(Red Reilly is a fictitious character who works for a fictitious radio station. This is Reilly’s second appearance in the Dazzy Vance Chronicles. You can read the first Reilly post here.)
By Glen Sparks
The “Red” Reilly Sports Report
“Good morning, sports fans. This is Red Reilly, your roving correspondent with the American Radio Sports Network. I’m in the busy borough of Brooklyn, in the shadows of the great Manhattan skyscrapers. Fans, players and reporters alike will be watching history on opening day 1947 here at Ebbets Field today.
Jackie Robinson will be in the line-up playing first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers against the Boston Braves. He will become the first black man to play in a major league baseball game in the 20th century. Branch Rickey and the Dodgers signed Robinson to a big league contract just last week. Robinson played last season for the Montreal Royals, a top farm club for the Dodgers. He did quite well north of the border. Robinson batted .349 and was named Most Valuable Player of the International League.
Before that, young Robinson made a name for himself in the Negro Leagues. In 1945, he batted .387 with five home runs and 13 stolen bases in 47 games as a shortstop for the Kansas City Monarchs. For that, the infielder was named to the 1945 Negro League All-Star team.
Of course, listeners on the west coast know all about Jack Roosevelt Robinson, who hails from Pasadena, Calif., outside Los Angeles. Robinson tore up the gridiron as a backfield star at UCLA. He also made a name for himself as a collegiate track star and basketball player. Robinson played baseball, too, at UCLA, but some people say it was his worst sport. Amazing. I also should add that Robinson teaches Sunday school at a Methodist church in Pasadena.
Robinson’s Dodger debut today does not come without controversy. Some Brooklyn players reportedly sent around a petition, saying they did not want to play on the same team with a black man. Mr. Rickey, the president of the Dodgers, and Manager Leo Durocher quickly put an end to that talk and told the team to play ball.
The debut of Robinson is not the only Dodger news that we can report on. As I’ve mentioned previously on the American Radio Sports Network, the Dodgers were given some surprising news last week. Baseball Commissioner Happy Chandler has suspended Durocher for the entire 1947 season for “conduct detrimental to baseball.” Clyde Sukeworth will be managing the team today.
We don’t know as much as we’d like about this Brooklyn club. The team did most of its spring training away from the South this year. Instead, the players went to Cuba to get in their annual spring work and to prepare for the season. Some local reporters might be surprised that Robinson, a 28-year-old Army veteran, is even here in Brooklyn today. Let me quote a March 5 article from the Associated Press. “For what it’s worth,” this reporter wrote, “no one of the numerous sports writers covering the Brooklyn camp thinks Jackie will be in the Dodgers line-up.”
Robinson, though, has proved his doubters wrong. The ballplayers looks a bit nervous, but, confident, as he gets ready for today’s action. It is a cool, breezy day here in Brooklyn. Summer is still a bit away. The sun is shining, though, and we look forward to another season of following our national pastime.
We can see Robinson out by the Brooklyn dugout, near some of his teammates. “Pee Wee” Reese, Eddie Stanky, Spider Jorgenson. The three and Jackie are posing for some pictures before the start of today’s game. I can hear the famous Dodger Sym-phony, that fun-filled group of musicians and Dodger fans, banging on their drums and tooting their horns. And, Hilda Chester, the Dodgers’ unofficial mascot, is wearing her usual flowery dress and clanging her cowbell. Fans, both black and white, continue to file into the ballpark. It’s a great day here in Brooklyn.”
(Robinson went hitless in his major league debut. He ended up batting .297 in 1947 with a .383 on-base percentage. He led the National League with 29 stolen bases and was named Rookie of the Year. Robinson played 10 seasons with the Dodgers. He batted .311 with a career on-base percentage of .409. Named the N.L. MVP in 1949, he played on six All-Star teams and six pennant-winning teams, including the 1955 World Series winner. Elected to the Hall of Fame in 1962, he died Oct. 24, 1972. He was just 53 years old. His No. 42 is retired throughout baseball.)