Third baseman Spider
Pee Wee Reese, and
first baseman Jackie
the Brooklyn infield on
Opening Day 1947.
Jackie Robinson’s Major League debut was more than just the first step in righting a historical wrong. It was a crucial event in the history of the American civil rights movement, the importance of which went far beyond the insular world of baseball.
The Dodgers signed Robinson to a Major League contract just five days before the start of the 1947 season. Baseball people, especially those in Brooklyn, were still digesting the previous day’s news of manager Leo Durocher’s one-year suspension (for conduct detrimental to baseball), when the story broke of Robinson’s promotion from the Montreal Royals. He would be the first black American to play in the Major Leagues since catcher Fleetwood Walker played for the Toledo Blue Stockings of the American Association back in 1884.
Robinson had played second base for the International League’s Montreal Royals in 1946, but on orders from the Dodgers he had been working out at first all spring. He played first base in Brooklyn’s final three exhibition games against the Yankees, and again two days later when the Dodgers opened the season at Ebbets Field against the Boston Braves. Rumors of a sellout may have discouraged some fans from attending, but whatever the reason, a crowd of only 26,623 saw Robinson’s debut.
Jack made the game’s first put-out, receiving