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Jackie Robinsons Influence On Organized Baseball Essay

Jackie Robinson undoubtedly changed organized baseball forever, but he could not have done it without the help and guidance of Branch Rickey. Rickey’s exploration of the limits of baseball’s color line led to a widespread exchange of ideas, largely contributing to more tolerant attitudes in both baseball and throughout the United States. By the mid-19th century, baseball had reached an “unprecedented” popularity in America. [5]. Organized teams and leagues were created, along with the establishment of the National Association of Base Ball Players (NABBP) in 1857.

Two main organizations (the National League and the American Base Ball Association) were in existence by 1882. Both minor- and major-league teams and leagues were formed, although they were not connected like modern-day “farm” teams. [6] One minor-league team, the Toledo Blue Stockings, is particularly notable in that the first African-American player in the organized major leagues, Moses Fleetwood “Fleet” Walker, played for the team. Walker played for Toledo, part of the recently created Northwestern League, for two seasons.

In 1884, Walker’s second year, Toledo joined the major-league American Association, making Walker the first lack player in the majors. [7] Unfortunately, he was released due to injuries after the 1884 season. Before and during his brief career, there were also frequent issues of racism and discrimination, evident in several leagues’ decisions not to accept new black players or re-sign the few that currently played in the minors. There would not be another black player in organized baseball for more than 50 years, until Jackie Robinson was signed to the minor-league Montreal Royals. 8]

Despite the segregated leagues, black baseball thrived during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Black teams had existed since the 860s; they paralleled the beginning of organized white baseball. These teams became known as the “Negro Leagues” – a term that referred not to a specific group of teams, but to black baseball at the time as a whole. Ballplayers of the Negro Leagues were not victims of segregation. Rather, they were some of the most successful black citizens of the time. [9] They became heroes to the black communities across America, drawing large crowds even during times of economic hardship.

The talent in the Negro Leagues was similar or even superior to the skill of the white majors – in exhibition games between hem, black teams won the majority of encounters with white teams. [10] Eventually, official leagues were formed. Existing black teams were organized to create both the Negro National League and the Eastern Colored League by 1923. However, both leagues had been disbanded by 1932, due mostly to lack of audience and profit. [11] Other leagues formed afterward, some with success lasting through and after Jackie Robinson’s debut.

After the color line was broken, though, most Negro League teams began to fade in prominence, all but coming to an end by 1950. [12] Branch Rickey’s ideas of integration began long efore he and Robinson first met in 1945. At just 21 years old, as the coach of the Ohio Wesleyan University baseball team, Rickey took upon himself the goal of ending “racial injustice” in baseball. On one road trip with the team, Charles Thomas, a black catcher and first baseman for the team, was denied a room in a hotel the rest of the players had checked into.

After a long argument, the hotel’s manager reluctantly agreed to allow Thomas to sleep on a cot in Rickey’s room. Rickey later told how he’d seen Thomas in obvious distress, rubbing at his skin and saying to himself, “… If only I could make my black skin white. This incident profoundly impacted Rickey on a personal level. Seeing the anguish experienced by Thomas, he vowed that “somehow I was going to open baseball and all the rest of America to Negroes. “[13] Although many think of Robinson breaking the color line, it was Rickey who put forth a large amount of the effort and work.

Robinson himself acknowledges this on many occasions. He reportedly admired Rickey almost to a fault, exclusively calling him “Mister Rickey”- never “Branch” or any casual nicknames, as was (and is) common in baseball. Robinson once said, “It isn’t even right to say I broke the color ine. Mr. Rickey did. I played ballI. “[14] Robinson was also incredibly humble, once saying in a letter to Rickey, “I am glad… I had a small part to do with the success of your efforts… it was your constant guidance that enabled me to do it. [15]

However, the friendship and regard, of course, went both ways – Rickey did truly respect Robinson as well. In a letter to Robinson, he says that “I.. will have a constant and lasting interest in your welfare and happiness. ” [16] Rickey looked out for Robinson, warning him before signing that he would need “enough guts not to fight back. [17] Rachel Robinson, Jackie’s wife, even that “[the news reports] make it sound very paternalistic on Mr. Rickey’s part.. “. She said that instead “there was much more of an attitude of their being collaborators… here was an alliance between them and a kind of mutual respect. “[18]

She acknowledged that Rickey and Robinson were “unequal in power and influence”, but also that “neither could succeed without the other”. [19] The relationship between them, then, was one of shared esteem and respect – not always the paternalistic mentorship many media sources depicted. One hing nobody could argue was the fact that Rickey was an excellent businessman. He pushed the limits of baseball’s color line both in the interest of his team and for more personal reasons. 20] The “color line” itself was never officially written in any major-league baseball rulebook, but it was upheld for many decades at all levels of organized baseball. Despite being anything but chivalrous and polite, it was called a “gentleman’s agreement”. [21]

Rickey saw past this, once calling black players the “greatest untapped reservoir of raw material in the history of the game” and even saying that black players would quickly oted lead teams to victory if they played in the majors. [22] Some sportswriters, though, outright opposed integration, saying that society was better and “happier.. ith segregation in athletics as well as all other activities. “[23] Even with such opposition, Rickey was determined to do what he felt was right. He had long supported black players in organized sports, going as far back as his days coaching college baseball. [24] Rickey himself said about integration, “I have felt very deeply about [integration] all my life,” and that “the utter injustice of it has always been in my mind. [25] Rickey tested the limits of segregation in baseball time and again over the course of his career.

In 1945, Rickey created an entirely new team of black players, known as the Brooklyn Brown Dodgers. The team would be part of the recently created (all-black) United States League. Rickey’s announcement generated quite a few negative reactions from many places. Naysayers (even some black sportswriters) claimed that Rickey’s actions served only to further segregation in baseball. [26] In reality, the minor-league team served as a way for Rickey to scout black players in a less obvious way. [27]

Later, he was one of the first to declare (and insist) that black athletes had a right to play. 28] Rickey’s exploration of the rules and regulations of baseball led to a monumental shift, in both the baseball world and in the history of the United States, by helping to spark a civil rights movement that changed the face of the population. Branch Rickey had a firm belief in the necessity of integration, and he was very hopeful about the positive effects it could have on baseball as a whole.

He was a devout Christian, and unlike some people of the time, he used his faith to justify acceptance, not racism. Jackie Robinson commented on Rickey’s determination, saying “Because of his… assion for justice, he had to do what he was doing. “[29] After Robinson had been playing in the major leagues for nearly a decade, Rickey declared that “America is… more interested in the grace of a man’s… excellence on the field.. than they are in the pigmentation of a man’s skin. ” [30] He observed that players, black and white, were being recognized for their talent and character, not just their race. This historic change in attitude can’t be entirely credited to Robinson’s playing for the Dodgers, ut he certainly was a very large part of it.

Robinson’s impact was felt immediately in Brooklyn after his debut. In his first season with the team, he led the team in runs scored (with 125), total hits (175), and stolen bases (29), as well as tying for several other bests. In addition to this, the Dodgers finished first in the National League with a record of 94 wins and 60 losses. [31] He was a clearly successful player from the beginning of his career. One journalist, after Opening Day, referred to Robinson as the most “talked-about attraction” and noted that “he is no ordinary rookie”. [32] He brought incredible

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