A colorful gesture: May 1947
It was May of 1947 in Cincinnati, where a consoling gesture from one man to another would silence an angry crowd, and help change the face of America’s past time. The two men I am referring to, are baseball legends and hall of famers Pee Wee Reese and Jackie Robinson of The Brooklyn Dodgers. Reese’s career started in his home state of Kentucky where he became a top prospect in the minor league’s with the Louisville Colonels. In 1940 he was called up to The Brooklyn Dodgers where his first few seasons would not be easy due to injury and poor batting and fielding averages, Reese would then enlist and serve three years in The U.S. Navy.
The team suffered while he was at sea, but upon his return in 1946 he would take the helm as team captain and bring the Dodgers out of further anguish. 1947 would mark another great year in Major League Baseball, and it would also be one of the years that changed baseball forever. Jackie Roosevelt Robinson was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers and made his major league debut on April 15, 1947. Jackie was from Pasadena, California but originally from Georgia. Growing up he would excel in just about every sport such as basketball, football, track and field, baseball, and even tennis. While attending college at UCLA he would be the first student in it’s history to letter in four sports, baseball, basketball, track and field, and football.
Robinson was drafted in 1942 where he would serve in the Army until receiving an honorable discharge in 1944. While attending Sam Huston college he received a letter from the Kansas City Monarchs, a professional baseball team within the Negro League. Jackies desire to play in the majors would come true in 1947, when club president and general manager Branch Rickey would sign him to a major league contract, making Jackie Robinson the first black player in professional baseball. Unfortunately racism plagued the country at every turn. What Mr. Rickey wanted was a man that would maintain his composure during this time and to not fight back, and that is exactly what he found in Jackie. Jackie would endure many hardships for some time, especially from angry fans. They yelled racial slurs, threw objects from the stands, and even mailed letters with death threats.
During a game in Cincinnati the pressure and racial tension seemed like it was taking it’s toll on Robinson. Reese without hesitation ran over to Robinson during the game, put his arm around him, and gave the Cincinnati dugout as well as the fans an angry and defiant look on behalf of his mentally and physically exhausted friend and team mate Jackie Robinson, which made the crowd fall silent. A bronze statue was sculpted and placed at Keyspan Park in Brooklyn in 2005, marking this inspirational moment in baseball and more importantly American history.