Extra Bases: Reflections on Jackie Robinson, Race, and Baseball History

By Jules Tygiel | Go to book overview

EIGHT

Black Ball
The Integrated Game

When slowly and grudgingly given their chance in the years after 1947, blacks conclusively proved their competitive abilities on the diamond, but discrimination persisted as baseball executives continued to deny them the opportunity to display their talents in managerial and front office positions.

Branch Rickey's initiative in breaking the color barrier and Jackie Robinson's dramatic success with the Montreal Expos in 1946 and the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947 failed to inspire many other team owners to sign African- American ballplayers. In August 1946 major league executives debated a controversial report discussing the “race question, ” which argued that integration would “lessen the value of several major league franchises.” No other clubs moved to sign black players. Only four blacks, all in the Brooklyn system, joined Robinson in organized baseball in 1946. At Nashua, New Hampshire, in the New England League, the Dodger farm club fielded catcher Roy Campanella and pitcher Don Newcombe. The Nashua Dodgers won the league championship largely due to Campanella's hitting and Newcombe's hurling. In the small town of Trois-Rivières in Quebec, pitchers John Wright and Roy Partlow, both of whom had appeared briefly with Robinson at Montreal, led a third Dodger farm team to the Canadian- American league crown. Nonetheless, at the start of the 1947 season, no additional black players appeared on major or minor league rosters.

Robinson's success on the field with the Dodgers and at the box office in 1947 finally stimulated some movement on the part of other clubs to hire black players. In Cleveland Bill Veeck recruited twenty-three-year-old Larry Doby, who went straight from the Negro League Newark Eagles to the Indians in July. Used sparingly, Doby batted a meager .156, casting doubts upon his future. The St. Louis Browns, seeking to boost flagging attendance, signed Willard Brown and Hank Thompson of the Kansas City Monarchs. When the turnstiles failed to respond, the Browns released both

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