Saturday, April 17, 2010

Black press: Key role during Jackie Robinson's spring training in Cuba

Thursday marked the 63rd anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball with every player in baseball wearing Robinson's retired No. 42.
As I've noted before in this blog, that historic event began in Cuba, where the Dodgers held spring training in 1947.
But Robinson, the Dodgers and members of their minor league team, the Montreal Royals, weren't the only ones who played a significant role that spring.
Black sports writers Sam Lacy of The Baltimore Afro-American and Wendell Smith of The Pittsburgh Courier were with Robinson, Roy Campanella, Don Newcombe and Roy Partlow, chronicling the events and advocating for baseball to desegregate.
During a 1997 interview, Lacy, who at the time was still writing for the Afro-American, talked about the struggles of that spring: Robinson and the other black players having to be quartered separately from the Dodgers and the Royals' white players, Robinson's stomach problems, a foot injury and having to learn a new position -- first base.
"He didn't like it at all, but [Dodgers president Branch] Rickey convinced him that this was his way of getting up to the majors," Lacy said. "It was just a case where he had enough problems, he had enough things to be concerned about to give him this additional concern of changing positions and possibly doing poorly."

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