published Friday, April 12th, 2013

Turning the other cheek

  • photo
    Brooklyn Dodgers’ infielder Jackie Robinson is a photo from April 18, 1948.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Story of a legend; filmed in Chattanooga
Robinson in Chattanooga

* Oct. 17, 1951 — Robinson joined four other major league baseball players on a black all-star team against the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro American League

* April 6, 1952 — Robinson’s Brooklyn Dodgers lost to the Boston Braves, 1-0, with 9,098 fans attending

* April 4, 1953 — Robinson’s Dodgers lost to the Milwaukee Braves, 9-8, with 6,125 fans attending

Source: The Chattanooga Times archives

  • photo
    Former baseball star Jackie Robinson carries a placard as he joins pickets at the construction site of the Down State Medical Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Aug. 2, 1963. Robinson and members of CORE, the Congress of Racial Equality, were demonstrating in an effort to stop construction of publicly financed projects until more jobs are given to blacks.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

In deference to Jackie Robinson, no future professional baseball player can wear the No. 42 on his jersey.

Major League Baseball retired his number in 1997 because of the influence Robinson had on the game as one of its great players, because he pioneered integration in baseball as the first black MLB player in 1947, and because he embraced the civil rights movement after his career.

“Maybe I should buy a lot of cotton to stuff in my ears,” Robinson said in an article of the Army weekly “Yank” published on Nov. 23, 1945, after it was announced that he would be joining the Montreal Royals, the top-level minor league team of the Brooklyn Dodgers. “I don’t think I’ll have to take anything I didn’t have to take before, but maybe there’ll be more people ready to give it to me.”

The four-sport star at UCLA was born in Cairo, Ga., in 1919 to a family of sharecroppers that later moved to California. He played baseball, basketball and football and ran track for the Bruins.

He was drafted into the Army in 1942 and reached the rank of second lieutenant in the 761st Tank Battalion at Camp Hood, Texas. In 1944, he was arrested and court-martialed after refusing to move to the back of an Army bus in Texas to make room for white soldiers, but he later was acquitted of the charges by an all-white military tribunal and received an honorable discharge.

After the Army, he attempted a pro football career that didn’t pan out, then coached basketball at Sam Houston State.

But in 1945, Brooklyn Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey asked Robinson if he would be willing to play for the iconic major- league team, starting off in the minors for a year before moving to the majors.

Rickey warned Robinson that it wasn’t going to be easy, that he’d face massive amounts of abuse but would not under any circumstances be allowed to retaliate. According to a video on the History Channel’s website, it was in Robinson’s contract that he must “turn the other cheek when faced with racial insults and threats of physical violence.”

Robinson accepted the challenge, knowing full well the craziness that would follow him, his friends, his family and his teammates.

“I realize what I’m going into,” he said in “Yank.” “I realize what it means to me and my race and to baseball, too. I’m very happy for this chance, and I can only say that I’ll do my best to make the grade.”

Robinson did more than that.

He was Rookie of the Year in 1947, the first year that award was given, won an MVP award in 1949, played in six World Series and six All-Star games and earned a championship ring with the Dodgers in 1955.

He became the first black player inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.

“I think it is the obligation of the Negro leaders, not only to seek their rights as first-class citizens, but also impress upon all of our people that it is very important that they cut down anything that brings discredit to us,” Robinson said in a “Meet the Press” interview on April 14, 1957, that has been logged into the Library of Congress.

Robinson died of a heart attack on Oct, 24, 1972. He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal.

He was Rookie of the Year in 1947, the first year that award was given, won an MVP award in 1949, played in six World Series and six All-Star games and earned a championship ring with the Dodgers in 1955.

He became the first black player inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.

“I think it is the obligation of the Negro leaders, not only to seek their rights as first-class citizens, but also impress upon all of our people that it is very important that they cut

down anything that brings discredit to us,”

Robinson said in a “Meet the Press” interview on April 14, 1957, that has been logged into the Library of Congress.

Robinson died of a heart attack on Oct, 24, 1972. He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal.

about David Uchiyama...

David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...

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