Jackie Robinson is one of baseball’s all-time great players who is underrated by some of today’s fans.
Robinson was a belligerent competitor who despised losing even more than he despised the New York Giants.
The general consensus today is the rivalry between the Boston Red Sox and New York’s other team, the New York Yankees, is the fiercest rivalry in sports. It is difficult for many of today’s fans to imagine that a more intense rivalry existed, but it did.
For older fans, it is difficult to imagine what the Brooklyn Dodgers-New York Giants would have been like with today’s media.
Robinson was a born competitor.
During his first semester at Pasadena Junior College, he tried out for the football team. One of the most talented of all athletes, Robinson became the starting quarterback, but the white players refused to take the field for practice if he and two other black players took part.
Pasadena J.C. coach Tom Mallory, defused the situation, but the white players continued to resent the black players’ presence until Robinson’s actions on the field made even the most biased individual forget his skin color, at lease while they were playing.
Robinson was a leader. Recognizing the situation, quarterback Robinson spread his passes around to all the eligible receivers. Much of the prejudice, at least with respect to Robinson and football, disappeared.
When the football season ended, Robinson made the basketball team.
On Jan. 22, 1937, in a home game against Long Beach, a player who had been taunting Robinson took a swipe at him at the final whistle. Robinson, of course, retaliated, there was a riot, and Jackie was getting a reputation as a hot head.
One evening, Robinson and a friend were walking home. The friend was singing a song as they passed an officer of the law on the street. The police officer took umbrage because he considered the tune to be insult. There was an argument that ended with the two black men being arrested. Some things never change.
When he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers, he eventually became the team leader on a team that boasted future Hall of Famers Roy Campanella, Duke Snider, and PeeWee Reese, as well as the great Gil Hodges.
Cincinnati president Warren Giles respected and feared Robinson’s ability to rattle the opposition.
“The only way to beat the Dodgers is to keep Robinson off the bases.”
The consensus of today’s sabermetricians is that stealing bases uses up outs, which hurts the team. They would not rely so much on statistical probability if they had seen Robinson on the base paths. He stole home 11 times in his career.
The essence of Robinson’s fire and desire is illustrated by one of many similar incidents when Brooklyn played the Giants.
In a game during the 1954 season, Giants’ right-hander Sal Maglie was brushing back the Brooklyn batters. Maglie hated the Dodgers almost as much as Robinson hated Maglie and the Giants.Team captain PeeWee Reese spoke to Robinson.
“Jack, we got to do something about this.”
Bat boy Charlie DiGiovanna implored Robinson not to do it.
“Let someone else do it. Every time something comes up, they call on you.”
At first, Robinson agreed, but once he stepped into the batter’s box, he couldn’t help himself. He bunted Maglie’s delivery toward first base. Robinson wanted Maglie to cover first base in order to barrel into him.
Maglie never left the mound.
Second baseman Davey Williams covered first to take Lockman’s throw. Robinson smashed Williams, injuring him badly. Williams’ career was basically ended..
“Maglie wouldn’t cover. Williams got in the way. He had a chance to get out of the way, but he just stood there right on the base. It was just too bad, but I knocked him over. He had a Giant uniform on. That’s what happens.”
It was the uniform, not the player. On May 15, 1956, the Dodgers acquired Maglie from the Cleveland Indians.
At the end of the season, Robinson was traded to the Giants. He retired.
ANDERSON, Dave B.. (1972, Jackie robinson, first black in major leagues, dies: Jackie robinson, first black major leaguer, dies at 53 dodger star, in hall of fame, began in ’47. New York Times (1923-Current File), pp. 1. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/119454188?accountid=46260
Linge, Mary Kay. Jackie Robinson: A Biography. Santa Barbara CA: Greenwood Biographies. 2007