Newspaper article The Florida Times Union
Jackie Changed It All Robinson Couldn't Play, but His Spirit Triumphed
It was in the air that spring. Something big was coming. Bigger
than the Depression. Bigger than the war. Bigger than the
Those things changed the course of history, to be sure. But in
Carlton Bryant's mind, they didn't open doors for folks like the
change that was coming in the spring of '46.
Jackie Robinson was coming.
Not to Jacksonville; city officials were not in the mood for
social experiments that spring. They canceled the game because
local laws prohibited integrated contests on a city-owned ball
Bryant knew better, of course. A lot of people, black and
white, knew better. Jackie Robinson was coming to America,
whether Jacksonville liked it or not. It would take more than a
padlocked fence and one city's Jim Crow laws to keep a lid on
"It had been rumored all along, that the Dodgers were going to
try something like this," recalled Bryant, who read about Branch
Rickey's exploits in the black press. "So we were not shocked
when Robinson was signed."
Just shy of 70 now, Bryant was a 19-year-old Marine Corps
veteran in March 1946 when the social experiment began steaming
Spring training was coming to an end. Minor league teams were
barnstorming the state, playing exhibitions in front of
baseball-hungry fans everywhere they could.
This year would be different, of course. Robinson was a
Montreal Royal, a farm team of the Dodgers and, by Bryant's
reckoning, a full-fledged member of that all-white institution
known as the National League.
"It was elation that you just could not believe," Bryant said.
"Finally, the world would see a black performing athletically as
well as anyone."
There had been Joe Louis, of course, and Jesse Owens. The same,
yes, but different, said Jimmie Johnson. This was baseball , the
American game, owned and operated by whites, for whites.
"To see any semblance of integration was beyond our wildest
dreams," said Johnson, 63, known as "Coach" for his years as
both coach and principal at Raines High School. …