agreement on August 28, 1945, later dramatized at a momentous press conference two months later.

Robinson and Rickey agreed that no matter what, Jackie would have to control his rage, come what may. Robinson’s success in Triple-A Montreal led to his debut 75-years-ago. His iconoclasm ensured the moment is still celebrated hereto.

“It took a lot of strength to restrain myself,” Robinson revealed. “I couldn’t even talk back.”

“I didn’t see him as buttoned-up in those two years,” said his daughter Sharon Robinson in an exclusive 2020 interview. “I saw him as fighting back with his athleticism. His aggressive play, became a release for him… he contained his reaction to things on the field – that’s where the character comes in – he remained focused on his goals and achieved them.”

By the end of 1947, five Black players had seen action; three teams had integrated. Dodgers Pitcher Dan Bankhead joined Robinson to play in the 1947 World Series. With 1950 the lone exception, Black players have participated in every World Series since. Even Robinson’s most agonizing defeats were pyrrhic dubs. For example, Mays and Irvin were joined by fellow Black New York Giants Hank Thomson and Ray Noble in the 1951 Fall Classic. As teams saw a correlation between integration and success, more followed suit. When Elston Howard joined the Yankees in 1955, 13-of-16 teams had integrated. About one-in-ten MLB players owed their job to Jackie’s success.

A lot had changed since the harrowing summer of 1947 when Robinson’s teammate, to break tension, suggested all the Dodgers wear “42” so a sniper who had threatened to shoot Jackie wouldn’t know where to aim. Sharon recalls her father using gallows humor as a way of coping with ineffable pressure. This version, which included Jack’s wife Rachel enduring a difficult pregnancy, was no Hollywood tale.

Jackie Robinson (1919 - 1972), Hall of Fame baseball player, tests a baby bottle alongside his wife Rachel and son Jackie Jr, in their suburban New York home, ca 1950. (Photo by PhotoQuest/Getty Images)

“I know my father well…he would [joke] – I play a lot of golf – it’s a little white ball — he had lots of ways to release the anger. He had time with my mom.”

“Rachel and I often talk about those first hard days in baseball,” revealed Jackie. “Especially about the way baseball has changed our lives– and the lives of our three children.”

“Throughout these two seasons, I had to keep my mouth shut and take it. I couldn’t protest to an umpire, and I couldn’t get back at players who taunted and insulted me with racial remarks. Keeping myself in hand while I was playing was tough enough, but I also had to be extra careful about my life outside of the ballpark…. I was worrying about getting into a situation that would result in bad publicity. I was on guard night and day.” Still, he won the first Rookie of the Year Award in 1947, eponymously renamed for him in 1987.

By 1954, Robinson was a former batting champion and Most Valuable Player coming off his fifth consecutive All-Star appearance. Critics often recoiled at the brash, aggressive Jackie Robinson that had emerged. The press postulated about his impending demise though he hit .329/.425/.502 and swiped 17-of-21 bases. The quintessential super-utility player. In 1953 he started at every position on the infield, and 73-more in left.

“Right now, I feel good,” he told UPI who called him “Jack-of-all-trades, during the Spring of 1954. “My legs are in good shape and I’m willing to play anywhere I’m needed, but when you’re 35, things could be different tomorrow. I’ll be disappointed if I’m not able to play in at least 140-games.”

“If you don’t think that Jackie Robinson is one of baseball’s most consistent hitters then compare his mark this year against his batting average at the same stage of the campaign last year…,” challenged Bill Nunn in the Pittsburgh Courier. “The last time we looked at this campaign the same gent was rocking the ball at a .348 pace and had belted 7 balls out of the lot. Did we hear someone say Robbie was playing on borrowed time?”

By July, it looked like he might win a second MVP, hitting over .350. However, Robinson, who began his baseball career with an ankle so mangled the Army wouldn’t insure it during the Second World War, began to feel the grind — like an aging runningback who had taken too many hits. After a 5-57 slog, he rebounded to finish with a .311 batting average, his NL career mark. His balky legs limited him to a career-low 115-starts.

“He was in pain all the time, Sharon remembered. “We lived with that – the repeated surgeries on his knees.”

Jackie Robinson, first African-American to play in the Major Leagues signs his 1949 contract as Branch Rickey (right), Brooklyn Dodgers President, and manager Burt Shotton look on. Pitcher Ralph Branca also signed his contract.

Still, after the impedes of societal obligation he had during his first two years were cleared from his mental register, an unbridled Robinson averaged .327/.428/.505 from 1949-to 1954. “You see his best season in 1949,” Sharon noted. “Now he can be himself. He’s not being held back, it’s not just the athleticism you see him becoming more forceful and outspoken on the field.”

As the years passed, letting Jackie-be-Jackie had its pitfalls, especially without his biggest ally, Branch Rickey as his side. Now a seasoned veteran, Number 42 was no longer a walking beta test in race relations, but an established, if not aging star. The vocal veteran (player and/or soldier) could be pushy and willful. Sometimes venerated, Robinson was just a human being, not a saint. The irascible Robinson was a man of conviction who said what he thought and thought what he said. He could be frank and abrasive, introspective and affable – he was a gentleman, provided you did not cross him.

Robinson no longer had Mr. Rickey at his side. New Dodger president Walter O’Malley, reviled in Brooklyn; revered in Los Angeles, now signed Robinson’s checks. There was never any love lost between the two. Bitter rivals, O’Malley’s forced Robinson mentor and confidant out as Dodger President in 1950. Like Rickey, O’Malley’s ego was gigantesque.

Part of his antipathy for Rickey and ambivalence to Robinson stemmed from their kinship. It was like they had their exclusive club. Jack, never effusive, said Mr. Rickey was like a father to him. O’Malley knew that Jackie would always be loyal to Mr. Rickey, who took special care to ensure Robinson’s welfare. Robinson would never be O’Malley’s protégé.

“I never hesitate to speak up about anything that’s on my mind,” Robinson wrote. “Mr. O’Malley told me that the club wouldn’t hesitate to put nine Negroes on the field if they were the nine best available players.”

Jim Crow didn’t extend to the North, but until 1964, the was no federal law against segregation in private enterprise, a common myth. The Dodgers hotel in the City of Brotherly Love was segregated so O’Malley changed hotels. At late as 1953, Robinson and his Black teammates were not welcome at the restricted Chase Hotel in St. Louis. Segregated means separate. It was off-limits to Blacks.

“Partly because of the air conditioning and partly because of the principal, I took up the Chase matter with Walter O’ Malley,” said Robinson “He straightened it out and the doors were open to Negro players in the spring.”

(Original Caption) Jubilant in Dodgers dressing room following today's 6th World Series game which was won by the Brooklyn team to tie the series with the Yankees are Dodgers' players Jackie Robinson, left, and Dan Bankhead, the only two Negroes to play in a World Series.

A minority owner in 1947, O’Malley seemed to feel his contribution to baseball’s integration was neglected. The venture would always be viewed as Jackie and Mr. Rickey’s undertaking.

“Most people don’t realize how much racial prejudice has been broken down by Mr. Rickey’s determination to Negroes into Major League Baseball,” Robinson wrote “The game of baseball has always been loved and respected in this country. During the last eight years when Negros became identified with baseball a lot of other Americans began to look upon them in a new light.”

O’Malley thought Robinson was a hot-headed publicity hound. He was. Robinson saw his platform in larger terms. The pen and boardroom were catalysts for empowerment.

“Many people think that a Negro, because he is a Negro, must always be humble, even in the heat of sports competition,” Jackie opined. “They resented me ever since I came up to the Dodgers not just because I am a Negro but because I was the Negro who broke the color line in baseball. The theory is not entirely mine.” Jackie quoted Spink Award winner Tom Meany, who later became New York Mets’ first PR man: “‘Robinson is simply paying the price which always accompanies a trailblazer.’”

“Jackie Robinson is one of the loneliest men in the baseball world today,” wrote Al Morris in the Daily News. “The great diamond star who thrilled millions with his daring baserunning breathless fielding and dynamite hitting during the past eight years on the Brooklyn Dodgers is tired.”

It was little wonder. Losing breeds contempt. That was now aplenty. “I’ve been resented since the beginning of 1947. Why did the fans get on me more than usual last year? Well during the last season, when it appeared I was slipping the people who didn’t boo me when I was on top, felt free to let go and did.”

No one hated losing more than Robinson: “Last season…I lost my head more than I ever had he explained.  “Fans and — some sportswriters began calling me a ‘sorehead’ and a ‘loudmouth’ If I’m a troublemaker — and I don’t think that my temper makes me one — then it’s only because I can’t stand losing…”

Added Morris: “Robinson no longer smiled when pitchers hurled at his head and did not remain mad when filthy language was hurled at him. He had had his fill. He retaliated and at times outdid the opposition.”

I admit that I challenge on umpires and tell off opposing players,” he noted. “I am no more aggressive in this respect than Ty Cobb, John McGraw, or Frankie Fritsch. Leo Durocher and Eddie Stanky kick up fusses all the time, but if I do it, I’m stepping out of line.”

“I see him growing after 48,” observed Sharon, who takes after her father with a prolific pen. “As he’s released after ‘48 you see his best season in 1949. Now he can be himself. He’s not being held back, it’s not just the athleticism, you see him becoming more forceful and outspoken on the field.”

“When I agreed to become the first Negro in organized baseball, I also didn’t realize that distinction would get me into so many public arguments and controversies. Ever since I’ve been with the Dodgers, I have been in the middle of all kinds of beefs on the sports pages. Rachel says it’s my own fault. She says I’m too willing to sound off with an opinion when a sports writer is looking for a story, and she’s probably right it’s hard for me to say, “no comment.”

(Original Caption) Former Dodger great Jackie Robinson signs autographs before the start of the ``Old timers`` game between the Angels-Dodgers at Anaheim Stadium. Robinson was elected to Hall of Fame in 1962, NL's most valuable player in 1949 and was the NL batting champ in 1949. He retired in 1956.

Sure enough, Walter Alston came to the same conclusion: “If he’s got any complaints, he ought to come to me instead of going to the press!”

Initially, rumors persisted that Robinson would hold out or be moved elsewhere. He took a $2,500 pay cut in mid-January. The New York Age said Robinson could be traded before May, and Dodgers brass – O’Malley—was not happy about his feature in Look.

Red Smith sensed a finality in his tone. Robinson spoke to Smith that Spring. He spoke of the 1955 season being his last, of watching Sharon and her siblings grow up. Jackie was not a baseball junkie. He had other aspirations as it were.

“I’ve set no goal. If my injuries hold up, I’ll try to have a good year,” Jackie proclaimed. “At my age injuries don’t heal up the way they used to. I used to shake them off. Now I try to push myself, and they just get worse. I can’t go through another year like last year. I’d be no good to myself, for the team, and I’d quit…When the competition was toughest, I was at my best. Now I’m not so sure.”

By the end of spring,  Robinson felt good, but friction brewed between him and Alston.  Jackie was baffled by Alston’s aloof stoicism:

“I just can’t talk to [Walter Alston],” Robinson said in early April. “I don’t know why; I just can’t do it….I think it’s a manager’s job to know the condition of his players. I’m 36 years old I can’t play one day and rest four. I’ve got to play regularly if I’m going to stay in condition…all I want to know is where I stand.”

[Alston’s] got to get off to a good start this year all those wolves in New York will be on him something awful. I understand that but I also know I want to play regularly and not at all.”

“The Dodgers would like to trade Jackie Robinson,” said Charley Dressen. Now with hapless Washington he chimed in like a wounded ex: “I make it a point to know how every one of my players feels every day I don’t ask the players themselves, but I go to the trainer…Heck, that’s part of a manager’s job.”

Said Harry Grayson: “Walter Alston could easily make or break himself as the Superbas manager with the final settlement of the rhubarb brought about when Robinson [talked to] baseball writers instead of the boss… It would be totally unhealthy for the dodgers if they got into their heads that they cannot win with Alston and one of the raps against him is that he hasn’t been aggressive It’s time for Walter Alston to take charge.

Robinson, meanwhile, tried a more prescriptive touch: “I feel great, better than I felt in a long time. We’ve been working hard, and I know I’m in great shape. I’m ready to play anyplace I’ll be of help to the team I figure I’m in for a good season I think the team is ready to take over the top of the league again.”

All-Stars have cache, until they don’t. Babe Ruth was cut. The Dodgers put Jackie Robinson on waivers.

 

(Original Caption) Jackie Robinson, a Rockefeller advisor and a former Brooklyn Dodger baseball star. speaks to members of the National Newspaper Publisher Assn., a Negroe group, during outdoor reception at Robinson's home here June 23rd. Robinson gave his endorsement to Rockefller's candidacy for the 1968 Republican Presidential nomination.

Chicago was in the wake of their best season since 1920 Shoeless Joe’s last with the ‘Black Sox.’

Lane, dubbed baseball’s David Harem, the beloved American protagonist who made horse-trading part of the American lexicon signed, sold, scouted, and swapped the Sox into contention. Author Edward Noyes Westcott himself couldn’t have made this up. Lane inherited a 101-loss team in 1948 and pulled the trigger on 256 moves during his time with the White Sox.

“I’ve never known anyone else who simply had to trade,” a contemporary told SI in 1968. “…the bigger the player, the longer the player had been with the club, the more excited frank got about making a deal for him. In the middle of a deal, Frank actually quivered. His lips trembled. His body shook. I’ve just never known anyone like him period.”

I don’t defend my deals,” said Lane in early 1957. “I only make them and hope I can be right oftener than I’m wrong.”

Led by Hall-of-Famer Minnie Minoso, who Lane had pried from the Indians in 1951, the White Sox were within a game of first place when they arrived in New York in May 1955.

Minoso, After going 2-4 against Whitey Ford in a Chi Sox 1-0 shutout loss at Yankee Stadium, stepped to the plate the next afternoon, May 18, against Bob Grim in the first inning with two men on. The next pitch sent him to the hospital with a fractured skull.

Lane was incensed at losing his sparkplug and cleanup hitter. He decided it was time to get someone else’s. Jackie Robinson had, once and for all, worn out his welcome. Lane had his man. It wouldn’t get much bigger than trading for Jackie Robinson.

As Lane recounted after Jackie’s retirement in 1957,  Brooklyn put Robinson on waivers in May of 1955. With Minoso on the shelf, he saw Jackie as the ideal replacement. They even settled on a deal. The going rate for an icon in 1955: Brooklyn settled on a price tag of $50,000. It never came to pass.

Branch Rickey ensured Jackie Robinson would have his moment in Brooklyn sun one last time. The Pirates, like the the Reds, claimed Robinson.

“I think Branch Rickey claimed Jackie just to keep Robinson’s drawing power in the league,” Lane opined. “The Redlegs really wanted him for his playing ability,”

Lane insisted that the White Sox, who finished third, would have overtaken the mighty Yankees with Jackie Robinson for the middle of their order. Mr. White Sox returned from his skull fracture in less than two weeks. When Alston found out Robinson was staying in Brooklyn, he pointedly declared Jackie Robinson his regular third baseman in the press.

(Original Caption) Jackie Robinson and William Black, president of the Chock Full O'Nuts, who lured Jackie from the baseball world to the business world.

Robinson hit .309 from that point until the middle of August, with an .847 OPS, but under .200 the rest of the way. The Dodgers cruised to the division title. Awaiting them were the Yankees.

The Dodgers finally vanquished the archenemy Yankees and captured their elusive first World Championship. Ask most anyone if Jackie Robinson was on the field when the Dodgers won the 1955 World Series, and they’ll answer yes. The 1955 season was Robinson’s worst. And his most successful.

An aging Robinson continued to struggle in the Series, hitting just .182. Don Hoak started Game 7 at third, Zimmer at 2B, and Junior Gilliam in left. Jackie Robinson remained on the bench. In the sixth inning, right-handed Sandy Amoros replaced Jim Gilliam in left. His iconic catch of Yogi Berra’s line drive preserved Johnny Podres 2-0 win in Game 7 of the 1955 World Series.

For a fleeting moment, an iconic sliver in time, Jackie was Jackie. It was the eighth inning of Game 1. Robinson was on third base. He crept down the line. His pigeon-toed gait suddenly evoked memories of 1947. Five, ten, fifteen, feet. And then, as Whitey Ford went into his windup Jackie went. Thirty-six and gray, he suddenly looked like the gazelle that drove opposing pitchers to distraction. Like sprinter Jesse Owens (or Mack Robinson) sensing a photo finish, he slid under the glove of Yogi Berra. Yogi was enraged. Jackie bounced up and sauntered back to the dugout with his usual pigeon-toed gait, spent. He conjured the old Jackie, the young Jackie once for a fleeting moment, a capstone to the grainy videos of him kneeling beside Clyde Sukeforth at Ebbets Field, on April 15, stole home plate — among the hardest things to do in sports. The Dodger lost that Game but, that is the most iconic moment of Brooklyn’s only World Championship, Robinson’s World Series heroism etched into baseball annals.

Robinson’s debut, by no means, meant job equity. Still, integration was, as Robinson and Rickey both knew, not a benevolent social program. Teams wanted to win. The idea was that race should not be an impediment.

Alston retired as Dodger Manager in 1976, with four World Series rings. Alston joined Jackie in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1983. Jim Gilliam was part of each one and joined Alston’s coaching staff in 1964, before he hung up his cleats as a player. However, it was time to hire a successor, he was passed over in favor of Tom Lasorda. Certainly, a prudent move in hindsight. Gilliam, who passed away in 1978, remained the Dodgers’ first base coach. In his last appearance, at the 1972 All-Star Game, Robinson said how proud he was to be associated with baseball. He also said he would be prouder when a Black man was managing. He died nine days later.

It almost didn’t happen that way. Frank Lane almost snagged number 257. Jackie Robinson’s Dodger career almost unceremoniously ended with walking papers.

Brooklyn went to one last World Series in 1956. After Don Larson pitched a perfect game, Jackie Robinson got his last hit ever. A game winner. They still lost to the Yankees in seven games. There would be no next year.

When the Dodgers found out Jackie Robinson was going to make a December 1956 retirement announcement in Look Magazine, they finally traded him to, of all teams, the New York Giants, for Dick Littlefield. Frank Lane traded for Dick Littlefield once.

Jackie had already taken a job as Vice President of Personnel at Chock Full O’ Nuts. He broke another important barrier as the first Black VP at a major integrated American company.

“You’ve been a proud ballplayer,” Red Smith told Jack, to which he replied:

“I’m a proud fellow.”

Said Robinson: “If I believe I’m right I swing a heavy bat, not a fungo.”

Since they don’t have names on the back of uniforms, if you’re looking for Jackie Robinson, he’s the one wearing number. “42.” Always.

Indeed. Happy 75th Baseball. Happy 75th America.

Joshua M. Casper is an internationally published writer and author from Brooklyn, NY. At Shea Stadium on April 15, 1997, when Jackie Robinson‘s number was retired in 1997, his research on Robinson’s leadership during the Second World War is the book in “Perspectives on 42.” Mr. Casper’s work on everything from British Royalty to baseball can be seen at https://joshummcasper.wordpress.com. “If everybody disagrees with you about a polarizing issue you’re usually right.” His take on Jackie: “Best athlete of the 20th century. You just did not wanna f— with this man.”

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