Outside MCU Park in Coney Island, there stands a statue of two baseball players. Both are famed Brooklyn Dodgers. Both are Hall of Famers whose legends transcend batting averages and fielding percentages. One is a white Kentuckian. The other is an African American from California. They are Pee Wee Reese and Jackie Robinson.
The statue depicts a simple act that was extremely brave for its time: 1947, when America was a separate but unequal society and Robinson became the first of his race to play Major League ball in the twentieth century. That May, according to legend, the Dodgers were battling the Reds at Cincinnati’s Crosley Field, located about a ninetyminute drive from Louisville, Reese’s hometown. The crowd was mocking Jackie during infield practice. The opposing players were razzing him. The scene was growing uglier by the second. In a display of support for his teammate, Pee Wee calmly strode from his shortstop position toward Jackie on the right side of the infield and placed his left arm around the black man’s shoulder: an act that is commemorated by the statue.
This demonstration quieted the fans, and the Reds. It was a crucial moment in Robinson’s evolution from outsider to big leaguer. Just as significantly, it defined the character and career of Pee Wee Reese, the quietly forceful captain of the postwar Brooklyn Dodgers.
Pee Wee Reese said about his acceptance of Jackie
Robinson, “I was just trying to make the world a little bit
Harold Henry Reese was born on July 23, 1918, on a farm located between Ekron and Brandenburg in Meade County, Kentucky, about forty-five miles south of Louisville. The Reese family, headed by Harold’s father, Carl Marion Reese, and his mother, Emma (Allen) Reese, relocated to Louisville when he was seven years old. The youngster earned his nickname not for his diminutive size— he was five feet nine and weighed 140 pounds when he signed his first professional contract at the age of twenty, and added one inch and 20 pounds when fully grown. Instead, he was called Pee Wee