MLB Marks Jackie Robinson’s 1947 Debut

Robinson broke in with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Major League Baseball is celebrating Jackie Robinson Day, the 74th anniversary of Robinson making his debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers. This celebration comes just a couple weeks after Georgia, where Robinson was born, changed voting laws which might make it more difficult for some to vote. Major League Baseball condemned the act by moving its 2021 All Star Game out of Cobb County, Georgia. MLB took a stand which Robinson might have applauded. The American League and the National League and going back before the formation of the present two league MLB structure, the American Association, established an unofficial color barrier that kept Negro players from being on Major League rosters. Moses Fleetwood was the first announced Negro player ever to put on a Major League uniform with Toledo of the American Association in 1884 and also the last Negro player to take off a uniform. Robinson’s debut came 62 ½ years later. In 1947, one city, St. Louis, allowed Negroes or colored people to sit in one section of the ballpark in the right field bleachers.

There was a movement to integrate baseball in the 1930s.  Sam Lacy, a sportswriter with black newspapers began pressing baseball to hire Negro players. Lacy wanted to meet with Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis and was rebuffed. There were demonstrations outside of stadiums in New York and Chicago calling for baseball to change policy. Landis died and the new Commissioner Happy Chandler saw no reason for the color barrier. Chandler might have been persuaded because New York State government officials were asking questions about the color barrier and why African-Americans were excluded from organized baseball yet they were dying fighting World War II. Baseball moved slowly. Boston owner Tom Yawkey was a holdout but finally hired a Negro player for his team in 1959.

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